Alphen, Netherlands. 28 February. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband sat there like naughty schoolboys hauled in front of a stern headmistress. Yesterday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament not to expect too much from Germany Britain's leaders extended more than the proper courtesies to a friend and powerful political leader. In the servile nature of their expectations and body language they tipped over into subservience. Watching them scrape and bow before her was not what the British people expect from their leaders. Nor was it something Chancellor Merkel wanted. Yesterday, Little Britain and its little leaders were at their very worst.
In her speech Merkel called for a strong UK in a strong Europe. And there is the problem. What she witnessed is a weak Britain in a weak Europe. Or, to be more precise weak leaders who in the narrowness of their vision, their endemic short-termism and their lack of belief in both country and people render Britain far weaker than she actually is. It is hard to believe these days but the Britain that is 'led' by these political pygmies remains a top six world economy and a top four military actor and yet Chancellor Merkel could well have been addressing the leaders of Iceland (with all due respect).
The whole event oozed with the declinism and defeatism which has infected the British political class from top to bottom and which so bemuses so many Germans. "What does Cameron actually want?", they ask in Berlin? He keeps talking about repatriating powers from Brussels and negotiating a new relationship for Britain in the EU before his fabled 2017 in-out referendum. And yet he never actually spells out either his vision or his demands. It is as though Cameron is on some political yellow brick road.
Berlin need not worry. What Cameron actually wants is easy - to maintain the pretence of renegotiating Britain's EU membership just long enough to hold the Conservative Party sufficiently together until the 2015 General Elections.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg? Ed would quite happily hand yet more power to an unaccountable Brussels and Nick already sees his country as 'Europe'. Indeed, Clegg said recently it was 'patriotic' to support the EU. There was a certain irony that Merkel's call for Britain to love the EU came the same day figures were announced showing a massive surge in immigration from the EU over the past year. The figures simply reinforced the sense of British leaders that can no longer even protect their own borders, let alone their people.
The sad consequence of yesterday's little bit of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was that Merkel must have left British shores reinforced in the belief that Germany need offer London nothing. The Anglo-German relationship is becoming fast like the US-UK Special Relationship in which American leaders need but say a few nice words and British leaders fawn like star-struck groupies. It is pathetic.
Sadly, such fawning treatment would also have confirmed to Chancellor Merkel that she is indeed Queen Angela of Europe. Thankfully, Chancellor Merkel is a sensible women and knows the reality of Germany's position in Europe - ultra primus inter pares. But really...
Equally, her speech revealed Berlin's conceits about the German-benefiting EU which Britain really ought to be challenging. She said that Europe was no longer run by a few people with decisions made in secret meetings. Excuse me but the way the European Commission makes its decisions is so opaque and so lacking in transparency that a Byzantine emperor would feel at home. She also said the EU operated under the rule of law. Whose law?
In essence, Chancellor Merkel's message to Cameron, Clegg and Miliband was clear. "Look, the EU works fine for Germany and I may be prepared to offer you the odd irrelevant little morsel for you to exaggerate. However, expect no more. Take Germany's EU as I want it or go".
It is hard to imagine a time when Britain has been led by such political pygmies. The only parallel I can think of is the 1920s when Messrs Bonar Law, Baldwin and MacDonald cut a similarly unimpressive and shallow swathe on the international stage.
Queen Angela of Europe visited Little Britain yesterday. For once it was at least good to see a real leader in London.