The Cameron revivalist experience and why the EU agreement is binding in law

25 Feb 2016 at 09:30

I suspect that you can’t get much more politically cynical or jaundiced then me. I’ve been around rather a long time and seen some appalling stage managed events. I remember being at a Tory party conference when Tim Bell of Saachi fame had organised a load of us youngsters at a prearranged time to unfurl We Love Maggie Banners from the balconies which would lead to multiple orgasms, mass hysteria and entranced spotty youths in bow ties speaking in tongues. As most of us tolerated rather than loved her we did the business. God it was embarrassing. So I turned to the guy next to me and wearily commented that it would have been preferable to chuck that twat Bell over the balcony. He grinned and held out his hand. ‘Nice to meet you Jerry, I’m Tim Bell’. Oh, dear.

But cunning stunts are the stuff of everyday politics. So it was only out of loyalty to Cameron and wanting to remain in the EU that after a couple of sharpeners on the terrace I toddled off to the ICA on the Mall to hear the PM launch the IN campaign. I was not prepared for the shock. We were crammed into a tiny space with no seats. Cabinets past and present just mingled with everyone else, there was no real plan apart from a few trustys lined up to catch the eyeline of the cameras. The atmosphere was electric, there was a really tingle of expectation that something exciting was going to happen. But what struck me was the warmth. Young and old we’re giving each other hugs. It was like a party of old friends without the booze. It was something so rare in politics; everyone liked each other. I have never experienced anything like it. And then Cameron, sleeves rolled up with an open neck shirt, bounded in. ‘For once I am disobeying my mother’s advice’ he grinned. It was a reference to his upbraiding of Corbyn at PMQs earlier. And then something men of my age haven’t had in years; thirty minutes of unbridled passion. This wasn’t a written speech. It was from the heart. There were a few scrawled notes on a table with a glass of water. He didn’t look at either. It was the most effective piece of stump oratory that I have ever heard. It was a force of nature. I looked around the room. They were mesmerised. It was like a revivalist meeting. And then I looked at the faces of the cabinet. There was only one expression. Awe. With the subtext, ‘I wish I could do that’. And then ten feet away I caught the eye of Phillip Hammond. He was grinning from ear to ear. Hammond smiling. Hammond happy. Hammond at ease. Well, I have seen it all.

Now most of you will say that all this is totally over the top. It is. Because it was. Politicians don’t need gimmicks they need belief. And passion.

The striking thing about the REMAINERS is that we like each other. There is no jostling for position, no bitching, no sly press briefings. I feel sorrow for Michael Gove. I respect his principles but not his judgment. To come out with the bald and totally wrong statement that the heads of government agreement is not legally binding is dangerously wrong. Donald Tusk says it is. More important, Alan Dashwood the former director of EU legal services puts it rather succinctly. “The ‘decision’ is binding by legal agreement reached by consensus and could only be amended or rescinded by consensus, or in other words, with the agreement of the UK”. This is the view of Dominic Grieve and Jeremy Wright. For Gove to get something like this so totally wrong is rather surprising. For him to pronounce it ex cathedra as Lord Chancellor is rather shocking. This is a shame. I like Michael and he is a superb minister.

Perhaps someone could enlighten me but why is Priti Patel portrayed as a poster girl for the right? I recall that she was rather a good press officer, but that’s about it. Her newspaper articles attacking Cameron are a disgrace. In normal circumstances she would have been sacked.

Oh, and there is a rumour floating round Westminster that Boris might re rat and reluctantly support the REMAINERS. Too late matey. Your political grave has been dug and you’ve zip wired in. If you hear a weird spluttering noise, rest assured it is not a Boris speech, just some of us cranking up the cement mixer. Six foot of reinforced concrete should do it. Well, for starters.