Lisbon - The Morning After
05 November 2009
The doorbell rang at just after 8am this morning, just as I was about to head off up the road with the kids to school. It was David Cameron looking for some advice.
I said, 'Sorry, Dave, but I need to get the kids to school.' Mr Cameron pointed to the limousine in Conservative blue and said that his people could take them. I thought, I've never met you before, can I trust you? I also thought, you're a politician, can I trust you? So we hit on a compromise where we all rode to school in his limousine; he and I chatted, while the kids sipped tequila and kicked back in the jacuzzi.
Cameron seemed slightly crestfallen, as if he could see his lead in the polls draining away by the second. He seems to be under the impression that the British people want their leader to be decisive. I tried to allay his fears by pointing out that generally the British people just want to stick with what they know, until they get fed up with it, then they want a change; but it didn't help.
'I need to appear like a man of vision and determination,' he said. ' This whole Europe thing just makes me look like one of the Muppets. And one of the lesser Muppets at that, not even Kermit.' I asked him if he knew that the European Union intended to ban the Muppets, and he expressed surprise. 'I don't think people realise the true horror of what's to come,' he said sadly. 'None of us.'
Eventually, when the kids had been dispatched and the gas-guzzling limousine with darkened windows and the crest of the Conservative party on the bonnet had returned us to the house, Cameron and I sat at the kitchen table with the morning papers and two cups of Agent Cooper's black coffee. He looked with lamentable melancholy at the Mail: Why yesterday was a sorry day for Britain, democracy and the Tories; and the Guardian: 'Autistic Tories castrated UK.' The inside pages just made matters worse.
I pointed out that the Conservatives had backed themselves into a corner. Once Lisbon had been signed off, there was nothing they could do about it short of having a referendum on leaving the EU altogether. They were promising something right from the off that they were never going to be able to deliver. 'Serves you right, really,' I said. 'Maybe you'll think before you open your mouth next time.' 'I couldn't possibly,' he replied.
He acknowledge past mistakes, but said that this was not why he'd come to see me. 'The thing is,' he began, 'what's done is done. What we need now is a strategy for a quick recovery. Something bold and dashing, a brilliant policy that will solve all the party's Euro problems, win votes, make me look like Churchill and if possible, win me Best Dressed Man of The Year.'
I thought about this as I took a sip of coffee and bit into a delicious Gregg's fresh cream apple turnover, £0.75, nominally paid for by the leader of the opposition's office, but claimed back from the taxpayer. 'You're going to have to go for a full in-or-out vote, there's nothing else for it.'
'But I don't want to be completely out. We need to be at the heart of European policy, without, you know, being at the heart of Europe. We need to be able to control the future of Europe without Europe controlling us.'
'Fine,' I said, getting tough, 'go and work for Angela Merkel. Look, there's nothing you can do about it. The horse has bolted. The fat lady has sung. The cockroach has eaten the trifle. All you can do is the all-or-nothing referendum. You don't actually have to back the Get Out vote, you're just saying that everyone's getting a choice. You'll look decisive just by calling the vote. If the Stay In vote wins, then you have the status quo and you can play your part. If the Get Out vote wins, you can turn the UK into Switzerland. Well, Switzerland with ten times the amount of pregnant teenagers, more litter in the streets and an even more corrupt banking system.'
As Cameron took a large bite from a fondant doughnut and a piece of pink icing attached itself to his nose, I could see the light of hope begin to glimmer in his small politician's eyes.
'And,' I went on, as I lifted a still-warm pain au chocolat, 'imagine how great it would be for you if Blair gets to be president, and he's living it up in his Transylvanian castle, then you take Britain out of Europe and he has to stand down after only a few months.'
Suddenly Cameron rose to his feet and shouted 'To the Batmobile!' to his fifteen security guards. He stopped briefly on the doorstep, licking the remnants of pink icing from his nostril hair. 'Thanks,' he said. 'I know now what to do. The entire nation is in your debt.'
I presented him with a bill for £42,000 for thirty minutes' consultation work and he was on his way.