With thanks to my favourite Elvis impersonator, Mark Wright aka@kingswimg72, I bring you his excellent tweet in response to mine asking the question ‘how many of our most important decisions do we make at 4am?’
‘4am is time partners get drunk, argue and break up. The following morning they have to break it to the kids (or Lib Dems)’ said Mark.
The 4am decision thing seems uniquely EU summit-ish. I was at Maastricht as a journalist, and at several other key summits as a government advisor, and can well remember those heady through the night discussions when tempers frayed, the sandwiches curled, and people grew so desperate to get home they did some fairly wild and unexpected things, and perhaps made decisions they later regretted (like how the ECB was set up, or which countries were allowed into the euro.)
I asked my 4am question of several hundred Yorkshire based businessmen and women, and most seemed to think it was not a good time to make a very big call. David Cameron will not have delivered his veto without serious forethought, one assumes, but no matter how much self-confidence he has (and he has plenty) a little or maybe not so little part of his stomach will have a fair few butterflies flying around now.
He will get instant backing from sizeable chunks of public opinion who like the idea of the PM sticking two fingers up to Europe. He will get a respite from his Eurosceptics for a day or so, until they decide the next stage of their campaign to get Britain out of the EU. But then the really tricky questions will start to stack up, and neither he nor anyone else can be sure of all the answers.
I have said many times on here that Cameron failed to win a majority when he should have done because of his failure to distinguish between strategy and tactics. I think he has done it again, allowed the tactical to take precedence over the strategic. Did he want to be where he is right now? For short term reasons, maybe. But did he plan to be here, as an act of strategy in his European policy – I don’t think so.
Longer term, will he be feeling quite so comfortable and confident if we end up politically and economically isolated, our direction as a country to a large extent decided in discussions from which we are excluded, our share of the single Market shrinking, and the powers he famously promised to repatriate still firmly based in Brussels?
What happened this morning was a significant event. It could be the making of him, or the breaking of him, but the fact that it came out of tactics not strategy leads me to lean more to the latter.