Much has been said and written about the British government’s campaign against the Spitzenkandidat process and against Juncker personally, and I’m not going to rehash that. But something else needs saying.
The British political establishment and press are colluding in misrepresenting the rest of the EU as unprincipled and anti-democratic. This is what has everyone outside Westminster stumped. It’s a bit like Luis Suarez saying that Chiellini bumped into his teeth with his shoulder. It’s such an obvious subversion of the truth that no-one can quite believe that it’s meant in earnest.
Example: sources close to the Prime Minister say that he is fighting for a principle. Standing alone again, Britain defends democracy against those on the continent who would threaten it! The affrontery of this argument is breath-taking – it is Cameron who is being unprincipled here, reneging on an arrangement to which he had previously agreed, dishonestly representing this good-faith attempt to reinforce European democracy as… wait for it… anti-democratic! Cameron cannot win this argument outside the echo chamber of Westminster where they have convinced themselves – contrary to all the evidence – that their “demos” is the only one that counts.
Another example: a Tory MP defends Cameron by claiming that he is challenging vested interests in the system. Again, they try to frame a narrative where Britain stands alone against an out-of-touch elite in Brussels. But the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ procedure challenges those vested interests – the old status quo where EU top jobs are settled behind closed doors during late-night horse-trading. By linking EU top jobs to the outcome of the European elections, this new arrangement seeks to address the obvious disenchantment which we so clearly saw reflected in last month’s election results. Cameron wants to keep the old system while claiming to represent those people who so clearly rejected the old system! It’s the kind of double-think which can only work in an environment where years of negative misreporting have so distorted perceptions as to disconnect a closed group of people from reality.
The rest of us watch with slack-jawed amazement. Why is he doing this? What can he hope to gain?
Perhaps this image gives us a clue:
Yes – Cameron’s strategy is working for him at home. He is boosting his own popularity, and shoring up support within his own party. With elections next year, and with May, Johnson, and Gove circling in the middle distance, Cameron is doing what politicians do.
The problem is, by winning his own local game, Cameron effectively guarantees that he will lose the bigger game being played by the rest of the EU. Let’s be honest, he isn’t even really playing. To those of us outside the Westminster bubble, this is bizarre behaviour from a major leader. But this is what Cameron has done all along, from his decision to take the Conservatives out of the EPP, to his ill-judged veto of the Fiscal Compact, to his bizarre stance on Juncker. Cameron’s playing snap while everyone else is playing chess.
The line taken by the UK government on Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych during his final months in power was that he had sacrificed his country’s long-term interests for the sake of short term personal interests. It’s hard to see how the UK’s current EU policy is any different.
(edited on 30 June to add the cartoon sourced from https://twitter.com/Manon__Dufour/status/483536929045356544)