Monday, 22 February 2016

Oh, dear. Looks like I have to back rank ineptitude.

On balance, I’m inclined to believe David Cameron when he says that he favours Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

I say “on balance” because I find it difficult to discern anything in Cameron that could be called a principle or a conviction. Apart from one sincerely held belief: he is entirely committed to the notion that he should win and hold office. He’s actually rather good at that. Not much good at anything else, including doing much that’s useful with the office once he’s won it, but the winning he’s proved good at. 

It’s a classic tactic of good sales work to be careful where you set your customer’s expectations. Clearly, if you promise to provide the best flavor anyone ever tasted, you’re in serious danger of disappointing. “Probably the best beer in the world” is an intelligent slogan: it sets admirably high aspirations, without actually presenting Carlsberg as having fulfilled them and therefore putting the bar too high.

Bar in either sense.

Probably the best beer? Certainly good marketing
Cameron, inept at managing the power he’s so good at winning, has set the bar far too high on the EU. He’s faced with a right wing of his own party that is intent on damning the EU and all its works, and getting Britain out at the earliest opportunity, which is far too powerful for a man of his limited political skills to manage. It might have beyond any politician without the ability of, say, an Abraham Lincoln, but it was beyond his.

So he has carefully calculated a stance that said that he fully understood dissatisfaction with the EU, indeed sympathised with it. He would, therefore, hold a referendum in which the British people would be able to have their say over continuing membership of the EU. In the meantime, sharing their concern about the defects of the Union, he would negotiate such a wonderful package of reforms, that even those who were persuaded that it was not for them, unreformed, would come round to his view and back staying in.

Sadly, the other 27 governments of the EU were only prepared to go so far and no further to accommodate British demands. Cameron has only been able to negotiate minor changes in the way the EU operates, and is now desperately trying to present them as radical and fundamental.

In other words, he set the bar high, and now can’t hit it.

That gives huge encouragement to the anti-EU movement. Boris Johnson, current Mayor of London who aspires to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, has seen his chance. He has aligned himself with the campaign to leave. The long-term future of the country matters less than the short-term future of Boris Johnson, and he believes the votes are with Britain leaving, with Brexit.

Will it be enough to win the argument? Well, on his own Boris won’t change the way views are flowing. It’s more a matter of his wanting to ride on a wave that’s already flowing towards the Brexit. If he’s proved right, Cameron will emerge from a referendum defeat gravely wounded, possibly so badly that he’ll be forced to step down. That might give Boris his chance. Unless it ends up opening the door for someone more ghastly still (yes, the Conservative Party has worse even than Boris to offer us).

Conversely, if Britain defies the present trends in the polls and votes to stay in the EU, Cameron will live to fight another day. Sad for those of us who would like to see a man that poorly qualified booted out of his job. On the other hand, the price of leaving the EU is far too high for seeing Cameron sacked.

So I face the doleful dilemma of having to campaign for an outcome which would leave Cameron in Downing Street. I shall be seeking a referendum victory that would once more veil his utter incompetence, at least from those who don’t want to see it. But staying in is worth even the price of living with Cameron a little longer.

After all, however little we can rely on him for, it’s absolutely certain he’ll find other opportunities to prove how inadequate he is to be Prime Minister.

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