To Tweet or not to Tweet, that is the question. And the answer, on a purely personal basis you understand, is that, if in doubt, apply the equivalent of the dictum attributed to the late Denis Thatcher: “better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. This, I suspect, would have served publisher and pundit Iain Dale well when he mused over the fallout from That Prime Ministerial Brexit Dinner Date.
As so often with the Brexit debate, the meeting between Theresa May and David Davis on the one hand, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the other, has been interpreted very differently, depending on whether the interpreter voted to Leave, or to Remain. For most Leave voters, the thought that our Prime Minister does not appreciate what lies ahead cannot be allowed to enter. So it is with Dale.
His Twitter rage began after Jon Worth had ventured an angle on the Juncker “leaks” that was at variance with the established wisdom as dispensed by the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie, who asserted “The BBC's breathless reporting of Juncker's leaking as fact has been a disservice to the public - and an angry @IainDale explains why”. BBC blaming and EU bashing in one expert Tweet. Worth suggested caution.
“Perhaps you might consider that May and her spokesperson have offered no rebuttal whatsoever of the substance” he replied. But to question Monty’s alleged wisdom is, within the Pundit Establishment, Streng Verboten. So Dale leapt to his defence. “Indeed not. Because they presumably have some class and don't want to descend to Juncker's level”. That is a prime example of the “better to remain silent” Tweet.
The characterisation of the man who will feature prominently in Brexit negotiations in such a derogatory way may give some a nice warm feeling, but it will not assist our understanding of what lies ahead - which appears to have been the primary motivation behind the leaks. Meanwhile, out there on Twitter, Dale was not yet done.
Worth suggested we should understand how the EU works. This seed, too, fell on stony ground: “Oh we know only too well how it behaves. Which is why we voted to Leave. Something you need to get over and accept”. Who is this “We” of whom he speaks? But once again, a flat refusal to see the issue has shades of grey, not merely black and white.
From that point came the meltdown: “BREAKING: EU says Britain must pay for entire EU budget until 2030. Welcome to the Hotel California. You can check out but never leave … FT Headline: EU Raises Brexit Bill to 100 Billion Euros. Oh just f*ck off … Varoufakis is right. The EU is trying to treat the UK like it treated Greece. They will soon learn we are not Greece. #BloodyDifficultWoman”. A Greek analogy? Right you are.
Theresa May tells us, and I suspect Dale believes her, that a big majority for her will strengthen her negotiating hand. Yeah, like it did for Alexis Tsipras. Was there a parting shot from the LBC host? There certainly was: “Why Britain Doesn't Legally Owe the EU a Penny by @dizzy_thinks”. That, sadly, is the equivalent of selling the pass.
“A bloke I know says this about the Brexit bill and so it overrides everything the Civil Service and the European Commission think” confirms keeping quiet would have been the best option. Try taking this issue seriously, Iain. Like Jon Worth is doing.