February 18, 2016
Forget the expensive Eton education or the days studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford. Cameron’s real education begins this week. In Brussels. The assertion that Cameron was more interested in buttering up his Bullingdon buddies to help pave the way for future office when in Oxford rather than swotting-up on modern European history appears to be more than just idle tittle-tattle. There must be some truth to it. Cameron’s calamitous week in Brussels and his apparent cluelessness as to whether the European Parliament could or could not scupper his child benefits reform, is clear proof, if any was needed, that Cameron did not study hard enough when he had the chance.
When Cameron breezily promised Britain a referendum a couple of years ago he effectively signed up for a personal crash course in vocational European politics. Term-time began a couple of months ago. His first assignment: to go door to door and conduct a survey on reforming the EU. As Cameron set off to press the flesh and schmooze the hard-nosed European Examination Board the enormity of the task he set himself must have begun to sink in. No wonder the guy is looking sweaty and nervous. One can only imagine that the palms of his hand are getting more and more clammy as his adventures in euro-land progress. What looked like one of those easy Micky-Mouse courses is proving far more challenging and complex than he probably anticipated.
The crunch, end of term exams are fast approaching. His whole legacy and continuing role as Prime Minister depends on how well he passes these exams and quite honestly it’s not looking good is it? The chances are he’s about to flunk big time. Cameron’s dissertation on “Getting a good deal for Britain in Europe” is about to be awarded an E minus from the Eurosceptic examination board whilst those trying to promote the “Better In” campaign are grappling with how to understand the huge gaps in his oral presentation no matter how hard they try to put a positive spin on it.
Cameron could, of course, have read EU Perspectives for an excellent insight into how Brussels works and operates to help guide his choices. But did he? Of course not! This site has the two letter “EU” prominently plastered across the title. To Cameron, the two-letter EU in euperspectives is as much of an affront to his sensibilities as if the site were to prominently display a logo showing the two-fingers, which incidentally, is exactly what many EU member states feel like doing to Cameron right now as they grapple with refugees, euro instability and the emergence of illiberal illiteracy in eastern Europe.
But, hey, that’s what happens when one surrounds oneself with like-minded Eton cronies in the cabinet. The problem is they all think like an old Etonian, they all act like an old Etonian chum and they all have the same expectation in life of that of an old Etonian. What they do not think like, (and what would be hugely useful for Cameron right now as his exams approach) is how an irritable French cabinet minister, a canny Italian politician, an indignant German Green MEP and/or a grumpy Polish chef de cabinet thinks.
Having failed to master these basic, ground courses it looks like Cameron is going to have a hell of a fight on his hands to convince anyone he’s worthy of being awarded a degree in European politics.
The referendum is going to be fought and won on whether the British electorate decide that their future is better off within the EU as it is or not. If they do decide to stay in let us hope their future leaders will be better informed, better educated and more savvy than the current incumbent. Only then can Britain’s interests be properly represented, only then can Britain even begin to think about reforming the EU and only then will anyone take Britain’s views seriously.
Europe needs Brexit like it needs another million economic migrants. If Britain does decide to leave the EU it will leave western Europe weaker and more vulnerable than it already is in an inceasingly volatile, combustible world. If this happens then Cameron must bear the brunt of responsibility – and all because he so imperviously neglected his European studies when he had the opportunity to understand them from some of Britain’s brightest thinkers.Kathleen Garnett