John Major came on the radio this morning trying to be helpful to David Cameron in his campaign to stop Jean-Claude Juncker becoming president of the European commission.
Major suggested other European leaders might want to ‘make it up’ to Cameron if Juncker gets the job.
Major knows a lot about wishful thinking when it comes to Europe. The last time Britain was so isolated was during his ridiculous and futile ‘beef war’. It took a Labour government to repair relations and restore Britain’s standing and influence in Europe.
The sad thing is that Cameron is trying to defend an important principle, which is enshrined in EU treaties: that the democratically elected governments of Europe, not the European parliament, choose who runs the commission in Brussels.
But his public grandstanding and personalising of the issue around Juncker has lost him the support of governments that should be our natural allies. Terrible tactics; dreadful strategy.
Major’s quaint idea that Cameron might get something in return for any humiliation seriously underestimates the extent to which his approach has badly alienated our friends in Europe. German politicians from all parties and their media, both left and right, who are usually very restrained when it comes to criticising fellow EU governments, have been withering, urging Merkel to ‘stand up’ to Cameron’s ‘blackmail’. Where must this leave Cameron’s already far-fetched ‘renegotiation then referendum’ policy?
By repeatedly appeasing his anti-European backbenchers and their cheerleaders in the press, Cameron has left Britain isolated and our national interest betrayed. The more his backbenchers roar their support for his ‘robust’ stance, the weaker he becomes. At least John Major stood up to his Europhobes. ‘Bastards’, he called them. And, like Tony Blair, Major succeeded in blocking a commission president Britain did not want. Cameron would appear too weak to do either.
Ben Bradshaw is member of parliament for Exeter
Photo: World Economic Forum