Although not one to indulge in national stereotyping, Angela Merkel it has to be said, gives a very fine impression of embodying German sobriety and lack of humour. Her alleged remark, therefore, that David Cameron and his party resemble the muttering old codgers from The Muppet show indicates a certain sense of humour that many presume she lacks.
The likeness in attitude to Statler and Waldorf is uncanny. David Cameron and the Conservative Party give a good impression of two grumpy old men with nothing positive to bring to the table. Like Statler and Waldorf they are happy to niggle from the side-lines (whilst refusing to take an active part in the show) yet when it comes to answering awkward questions they are good at feigning deafness in one ear.
Consider for a moment, if you will, that Cameron gave his speech not in the basement of Bloomberg’s London offices surrounded by a largely sympathetic national media but in a Vaudeville theatre in the heart of Brussels.
Cameron is the only act on stage – his audience, fellow EU Heads of State. At the end of his carefully orchestrated speech, written by a home team, there is but one person heard to be clapping– the Czech Prime Minister.
The Czech Prime Minister’s lonely applause echoes in the silence. There is no thunderous applause for his new vision of Europe. There are no flowers thrown on stage to honour a genius. Even Cameron’s natural allies – the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark – sit silently and uncomfortably in their chairs until eventually France offers Cameron a red carpet just to get him off the stage and Merkel, more out of sympathy than anything else, promises she’ll call him some time.
Then everyone leaves to get on with sorting out Europe’s economic woes.
The British media couldn’t have portrayed a more different story. The Daily Mail assures it’s readers that the Prime Minister “…outfoxed his foes” and proudly stated “Yes, Prime Minister! Cameron’s EU referendum unites Tories, delights business and even gets Germany on side”. The Telegraph crows, “Cameron has put Britain on the front foot to change the EU’s direction”. Fifty leading businesses sent a signed letter to The Times applauding the Prime Minister for his stand.
From an EU Perspective it is difficult to tell who is more deluded – David Cameron or the British media?
Cameron did not manage to put Britain on the front foot to change the EU’s direction. He’s making Britain more irrelevant with every passing day. Cameron did not manage to outfox his foes. He just made himself look more and more like an obstreperous grumpy old man. Germany is absolutely not on-side and fifty leading business men signing a letter to The Times is hardly indicative of what ordinary business men and women who trade every single day with the EU think about the uncertainty that Cameron has now plunged UK business into.
Sure the other EU Member States want the UK to be a part of the EU – but not at any cost. The UK is going to have to face a choice – either participate in the EU project and try and effect change from within or leave. The EU is not going to force the UK to stay.
Neither Cameron nor the national media is prepared to talk in any detail about what will happen to the UK should it chose to leave. Far more easy to pander to populist sentiment then to tackle the real issues.