Sunday 15 September 2019

David Cameron's political religion is liberal internationalism

David Cameron may be a uxorious man. At any rate, the two most disastrous follies in his six years in power were the fault of his wife. She persuaded him to enact single sex marriage and to destroy Libya. It used to be called petticoat government.

His wife sounds very likable by the way, an upper class, hippyish art student who smokes and likes a drink, but she does not sound very Tory. Endearingly, she needed a gin and tonic at 9 a.m. on the morning after the referendum. 

The other Mrs. Cameron, his mother, tried very hard indeed to persuade him not to bring in single sex marriage but failed. It's a bit like the history of a royal court.

Mr. Cameron is a Tory of the Macmillan and Heath tradition and, despite his bringing his party back to power after thirteen years, on the whole is an argument against that tradition, which led to the authoritarian and even more left-wing Theresa May. 

Boris belongs to it too, but at least unlike her he dislikes the nanny state.

Had Mr. Cameron not been a convinced believer in the EU he could have campaigned to leave it, after his attempt to renegotiate our membership failed. Had he done so, he might have achieved a successful, very soft Brexit and be considered as memorable a Prime Minister as Margaret Thatcher. 

He might still be Prime Minister, though in his memoirs published in the Sunday Times today he says that he found the referendum campaign so draining that he could not have carried on as Prime Minister for more than two more years. He does not have Margaret Thatcher's stamina, her hunger for power or anything like her self-belief.

But though he and George Osborne seemed to have few very obvious principles
internationalism is one of them. Hatred of racism is another, as is distaste for nationalism. They consciously think the desire to leave the Community is xenophobic, borderline racist, and on the losing side of history.

He says, in an excerpt from his memoirs, that Dominic Cummings and Nigel Farage were part of a “cauldron of toxicity” with “something of the night about them”. This sounds
like a man who is deeply depressed but it also shows you clearly how he, George Osborne and probably the majority of Tory MPs see the world.

Mr. Cameron relates how he and George Osborne brought Michael Gove into Downing St, plonked themselves 'on yellow sofas' and tried to persuade him not to back Leave.

Mr Cameron talked to him about continuing 'the radical change we had achieved in opposition and in government'. Presumably he had in mind making the Conservative Party and the country more socially liberal, as well as less indebted. 

George spoke starkly about how the leave campaign might begin by being about British sovereignty but would soon slip into nativist arguments about immigration. “The open, liberal Brexit you start off with will turn you into a sub-Farage,” I said. We’d be throwing out of the window all we’d done as a team to make this a modern, compassionate Conservative Party. George made it clear: if Britain voted to leave the EU, everyone, including me, would be finished.

Michael seemed torn — and really pained by his indecision. “My head is in a strange place,” he said. “For once, I find it hard to articulate. But if I do decide to opt for Brexit, I’ll make one speech. That will be it. I’ll play no further part in the campaign.”
David Cameron has not forgiven him for changing his mind but why should he not have done do?

I also wonder why they consider nativist arguments about immigration bad. Between 1979 and 1997 the Conservative governments led by Margaret Thatcher and John Major made it almost impossible for immigrants to settle in the UK permanently unless they were "secondary immigrants" (related to primary immigrants) or very rich.

David Cameron says Michael Gove turned into "a foam-flecked Faragist", arguing that the 70 million Turks would one day be allowed to come to Britain if we stayed in the E.U. In fact, David Cameron's government was the government that was doing more than any other government to help Turkey gain membership and the EU had agreed that Turkey will become a member if she fulfils the necessary conditions. 

Nothing Michael Gove said was unreasonable. But for men like David Cameron, George Osborne or John Major alarming the electors about mass immigration is wicked. 

When David Cameron and George Osborne talk of Farage and Ukip you realise that they hate that kind of politics more than the Trotskyism of Jeremy Corbyn.

David Cameron was very shocked that Leave brought up Turkey's putative future membership of the EU and the possibility of Turks being able to settle in the UK as a result.
It didn’t take long to figure out leave’s obsession. Why focus on a country that wasn’t an EU member?

The answer was that it was a Muslim country, which piqued fears about Islamism, mass migration and the transformation of communities. It was blatant. They might as well have said: “If you want a Muslim for a neighbour, vote ‘remain’.”
He was tempted to promise to veto Turkish accession, which would have been a surprise to the Turkish government, who thought he was working hard to bring Turkey into the EU, but what on earth would have been the point of such a promise, except to mislead slow thinking people? Of course if Turkey does join the EU that will be decades from now. Does this mean the question was irrelevant to the referendum? I'd say it was very relevant.

Chris Patten in 2011 said that bringing Turkey into the Union would be the big European project and give the Union meaning. The EU for men of this stamp has a quasi religious significance and symbolises a mystical union of mankind, a return to an antediluvian state before the Tower of Babel. The cost of this is living under a benign despotism, but this is a price worth paying for peace and harmony forever.

David Cameron accuses Boris of putting his career before his country in backing Leave. I have no doubt careerist motives were at the top of Boris's priorities but it is also clear, from Mr Cameron's own account, that Boris was deeply unhappy about EU membership and felt the referendum was a chance that should not be missed to argue against it.

Like everyone else politicians did not have to decided if they wanted to leave the EU until the referendum made the question inescapable. When forced to decide many w\anted to leave.

David Cameron tellingly rang up Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Barack Obama on the morning after the referendum to apologise for losing, because he felt he had let them down. He was apologising to the other members of the club from which he was resigning in disgrace. 

Now we have the British Europhile establishment, personified by Speaker John Bercow and the Scottish Court of Sessions, doing everything it can to prevent Brexit altogether and thereby making it very much harder than it need be for Boris to make a deal. 

This British establishment, by the way, is part of a wider EU and transatlantic establishment. Joe Biden is part of it and so is the Pope.

I think a deal will be made by 31 October and it will be Theresa May's appalling pseudo-deal, but with the Backstop somehow smoothed over. I think leaving with no deal would be better. Staying in might even be better. The Norway or Canada options and a real border in Ireland would certainly be better. Threatening to leave has very much strengthened and also very much weakened Boris's hand.

Whatever happens, if we settle for a bad deal or leave with no deal or even are lucky enough to get a good deal, negotiations continue, forever. The Swiss Ambassador in London has said that his country is permanently negotiating with the EU.


  1. David Cameron's political religion is liberal internationalism

    The problem for Britain is that liberal internationalism is Boris Johnson's political religion as well. And it's Nigel Farage's also.

    Brexit has become a dispute between two competing strands of liberal internationalism.

  2. Nigel Farage us a Thatcherite and the Wets called Mrs Thatcher a 19th century Liberal. In many ways she was - for example in liking wars fought for 'our values'. I wrote this.

  3. And this.