Over at the bear pit that is Maily Telegraph blogland, darling of the Europhobic right Dan, Dan the Oratory Man has experienced an epiphany: although a politician himself – and, as I’ve noted previously, no stranger to dabbling in straightforward dishonesty – he has now realised that other politicians, even on his own side, say things that they do not really mean.
Moreover, they make – or suggest that they have made – promises that they have no intention of keeping. Thus it is with the UK and its relationship with the EU. The title says it all: “If we’re not pressing for a repatriation of power, what was all the Eurosceptic rhetoric for?” pleads Dan, failing to understand that desperate people who want to get elected tend to do desperate things.
Young Dave first of all was desperate to become leader of the Tory Party. He judged – correctly – that he needed to strike a suitably Eurosceptic tone to persuade those who had previously supported the candidacy of Liam Fox to choose him over David Davis. So he offered a commitment to take Tory MEPs out of the mainstream centre-right grouping in the European Parliament (EP).
This was an achievable, if pointless, measure. And it gained support for Cameron. It also reassured those like Hannan: a genuine win-win for the Tories. But then came the impending General Election, and the perennial problem for Tory leaders. Despite voters never putting the EU at the top of their list of priorities, there had to be red meat commitments for party consumption.
So out came the apparent referendum promise. Moreover, out too came the “repatriation of powers” promise. Tory candidates were reassured. Activists had their fears soothed. But ideology then collided with hard reality: the result meant the Tories could not govern alone. Coalition with the far more pro-EU Lib Dems required a more nuanced approach.
And, whisper it quietly, interaction with the EU also meant toning down the rhetoric, which had verged on the bombastic at times. Young Dave has had to adjust to reality, whether or not his MPs – and MEPs – like it. Many pundits have been consistently and vehemently hostile to his approach, but they don’t have to run the country and get on with our neighbours.
What Daniel Hannan can’t get through his head is that Cameron’s task is not a straightforward one. For Dan, Dan the Oratory Man – and Nigel “Thirsty” Farage of UKIP – the height of their achievement is to shoot their mouths off in the chamber of the EP and get lots of hits on YouTube. For David Cameron, it is about the real business of politics and power.
Know the difference, as they say.