Coffee House

European Commission president row is example of PM’s ‘essay crisis’ strategy, MPs grumble

2 June 2014

David Cameron might be hoping that the eurosceptics in his party are chuffed with his tough guy stance on Jean-Claude Juncker. And by and large, they are. But they’re not wholly impressed. One eurosceptic remarks that this intervention is simply about the Newark by-election, given its timing. Another, who is minded to at least believe that the Prime Minister is thinking about European reform, rather than Patrick Mercer’s old seat, says:

‘This is no way to do diplomacy. Cameron has left this to the last minute yet again and it could be too late to do anything. He has had months to express a view yet is only engaging now.’

Indeed, discussions about the next president have been taking place in Europe for months. Newark considerations aside, it is odd that Cameron hasn’t started grumbling sooner and lining up allies against Juncker and Martin Schulz, who would also be detrimental to Britain’s chances of reform.

MPs do think it’s another example of David Cameron’s ‘essay crisis’ approach to governing, in which he leaves everything to the last minute and then manages, by hook or crook, to secure something. The problem is that essay crises are all well and good when you’re an undergraduate who can stay up all night with some coffee to produce an acceptable essay, but they’re a bit more difficult to pull off when it’s the slow-moving European Union and diplomacy, not dissertations, that you’re dealing with. But they’re glad that at least he’s having a go at looking tough.

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  • saffrin

    “One eurosceptic remarks that this intervention is simply about the Newark by-election”
    Now that’s the truth of it.

  • Richard N

    No matter what newspaper I look at, all the comments underneath any article carrying Cameron’s ”promises’, etc. are almost universally treated with total contempt and dismissal by the Comments underneath the article – including in papers where you would expect support from die-hard Tories, like the Mail and the Express.

    Which leaves me wondering – where is the support that the pollsters report for the Tory party coming from?

  • The Masked Marvel

    Cameron has left this to the last minute because neither he nor anyone else in leadership want what most people want on this issue. So they have to piss about for ages trying to figure out how to weasel out another half-baked result. Not so much incompetence here as it is a crisis of ideology.

    Being in the EU at all is detrimental to Britain’s chances of reform, regardless of whom they set up as the next unelected mandarin.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Has anyone else noticed that when this is discussed in this blog the EU is rarely discussed in terms of winning back voters. It is always discussed in the terms of whether it keeps Tory MPs happy or not.

    Presumably this is because it is now recognised that the various machinations and contortions Cameron is going through are purely about appealing to the rump of his party and halting further defections rather than any hope that they ,may win back voters. He is not really reaching out beyond his own party

    After all UKIP wants to withdraw. Why would voters who want to withdraw from the EU be the sliightest bit interested in the horse trading around as new leader when its pretty obvious whoever gets it is going to be a raving despotic federalist who will never agree to curtailing migration

    • Richard N

      I don’t think Cameron’s got a problem with his dreadful party – the Tories (contrary to the hack’s claims) are almost unanimously pro-EU; and more importantlly, so are their major donors.

      The so-called ‘eurosceptic’ wing of the Tory party is virtually a complete fiction: there are just the fake-eurosceptic group, whose job it is to sucker eurosceptics to vote for the party that has sold us out to the EU for 40 years or more, non-stop.

      The fact of the matter is that the Tories have absolutely no idea of what to do about UKIP, and since Cameron was signed up to the EU prior to them organising that he became head of the Tory party, neither he nor they have got much room to manoever at all.

      I’d be very surprised if Merkel would let Cameron do the only thing he could do that might avert defeat – namely, an EU referendum with the next GE: she’s not a risk-taker, no matter what assurances Cameron gave that they (the EU gang) would win it.

  • Grey Wolf

    Before we get to the politics, what’s with Cameron’s face? Apparently, he jogs and works out and all but his face is puffed up as ever. Too much water retention, methinks. Excess salt in his food?

    I think it should now be formally declared that so far as the sinister EU project is concerned, you either stand for being IN or heading OUT of it. You cannot be merely ‘sceptical’. If you are being ‘sceptical’ at this juncture you are a charlatan.

    And lastly, this whole anti-Juncker drama is a bunch of nonsense.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Botox? He always was a bit of a spoonface but now he is Spoonface.

      • Grey Wolf

        Good one!
        I think Ken Loach should switch genre, make a slasher movie called ”Spoonface”.

  • Will Rees

    Observer yesterday was saying he went too early. More inclined to go with this articles analysis (heaven help us if its just Newark posturing). If he can’t stop Juncker the tory position on EU collapses. If he can stop Juncker deadlock between Council and EU parliament grinds the whole thing to a halt.

    Such fun!

  • Denis_Cooper

    I would also point out that on November 4th 2009 when Cameron announced that he was accepting the amending Treaty of Lisbon whole as a fait accompli he was inter alia accepting that henceforth the appointment of the President of the EU Commission would take into account the results of the elections to the EU Parliament, the change which was interpreted by MEPs as meaning that they could have a pretend election and put forward the winner as the person to be appointed.

    From Article 17 TEU as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon:

    “7. Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission … “

    • Will Rees

      it depends how you define ” taking into account.” The debates:

      Televised debates
      DateTime (CEST)InstituteParticipantsLocationLanguageMain Presenter(s)
      9 April 201417:10France 24 and RFI[62]Juncker and SchulzBrusselsFrenchCaroline de Camaret (France 24) and Dominique Baillard (RFI)
      9 April 2014France 24[63]Juncker and SchulzBrusselsEnglishChristophe Robeet (France 24)
      28 April 201419:00EuronewsJuncker, Schulz, Verhofstadt, and KellerMaastrichtEnglishIsabelle Kumar (Euronews)
      29 April 201414:30Euranet Plus[64]Juncker, Schulz, Verhofstadt, and KellerBrusselsEnglishBrian Mcguire (Euranet) and Ahinara Bascuñana López (Euranet)
      8 May 201420:15ZDF and ORFJuncker and SchulzBerlinGermanIngrid Thurnher (ORF) and Peter Frey (ZDF)
      9 May 201418:30EUIJuncker, Schulz, Verhofstadt and BovéFlorenceEnglishTony Barber (FT), Monica Maggioni (RAI) and J.H.H. Weiler (EUI)
      13 May 201418:30LCI and RFI[65]Juncker and SchulzParisFrenchMichel Field (LCI) and Jérôme Chapuis (RTL)
      15 May 201421:00EBUJuncker, Schulz, Verhofstadt, Keller and TsiprasBrusselsEnglishMonica Maggioni (RAI)
      19 May 201423:01France 2[66]Verhofstadt and BovéParisFrenchYves Calvi (France 2)
      20 May 201421:00ARDJuncker and SchulzHamburgGermanAndreas Cichowicz (NDR) and Sonia Seymour Mikich (WDR)

      Owe more to Douglas Adams’ “on prominent display in the bottom drawer of a filling cabinet in the cellar” than they do transparent democratic accountablity

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Juncker and Martin Schulz, who would also be detrimental to Britain’s chances of reform”.

    Not if Cameron is really serious about reform involving treaty changes, as he claims, because the final decisions on treaty changes are taken by the governments of the member states.

    We had this nonsense before the elections to the EU Parliament, that we should vote in lots of Tory MEPs to help Cameron with his reforms, which they could not do to any significant extent if his reforms were to involve treaty changes, and now we are having the same nonsense about the EU Commission.

    Of course if Cameron is really thinking of just a few minor tweaks through secondary legislation then that is a different matter; but how would he get us freed from the treaty commitment to “ever closer union”, which he has actually said is the most important change that he wants, without treaty change?

    I would recommend that Spectator journalists read Article 48 TEU on revision of the treaties, here:

    rather than misleading their readers on this.

    • you_kid

      “The European Council may decide by a simple majority, after obtaining
      the consent of the European Parliament, not to convene a Convention
      should this not be justified by the extent of the proposed amendments.”

      sounds like pure and radical democracy to me …

      • Denis_Cooper

        Or they could decide to convene a Convention because the EU Parliament insisted there must be one, but make sure that it was a very short Convention under somebody who they knew would do what they wanted. Then it would be on to the IGC, the conference of the representatives of the governments, to finalise the amendments, without the Commission or the Parliament having any say over what the governments agreed “by common accord”. That is why I say that if Cameron is serious about wanting to “reform”, or as he has said “transform”, the EU then it won’t make much difference to his chance of achieving that who may be the President of the Commission or what the composition of the EU Parliament may be. It would be the governments of the other countries that would be the real obstacles
        to him achieving a successful outcome.

  • Kitty MLB

    I Like the rainbow halo around Cameron’s head.
    Cameron needs to deal with the EU, he must be utterly sick of it,
    and he’s not in reality a supporter. Yet being PM he’s trying
    to be diplomatic and responsible.
    David Cameron will doubtless fail in trying to reform the
    succubus of the EU. But there is honour in trying and
    when we have a referendum we can chose to leave
    assuming thats what all the electorate wants.And
    the EU can implode. IT doesn’t after all represent the people
    of Europe.

    • Makroon

      We vetoed Junker in 2004, Ze Manuel Barosso was the compromise candidate.
      It is shocking and laughable that this bureaucrat-crook has the neck to try again. But it is indeed, a great lesson for Cameron – the arch-ditherer Merkel is entirely untrustworthy.
      Cameron’s best chance is to lobby for a good, female candidate (how could Merkel oppose that ?) Even Lagarde wouldn’t be the worst candidate, probable French support (through gritted teeth), a centre-right reformer, gets on well with Osborne.

      • global city

        I think they all want Shauble

  • Colonel Mustard

    Usual slippery chancing from Spoonface.

    • Kitty MLB

      I wonder who the gallant Colonel could possibly be referring
      to.The mind boggles.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Dearest Kitty

        David Cameron.

        Kindest regards

  • John Dalton

    Why has their been no comment from The Spec on the vile, hateful and contemptuous remarks of the ridiculous Anna Soubry???? I.e. “My constituents have concerns about immigration- what nasty little rac-ists they all are!” (delivered in the usual braying wannabe Thatcher tones…

    • Colonel Mustard

      Ghastly woman. She reminds me of one those smug, middle-class retirees who always go on about where they have been on holiday and little else.

      It actually frightens me that there are irrational women like her in Parliament deciding our law.

      • Grey Wolf

        This woman is truly frightening and out of control. She has that self-righteous, hectoring tone that raises many questions about her motives. Something happens to her when in front of a TV camera. People should be warned about her – who knows she could be carrying an axe.

    • Richard N

      Yes, she really is utterly disgusting.

      The fact that a Minister can get away with talking about someone enjoying a finger up their bottom, and not be immediately sacked, says it all about the contemptible lack of any moral standards at all of Cameron and his self-seeking, self-satisfied crony capitalist clique

  • Richard N

    Cameron knows that if the polls are correct, and almost 90% of those voting UKIP at the EU election vote for them again, then the Tories are absolutely doomed, with no question.

    His only card really – since he can’t go against his masters in Berlin and Brussels, to say nothing of Washington and the major Tory donors – is to announce an EU referendum at the next GE.

    It would help him – but might not be enough, since the biggest force driving UKIP up and up is the demand for immigration to be slashed – and there’s nothing that Cameron or the other EU quisling parties can do about EU immigration, except tinker meaninglessly around with minor details of welfare entitlements, etc.

    It’s a strange situation we’re in: Miliband is rightly regarded as a clueless geek who people can’t see as PM, and Labour as bad at the economy; Cameron is widely loathed – and can’t be elected if UKIP continue their momentum. And Clegg is finished.

    So that only leaves UKIP.

    • global city

      His only strategic consideration is winning the second term, for personal reasons. He is not interested in anything else.

      He’s convinced that he ‘is good at it’ (primeministering)

  • @PhilKean1

    Let us first completely disregard the phoney battle being waged about who becomes President of the EU Commission.

    Cameron needed something to demonstrate that he is prepared to take the fight to the EU. And what better than to try to prevent a personality becoming leader who’ll make no material difference to what Britain is allowed to achieve at the supposed “negotiations” – or to the rate at which the EU speeds towards economic and political union?

    However, I am curious as to the “threat” allegedly made by Cameron that he would bring forward the date of an in-or-out referendum.
    So, assuming that he is still using a referendum as an electoral sweetener : as in, we have to re-elect him in 2015 in order to get it – what does Cameron know this week about the EU’s intentions, that he didn’t know last week, that has prompted this tougher line?

  • alabenn

    This is all just a smokescreen, Cameron can veto this man, he just needs to grow a pair.
    His problem stems back to claiming, no matter how negotiations go he will campaign to stay in.
    Ignored by the fererasts and despised by the rest.

    • Denis_Cooper

      Well, Cameron can’t formally veto him because the decision is by QMV, qualified majority voting, and so Cameron doesn’t have a veto on it.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Nobody who could possibly be picked would enhance the UK’s chances of meaningful reform. It is just so easy for them to delay, a mere three years are like an evening gone. AND they move in a mysterious way.

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