By common consent, it really isn’t going well for Dave’s EU renegotiation. Even fig leaf reforms seem to be now beyond his reach, and treaty change a distant dream. Meanwhile, “Europe” collapses ever further into global economic irrelevance, with the French economy stagnating and Germany missing their growth targets. Surely it is time for Cameron to get tough? Instead, as the usually sunny Dan Hannan recently wrote with considerable bitterness, he seems determined to acquiesce in any abuse the EU throws at him.
Well, of course he will! It really is very difficult to comprehend those decent Conservatives who simply can’t – or won’t – understand the nature of their own party and the man that leads it.
Starting first with Cameron, he has been nothing but an exclusive insider his entire life: Eton, Oxford, Bullingdon, Whites, Conservative MP, Prime Minister. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a background, of course, but this notoriously unimaginative man simply cannot even begin to comprehend playing the outsider’s role; being consigned to life’s 2nd XI; black-balled from the gentlemen’s club.
The viewpoint of the Tory party as a whole is more complex, but ultimately much more threatening for those of a Eurosceptic disposition. Ofcourse the party contains a great many deeply patriotic and genuinely conservative people, but in its sanctum sanctorum the party is Tory, in the 17th century meaning of that word: a party for those who feel they have an almost divine right to rule their lesser brethren; a party of the exclusive, self-selecting club; a party of the elite – or those who wish to join it. The problem with their position, of course, is that ever since their inception Tories have been engaged in a more or less continuous fighting withdrawal, giving ground to their opponents in return for continued access to office and avoidance of violent revolution.
Until, that is, the concept of “Europe” came along. An ‘elite, self-selecting club’ – doesn’t that phrase perfectly describe the Europe that has been constructed during the past half a century? The EU is Toryism on an international scale: anti-democratic, remote, contemptuous of the hoi polloi.
However, not only does the European Union represent an exclusive set-up that clubbable Tory types may want to be members of, or a fine top table for them to dine at, but much, much more importantly it represents a golden and unexpected opportunity – a chance to revoke hundreds of years of Whig-Liberal history. A chance to return Europe to an almost medieval, albeit secular, method of governance, complete with dynasties, courtiers, and most enticingly of all, an unaccountable internationalist class ruling the new peasantry beneath them. A chance, in short, for the old order to be born anew. It is that that makes the prize of continued EU membership so glittering, the stakes so dazzlingly high.