Many of us in these parts are pretty hostile towards Euro-federalism, and it’s easy enough to have a chuckle at the apoplectic reaction to Papandreaou’s referendum. Seeking democratic endorsement for fundamental economic interventions, perish the thought, ha-ha ! These Euro-democrats, they don’t like it up ’em, eh ?
Maybe, just maybe, it was a calculated Machievellian move. But it looks like, and certainly counts as, an entirely childish act, in circumstances where only grown-ups are welcome. And this particular Boy George has shown himself to his Euro-peers to be delinquent. Juvenile.
Look at the haggard faces of the main players, look at their negative body language. Hear them lost for words. See their mortification at the disapproval of China and the USA. At times like these, the only contributions wanted are those intended constructively, by the lights of the crisis itself. Anything else is to miss the gravity of the point.
The Mediterranean debt crisis is the equivalent of war: we might as well all be facing an invasion from the planet Zog. In real war, of course, the position is clearer: the generals, the War Cabinets (no children appointed there) take the powers they need and their actions require no further legitimacy (until, of course, they lose and victors’ justice prevails). Those that by temperament would be minded, or even likely, to raise issues of due process, of morality or balance or consultation or constitutional propriety or any number of happy peacetime considerations - of anything that falls short of iron resolve, immediate purpose and utter expediency – will never make it into those counsels.
[“Open fire on that building.” “But Sir, there may be some of our own men, taken prisoner, inside!” “Fortunes of War. Carry on.”]
There are almost as few constraints in evidence in the boardroom when a full-blown commercial crisis is in progress – and certainly none welcomed, in the person of weak-willed HR directors or meddling non-execs. [“What about the accounting treatment ?” “We’ll take a view.” “Fiduciary responsibility ?” “Let the lawyers tidy that up tomorrow.” “The Risk Committee ?” “They’ll do as they’re told.” “The unions? the works council ?” “Stuff ’em. Get with the programme ! (& get rid of this man ...)”]
And in democratic politics, replete as it is with oppositions, awkward squads, disaffected back-benchers, ambitious and unscrupulous Disraeli-opportunists, parliamentary rules freaks and newspapers with copies to sell and agendas of their own ? Ah yes, it all gets a bit more difficult. But the same basic rules apply: adults to the front, children to the play-pen; Whips out, cards marked, threats made – we know the score. Oh yes, everyone knows the score – except, it seems, Papandreaou (and the eternal smirking schoolboy Berlusconi).
And is this an endorsement of expediency ? Hardly – we know that ghastly mistakes are made when counsel is no longer sought, when ‘yes’ is the only correct response – don’t we, Sir Fred ? For many years Churchill was the juvenile – until he took charge of the war room.
But, seriously. This is serious.
And in these circumstances, they stop at nothing.
And where does this leave Cameron, Hague and our own Boy George ? We should all read this, from the Economist. And ponder.