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Veto could make or break Cameron. fact it came from tactics not strategy means break more likely

Posted on 9 December 2011 | 3:12pm

With thanks to my favourite Elvis impersonator, Mark Wright aka@kingswimg72, I bring you his excellent tweet in response to mine asking the question ‘how many of our most important decisions do we make at 4am?’

‘4am is time partners get drunk, argue and break up. The following morning they have to break it to the kids (or Lib Dems)’ said Mark.

The 4am decision thing seems uniquely EU summit-ish. I was at Maastricht as a journalist, and at several other key summits as a government advisor, and can well remember those heady through the night discussions when tempers frayed, the sandwiches curled, and people grew so desperate to get home they did some fairly wild and unexpected things, and perhaps made decisions they later regretted (like how the ECB was set up, or which countries were allowed into the euro.)

I asked my 4am question of several hundred Yorkshire based businessmen and women, and most seemed to think it was not a good time to make a very big call. David Cameron will not have delivered his veto without serious forethought, one assumes, but no matter how much self-confidence he has (and he has plenty) a little or maybe not so little part of his stomach will have a fair few butterflies flying around now.

He will get instant backing from sizeable chunks of public opinion who like the idea of the PM sticking two fingers up to Europe. He will get a respite from his Eurosceptics for a day or so, until they decide the next stage of their campaign to get Britain out of the EU. But then the really tricky questions will start to stack up, and neither he nor anyone else can be sure of all the answers.

I have said many times on here that Cameron failed to win a majority when he should have done because of his failure to distinguish between strategy and tactics. I think he has done it again, allowed the tactical to take precedence over the strategic. Did he want to be where he is right now? For short term reasons, maybe. But did he plan to be here, as an act of strategy in his European policy – I don’t think so.

Longer term, will he be feeling quite so comfortable and confident if we end up politically and economically isolated, our direction as a country to a large extent decided in discussions from which we are excluded, our share of the single Market shrinking, and the powers he famously promised to repatriate still firmly based in Brussels?

What happened this morning was a significant event. It could be the making of him, or the breaking of him, but the fact that it came out of tactics not strategy leads me to lean more to the latter.

  • I think he acted the way he did to win short term votes. Fortunately (or hopefully) the electorate are more intelligent than he gives them credit for and will very quickly see what a mess he has made (and what a laughing stock in Europe the UK now is, and why that is not A Good Thing).

  • Easy to cast doubts but what would you have advised if a Labour PM had been in the same position as David Cameron? Ed Milliband’s response to Cameron’s action has little credibility: more about scoring points as usual rather than shedding light or demonstrating any leadership. I think Labour voters are more likely to switch away from Labour as a result. Are there any strategic thinkers remaining in the Labour Party? Anyone can poke holes. Where are the credible alternative policies? Ed Milliband cannot even convince the British people that he is PM material. He would have no chance negotiating in Europe. Sadly I say this as a long time Labour supporter, but not for much longer I fear. The Left seem to be completely rudderless and floundering, and hoping for Father Christmas to solve our problems. Surely it is possible to have left of centre policies for “grown ups”. Isn’t it?

  • Whilst one may not do God, Cameron is again genuflecting to the City and serving his god, Mammon – were “the markets” to sniffle, pout or stomp their foot he would indiulge their every whim. Hence it is entirely consistent that he tramples the undeserving asunder – poor here or those cantankerous mainland Europeans. Verily, the City is a pearl to Cameron – he would not cast his pearls before swine (Piigs) or they would trample him under their feet and rip him to pieces.
    Here endeth.

  • Nick

    Cameron has now found himself caught up in that old Tory Achiles heal Europe.I do not see him or the coalition surviving the mess that he is leading us us into.Someone strong in the Lib Dems needs to stand up and make a big noise about where they stand on all this .Clegg is as meek as a poodle and Danny Alexander’s hair is rapidly changing to a bluer shade of red.Vince Cable may well be the one to rock the boat and show some guts !.As for Labour they can only sit back and watch the self destruction !

  • Anonymous

    This is the most woeeful attempt at self-preservation I have ever witnessed.  Given that the country will now go quicker down the pan, I hope he pays.

  • Quinney

    Cameron has put his own skin first, placating the freaks and weirdos of the tory right, the tory press and the financial backers of the tory party who caused this mess in the first place.
    We will be marginalised, ostracised on the fringe of the biggest trading block in the world. Jobs and investment will flow out of this country throwing even more on Cameron’s social scrapheap. And where is Nick Clegg on this? The supposedly most euro friendly party again doing nothing, Clegg again the fag doing his masters bidding. Pathetic.

  • Mark Wright

    The Conservative Party do not have a mandate to decide the UK’s position in Europe. The Eurosceptics even less so.

    Cameron may have prevented a fatal split within his own party (for the time being) but assuaging the Lib Dems will prove much more difficult in the months and years ahead.

    That’s often the problem with sudden and traumatic separations: sometimes the children go off the rails and there’s nothing you can do about it.


  • Yorkshire Post Website

    Interview with Alastair Campbell at the Variety Club Business Awards in Leeds on the Yorkshire Post website

  • Libdem

    And neither did Tony Blair to give back much of our rebate….

  • Libdem

    Don’t you find it interesting that whenever a British PM objects to something, he’s reported as being stubborn and anti-Europe. And yet when it comes to being presented with a fait accompli by the Germans and the French they are purely acting in the interests of the whole EU and never selfishly?

  • MicheleB

    Surprisingly interesting response here from Nigel Farage on WatO  (poss to scroll along to 22m or so) who thinks ‘we’ are now between  two evils.
    I’m really liking Shaun Ley on R4 and have been surprised to see him recently on TV too on Newsnight. 
    He did a live interview on R4 with a young woman who was among the first to arrive in Libya, it was spellbinding, I actually stopped what I was doing.  Compared to what had been broadcast a few days earlier about some gungho twit femme with Sky it was so much more human.

    What a destructive spite-filled day, Bojo got rid of the last bendy buses today, the best crowd shifters London has ever had and so few months before their features would have been so useful for the Olympics.
    Ken got these wonderful vehicles on such favourable terms; they’ve been such efficient workhorses in Italy and Germany for decades – it’s all about horrible spite.

  • Gilliebc

    Ed Miliband was quite good at PMQ’s on Wednesday.
    What a shame he threw away that little advantage with his crass comments in response to Cameron’s using of the veto at the Euro conference earlier today.

    I suspect Cameron’s decision was more about keeping his eurosceptics happy than anything else, but I’m glad he did what he did anyway.

    I used to think these eurosceptics were a bit nuts, but I know better now.  It is as Olli I says, from the inception the EU was all about a United States of Europe with all that entails, such as totalitarian direct rule,  a common currency which obviously won’t work with umpteen chancellors of exchequers in all the different countries.

    I don’t think the euro powers that be will let us off lightly, but the going is going to get even rougher for us whether we are in or out of the EU.
    Opinion polls and online comments show quite clearly that the large majority of the British people what nothing to do with this totalitarian undemocratic set-up.

  • Richard

    If, as reported, 26 countries are set to agree to have all budgets sent to Brussels for sanctioning prior to delivery to sovereign parliaments,
    Cameron had no choice. The British public would never agree to such federalism. If it is the parting of the ways, purely due to this hurdle, it must be faced.

  • Whatifwhatif

    Taking the decision he did at 4am or at any other time, I can’t understand how or accept that Cameron has the unilateral right to do something so significant without consulting either Parliament or countty?  What use is a retrospective referendum?

    I have a queasy feeling that the PM thinks he’s king-like; anyone want to place bets that the new increase of £40m to double the costs of the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies has something to do with Sam and her pals?  His gifts to the Obamas had.

  • Libdem

    You could go as far as to say that the Germans and French knew he really had no option but to say ‘no’. When they go off in their endless huddles and come out of it shouting eureka, as seems Sarkozy’s wont, they seem to be under the misapprehension that everybody else will just agree with them.

    The way the EU is run is even less democratic than the way we’re ‘ruled’.

  • Alan L

    You clearly don’t ride a bicycle in London. 

  • Alan L

    Whilst it pains me to say it, I think that by luck far more than judgement, this is the making of Cameron. We can all pour scorn on his strategy. But if you were told 10 years ago that a Tory Prime Minister would be able to credibly (let’s forget our tribalism for a  moment) sell himself to the British people as a centrist whilst simultaneously delivering the biggest spending cuts for generations, effectively removing the UK from the EU, defeating electoral reform for a generation and accomplish all this without a democratic mandate, you’d have laughed whoever was doing the telling out of town. 

    He’s caught another break here. Amidst all the hoo-hah, the real reason for this summit, saving the Euro, has been lost by the coverage. The Germans have won this argument. The ECB is not going to step in as lender of last resort. The crisis of competitiveness is not going to be resolved by tighter fiscal rules. The ‘Big Bazooka’ is missing. This is an act of astonishing irresponsibility by the Germans. One of the many simultaneous crises that make up the crisis is an old fashioned balance of payments one and the Germans have built up a surplus which, whilst their currency does not revalue and the Souther Europeans can not devalue, will slowly turn the screw on Southern European competitiveness. And this is not, not in Britain  not in Europe, nowhere apart from Greece really, a crisis of Government spending. The fiscal rules would have, largely, been useless in preventing the crisis – people are in deficit and slow growth now because of 2008, which was caused by banks, not government spending.

    Anyway, all this is a technocratic distraction from political strategy. The reason why this works for Cameron is that when, and I strongly believe it is when not if, the Eurozone collapses, he will absolve himself of responsibility. And more importantly, when that happens, the centre-ground of opinion towards Europe will move even further rightwards. He is ahead of a horrible, horrible curve. Because this will be replicated across Europe. I’m afraid when Supra-national institutions depose democratically elected governments, centrally impose a dutch auction of austerity, transfer tax and spend sovereignty away from national governments, refuse to redistribute to more afflicted regions and then go onto cause a 10% contraction in GDP that all of the above was meant to stop anyway, then the conditions for a nationalist surge are being richly seeded. That the Germans are in the driving seat does not help. 

    I am a lifelong Pro-European, Labour supporter. But if the party has any ambitions to be elected then they have to at least recognise were the direction of travel is for the ‘centre-ground’. They have to recalibrate accordingly and recast our principles in light of the new context in a way that is not, a la Clegg, an outright betrayal. We need to wake up. 

  • Entch

    Agreed – Cameron has his blinkers on, as well as his St. George boxer shorts, and could very well be missing the bigger picture, and seems to be on an adventure towards village-like parochialism.

    He has just said in so many words that he doesn’t care about what happens to the economy of Europe, nor care how it will affect the UK detrimentally in the long run, City of London included. All very worrying judgements by him and his Westminster/City mates.

  • The UK will be toast on the menu.

  • Dave Simons

    ‘Totalitarian’ and ‘undemocratic’  are words which had specific practical applications in recent European history – Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Spain and what is ludicrously called ‘The Soviet Union’ (given that a ‘soviet’ was originally a democratic council of workers). The nearest we get to these systems in present-day Europe is the totalitarian and undemocratic rule of global finance and the multinationals, both of which have democratically-elected national governments over a barrel. The EU does have a parliament and we elect MEPs to it to represent us. If we show little interest in European elections and never meet our MEPs we can’t then accuse the EU of being totalitarian and undemocratic. I recommend that you have a chat to your MEP – I hope to see mine within the next fortnight and I’ll be asking her what she thinks about Cameron’s back-benchers’ veto. I think the big problem about the Tories and Europe is that they don’t want any outside (or inside) controls on the City of London (despite what it and the rest of the global ‘financial services industry’ has led us into) and they particularly don’t want to have their workforces protected by European legislation – health and safety, wages and salaries, rights, etc. In other words, business as before for the City and sweatshop UK for the rest of us.

  • MicheleB

    Look at the fair and democratic reasons why he did so fgs, on and on and on and on like a bloddy (posh for bloody) broken record. 

    You’re not really a liberal or a democrat at all are you?

    Neither was Clegg when he gave the party that the COUNTRY had NOT given a 100 majority to just that very thing.

    So sickening to hear Simon Hughes this morning supporting Clegg who has supported Cameron, it’s like a conga line.  Will we have to endure hearing the other 55 answer ‘Yeth’ to the question?

  • MicheleB

    Nope, that’s the point, and apparently something that Cam did not grasp while tossing his ringlets and gathering up his hoops demo at 4am.

    The sanctioning of budgets applies only to those IN the Euro.  The other 9 non-members will be IN the room to use that colloquialism while the 17’s budgets are checked over but the 9’s are not.  UK will be outside of it.

    This is all about getting out of EU by stealth especially the human rights aspects of it, they will be first to go.  Just watch.

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure what real choices Cameron had at the meeting, its not really been explained clearly.  To me, it was inevitable he would have to wield his veto in order to protect British business, including those bankers that draw such ire.

    This might well be a wrong impression, but it struck me that Cameron was backed into a corner, not by his own party, but by Germany and France.  It is well known that they consider London’s quasi-monopoly of financial services a threat to Europe and want it to be broken up and spread more widely.  There are many papers on the subject which can be read in English online and go back way before the crash in 2008. So knowing their intentions, surely he could not have sat back and allowed them to use this situation to achieve that goal.

    The question I need to know, before I can decide whether his actions were right or wrong, is what alternative action could he have taken that would result in the same protection of UK business.

  • MicheleB

    Some commentators are saying bank trading would have (and still will) move further in to Europe anyway). 

    The rising importance of India and China and the time zone we occupy matters now more than ever.

    It would be interesting to know how City business changes during BST (and yes, I do know that these bonus-hungry people work a lot more than standard office hours).

    Cameron has not ‘pulled a blinder’ as Boris claims (while I’m sure not actually thinking so); Sarkozy has.

    Mrs Merkel, desperate for a more unified Europe must be upset (despite having had a bellyful of the NQ1ofus mantle that Cameron assumes).

  • MicheleB

    Nope I don’t but if I did I would not be stupid enough to try to undertake a long vehicle of ANY type when it is turning left.


  • Anonymous

    We will see whether the Eurozone collapses, of course.  But one thing struck me in all this – the body language of Cameron.  He looked like someone who knew he was doing the wrong thing.  His body screamed embarrassment.  So I tend to think AC is right – this was something done for short-term tactical advantage, by someone in hock to his party’s right wing.  And I must take issue with your suggestion that he has succeeded in doing so many controversial things without a mandate – he has not.  But he is clearly helped by a completely spineless set of coalition partners, a press which even today has headlines screeching an anti-European agenda or at best playing down the disaster of it, and the kind of political apathy which comes from some very disillusioned people in this country completely distanced from their democratic institutions.  

    Lastly, I must challenge your assertion that supra-national institutions have deposed democratically-elected governments in Europe – this is not true in the case of either Italy or Greece.  

  • Libdem

    Ah Michele, back to the personal attack, bit like a broken record aren’t you….

    Tony Blair was naive and should have known better.Much as you might like to change it, the fact is he gave much of our rebate away for nothing in return.

    By the way, what do you think Cameron should have done at the summit? I’m sure you could pass on your ideas to Ed as he seems to be bereft of any at the moment.

  • Libdem

    Let’s hope you’re right ….. for once heh!

  • Libdem

    Well said Alan, the Germans and don’t forget the French have ‘won’ this battle but the euro is still in the midst of a ‘war’. Their re-hash of the Stability Pact will do nothing to change the lack of competition between the north and the south.

  • ZintinW4

    Cameron has taken a position in his party interest but not in our national interest. In Europe we will be left like a dog barking at the moon, irritating but of little relevance.

    Labour should now start to ratchet up the pressure on the Lib Dems. They are in a coalition with a party that under mines every policy position they stand for. I reckon they won’t make it through to next Xmas. Targeted defection to Labour is now the main show in town.

  • Ehtch

    What you have got to remember is that Cleggy has a big family inherited country house in France, I believe. So don’t be surprised that some french farmers dump a huge load of manure outside its gates in the near future, when they catch on what is happening in brit politics at the present time.
    Cameron and Osborne are being incredible naive in what they’re doing – it is the 1920’s gold standard business all over again, and you should know where that all led to. UK will eventually have to invest in Europe, one way or the other.

  • Ehtch

    Guardian has just reported that Cleggy is “furious” with Cameron, as reported at this link,
    Vote of confidence coming up on the Coalition set-up? With Lib-Dems voting against the Torys? We can only all live in hope. GE in early 2012? Hope to god there will be to get rid of these tory muppets.

  • Ehtch

    You know what “those “torys say about the occasional labour or liberal hundred odd years ago? Let us humour them, and when we get back into power we will get suck in and do what we want to do, trying hard to make the home counties a second Swittzerland and fuck the rest of the UK”. The rest of us might do better.

    Might be time for me to wax my yew long bow, methinks.

    And practise, sing songs ready for civil war battle,

    ——^^^ brilliant, and I should know ^^^

  • JoeB

    London’s quasi-monopoly of financial services a threat to Europe?  – its been more than a threat to the UK over the last thirty years. 
    The obsession with the city and its interests has done huge damage to both British society and other parts of the economy:

    For twenty five years we had governments that regarded manufacturing as an irrelevance, and something that was supported if at all merely to reduce unemployment, not as something valuable in its own right. 

    Housing costs in the South East have been distorted by the high salaries paid in the city. 

    Bright engineering and science graduates get sucked into the city, other industries cannot compete, etc etc.

  • MicheleB

    You hope that I’m right about this actually being  UK    
    ‘out of EU by stealth, especially the human rights aspects of it’   … ?

    Your ‘leader’, the non-job (simply buried in reading everything) DPM, is coming to his senses today. 

    I daresay that means you’ll be pidgening another take on things soon.

  • MicheleB

    Personal attack?

    FACT: you are neither liberal nor democratic.

    The rebate reduction was our contribution towards the costs of enlarging Europe, bringing poorer nations in.  You do know which ones I mean, those that some of us actually and really had empathised with during the latter part of 20C while others just pretended to (till it came to dosh).

    Your ID describes a vacuum and your posts echo Tory contributions to this blog, just as pseudo-liberal democrat  MPs’ votes do in HoC. 

  • Libdem

    You wouldn’t know a FACT if it jumped up and smacked you in the face. You should know that TB ‘negotiated’ a quid quo pro for reformation of the CAP which never happened or are you ignoring that FACT?
    Feel free to say what you like about my comments, that’s the point isn’t it? But you shouldn’t jump to conclusions when you know nothing about my politics.
    Or is the problem simply that I don’t agree with you…..

  • Libdem

    See you’re still not answering the question….what would you have Cameron do or even better what would you have Ed do?

    I think you’ll find it’s pidgin by the way unless you’ve invented yet another FACT as you would say…

  • MicheleB

    Why would I want you to agree with me? 
    Do you see anyone doing much agreeing with anyone?
    In fact the stance of most posters is the same, we agree and we press ‘Like’.   When we don’t agree we debate/disagree/argue whatever.

    It’s human nature and canvassing varied opinion is the reason for most blogs.

    You chose to be  named ‘libdem’ which by itself undermines . your input.  You adopted a pose and a claim and a lot of pretence about being liberal and democratic

    PS: Make your mind up btw, he (……scream…..) GAVE AWAY the rebate or he traded it for the good of more than one group? 

  • MicheleB

    What was the question I’ve ‘still’ not answered? 
    You must have found a way of  looking at posts OUT of their caches if you see a missed question in this one.

    Re the questionS in THAT post I ‘would have’ Cameron possess some negotiating ability, some strategic skill, some appeal to people that happen not to defer to his  revolting exploitative Bulliboy act.  Clegg fell for the ‘Come baaaaaaaak’ comedy routine, big mistake.

    What would I have Ed do?  Resign and let us have GB and AD back. YOUR (apparent) hero is the wimp whose infantile inflated ego behaviour on May 10th caused our loss of them. 

    Never forget that your (apparent) hero had lost 13 LibDems their seats, replaced them with 8 different ones and was bought with front bench roles for himself and other trainee Tory candidates.

  • MicheleB

    Tsssssk at self ….. ‘first to arrive in Libya’ should have read ‘Tripoli’.

  • MicheleB

    I wish we could all be as succinct 😉

  • Brendan Morley

    Re tactics and strategy, up until this point I agreed with you. This one is different. I believe that Cameron would be delighted to see the Lib Dems walk from the coalition over this, then he could call a snap election and claim the Lib Dems brought this about. In many respects it would be the smart thing to do. The Tories are level pegging with Labour in the polls even before any campaign starts. I know you won’t agree, but Miliband is completely unelectable. More Kinnock than Foot. He just hasn’t got it and never will. Not prime ministerial material, he is middle management trying to be CEO and the harder he tries, the more lightweight he appears. As it happens, I agree with Cameron’s stance re the EU, but that’s for another day. In terms of domestic politics he has wrapped himself in the flag and has the chance to precipitate an election now by challenging the Lib Dems on what for them is a core issue – he is trying to provoke them to quit. It’s the smart move, before the double dip kicks in. If ever there was a chance for him to secure single-party government, this is it. This is strategy, it’s not just tactics.

  • Nick

    Perhaps, although a lot of cyclists find it quite hard to avoid being “stupid” enough to be over-taken by such a vehicle which then turns immediately left.

    Mind you, I do cycle in London and don’t find bendy-buses to be that much of a problem. This change is simply about placating drivers who occasionally get held up by bendies blocking junctions.

  • Libdem

    Never forget that your apparent hero ‘broke the bank’ and apparently stabbed his mate in the back over many moons…nice to know you!

  • MicheleB

    Quite so Nick.  It’s dreadful, yet another person has been killed in recent days, she didn’t know the road layout or where she should have been.  She probably couldn’t even understand our road signage very well, being a foreign student in her first term. 

    It’s totally incomprehensible to me that even in cities people can just hop on a bike; no ID, no insurance, no protection.  A cyclist passed me this evening; no lights front or back, no helmet, no hi-viz, all dark clothing AND on his phone.

    The most stupid idea of all is the band across all lanes at traffic lights which is only for cyclists; that’s great for community relations when the lights eventually go green and cyclists continue to block lanes…….  I don’t know whether that was a Ken idea or a Boris one.  The plan for hire bikes was Ken’s promise but what we’ve got was implemented by Boris – with no requirement for helmets.  Now I often see Boris on his bike, have done for the past ten years, have never seen him without a helmet.

  • Libdem

    ‘libdem’ undermines my input….mmm…as narrow minded as I would expect from you.

  • Alan L

    I fear that challenge is based on pedantry. I mean, I suppose technically it is heads of government that have been deposed, and that parliamentary majorities and support have collapsed for those figures. But launching that argument misses the clear elephant in the room: where are the elections? We wait to see if the Greece election goes ahead. But any collapse of a head of government should always equal a snap election. Always. It might be damaging, but where are we now? Government for the markets, of the markets and by the markets? 

    Now I don’t doubt that Cameron’s move was primarily motivated by short-term political motivations. But he might benefit from it in terms of political strategy. His diplomatic skills are an embarrassment – where were the alliances. Where was the coalition building? He gets 0/10 for guile. Where a 10/10 would have got us is a counter-factual that I just not informed enough to venture an opinion. 

    But on strategy – he may have his excuse. I may have been a bit hyperbolic and quick to predict the Eurozone’s collapse. But there is absolutely no way, no way that we are going to see a strong return to growth. Stagnation is the best outcome here, and the South will continue to have its competitiveness destroyed. No monetary levers + fiscal austerity will ensure this. So the anger at the Eurozone, that the sacrifices made are ‘hurting but not working’ will move opinion there too, even if the collapse never comes. The real villain, of course, is centre-right economics  But we have seen once how adept Cameron is at the politics of excuses, when he re-framed the 2008 crisis around our spending. Anyone who refuses to accept that he did that successfully is an ostrich. Get ready for an attempt to be constructed out of this weeks decision. We must be ready. We are not. 

  • Brendan Morley

    Re Miliband – I hate to say I told you so. But I told you so.

  • Alan L

    Excellent explanation:

  • Alan L

    Excellent explanation: