Some years ago, we discovered that the drainpipe emptying the bath had got clogged up. I went to a local hardware shop and bought a tin of drain-cleaning fluid. I poured this down the pipe. Unfortunately the product was too powerful and damaged the pipe, which began to leak – a problem solved quickly only because my helpful neighbour had the necessary skills and equipment to rescue us. The moral of the story is of course a truism: don’t assume that, as that famous quotation from the Vietnam War put it, to save the village it became necessary to destroy it.
David Cameron has just taken the decision to frag all his European counterparts, and damage our relations with our neighbours for a generation, simply to appease his right wing and protect his so-called friends in the City. So once again, the bankers win, the rest of us lose, and the Cro-Magnon arm of the Conservative Party rejoice.
It is yet another illustration of that wonderful 18th century epigram about going to war: Now they are ringing the bells, soon they will be wringing their hands.
Tories understand the bit about post-modern states all right, but persist in seeing it as a problem, or a threat. In years to come, our fixation with nation states will seem as quaint as all those little duchies and principalities that existed in Germany before the Napoleonic era seem now to us. When the boat people arrive in ever greater numbers from the starving south and pitch up in climate-ravaged Murcia or Sicily, it will soon become clear that it will be our problem too. We will have to acknowledge that FDR was right when he said that you don’t allow your neighbour’s house to burn down just because he doesn’t have a hose and you do.
It’s my hose
European problems need European solutions and we have just demonstrated, seemingly, that we think that Europe can do what it wants; we will have no part in it. The prime minister poses as an ordinary plumber helping to clear the drains, but his admixture has burned a hole in the pipe that connects us with our neighbours, and they will fix it without reference to us.
Cameron’s decision is more than a catastrophe for the UK, it is an error. It could have been handled differently, by compromise, but our very own Tea Party, heated up by the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, has once again damaged our national interests through ignorance and malignancy.
Mr Clegg, leave the coalition now and tell Europe we are still with them. That’s the least you can do.