Just as it is increasingly hard to imagine the Maily Telegraph having once been a paper of record, today’s crude and inaccurate rant by Charles Moore – on the subject of the paper’s favourite bête noire, the EU – makes it increasingly hard to imagine that he once edited it. A decent journalistic grounding preceded by Eton and Trinity College Cambridge has counted for nothing.
“David Cameron can prove de Gaulle was right about us all along” reads the headline, as Moore harks back fifty years to when the French President vetoed Harold Macmillan’s attempt to join the then EEC. Moore claims this was because de Gaulle thought the UK would never commit to Europe as fully as France and Germany. But he is plain flat wrong.
De Gaulle had one very straightforward reason for his stance: that the UK had the chance to join the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and then the European Economic Community (EEC) at their inception, in 1951 and 1958 respectively. The then Labour and Conservative Governments missed the boat and we stayed out. For de Gaulle, that was that.
It should surprise no-one that there was no expansion of the EEC until after de Gaulle had left office. So Moore is basing his analysis on a false premise, but that is a minor consideration compared to the thoroughly unfortunate language deployed, after the obligatory misinterpretation of Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech of 1988 as a “cry of pain”, which it was not.
So, after another obligatory prediction that the Euro will collapse – how many of those have we had so far? – Moore tells his readers that Harold Wilson “also led a Eurosceptic party”. Baloney. Wilson’s problem was that Labour was at the time split on Europe – not one thing or the other (where does he think Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey and Shirley Williams were in 1975?).
Then comes the abuse. “The European Union is becoming ... a tourist destination, not a great power” (he wouldn’t dare say that about the USA, for instance), “Europhile fellow-travellers” (they’re really all Commies), and to round it all off, “those of us who want our country back” (Moore clearly fancies following Daniel Hannan onto Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse)).
But, like all the others on the Europhobic fringe, Moore cannot so much as approach what he knows would deflate his balloon at a stroke: whatever defiant noises Young Dave makes whenever and wherever he delivers his jolly good speech, one financial institution or carmaker even suggesting they are about to up sticks and move to Spain or Portugal will kill their campaign of hot air stone dead.
There is no credible Plan B on the EU. And no amount of abuse will create one.