I don’t know which papers Lord Leveson reads, but assuming he flicks through them all as he presides over his inquiry into the press, he will be getting a very good example of the fusion of news and comment right now.
There are pro Europe papers and there are rather more, and louder, anti Europe papers. The pro Europe papers are presenting David Cameron’s ‘veto’ of a planned new Treaty as a disaster, and the anti Europe papers presenting it as a triumph. The truth will emerge more quietly, and more slowly, over time.
I lean to the disaster scenario. Politically, not least because of the noise Eurosceptic papers and MPs will make, and also because there is something mildly stirring about a UK PM ‘taking on’ the rest, Cameron will almost certainly get a lift.
But the glow from that will fade fairly quickly. Then comes the next day, and the next, and the one after that, and the many meetings and discussions he will have to take part in to try to shape Britain’s future political and economic success. I didn’t see the Andrew Marr programme, but it is clear from twitter that the view is already settling that the Eurosceptics are now driving Cameron’s strategy. When Bill Cash and Nigel Farage are both trending, something is going very wrong in our land.
Margaret Thatcher was the most Eurosceptic PM of our lifetime. Yet for all her rage and frustrations with our European partners, she never for one moment countenanced the possibility of absolute isolation. She knew that trade deals, raw power and diplomatic influence came not just from our history, or her personality, but from how other countries perceived our international strength and reputation.
In winning a short term boost for his own reputation for strength amid Eurosceptics, (who will now just move on to the next stage of their campaign against him) Cameron has put at risk the strength and reputation of the country he leads. He got himself into this position in part by failing to take sufficient care over his relations with other EU leaders. It is to be hoped he is not simlarly dismissive of relations with the US, China, India and emerging economic powers. But in reality those relationships too are weakened by what happened in the early hours of Friday morning. They all know where and what Britain is, and they all know who our PM is. But part of our strength with them has been our strength in Europe.
Nor is it clear to me – and he needs to make it clear in the Commons tomorrow – how exactly he has protected the interests of the City in vacating a chair at discussions when vital City interests will be at stake.
He was, according to his people, wildly cheered by Tory MPs when he entertained them to dinner at Chequers on Friday. His tribe is happy. But the party interest does not always coincide with the national interest, and that may be the tension that sees the short term lift for himself give way to longer term damage to Britain.