Donald, “Prime Minister, would you keep the UK in the EU for five billion euros?” David, “My goodness, Mr Tusk…we would have to discuss terms of course”. Donald, “Would you keep the UK in the EU for five euros?” David: “Mr Tusk, what kind of politician do you think I am?” Donald, “Prime Minister, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”.
Dinner in Downing Street between David Cameron and Donald Tusk, 31 January, 2016 after the story about Winston Churchill and a particularly flexible socialite.
Alphen, Netherlands.1 February. Londonistan, Londongrad, Lonjing. With David Cameron and Donald Tusk now negotiating a form of words to mask London’s Great EU Climb-down it is reasonable to ask when and why Britain stopped being a poodle and became a whore? Now, I do not want to tar the world’s oldest profession with the untrustworthy brush of the world’s second oldest, so a precise definition here is vital. A whore is a man or woman who sells their body to the highest bidder in return for immediate sexual gratification. A whore state is one in which its leaders sell the body politic to the highest bidder for immediate financial and/or political gratification at the expense of the long-term interests of the country, its friends, and its allies.
In January 1942 the Americans effectively established de facto control over British foreign and security policy. Over the following sixty-five years the British became so dependent on American leadership, and indeed money, that London became little more than a gilded, collared bouffant poodle that the Americans occasionally took out for walks. It was called the ‘special relationship’. Still, at least Washington for the most part treated London with respect, more respect than on many occasions the British deserved. No more. Britain has to a significant extent abandoned that relationship in favour of a new set of financial relationships with illiberal powers that can only be described as a form of strategic whoredom. Indeed, under David Cameron London has effectively abandoned any pretence to foreign policy principle in favour of short-term cynicism, manipulation of public opinion, and narrow mercantilism. Three recent events testify to Britain’s loss of virtue.
Londonistan: Parliament will soon have to vacate Gilbert Scott’s magnificent 1839 Palace of Westminster as a massive programme of refurbishment begins that could last up to six years and cost £4bn. One of the buildings ear-marked to host Parliament during this ‘interregnum’ is Richmond House, some 100 metres from Westminster and slap-bang in the middle of Whitehall. The problem for traditionally boozy MPs is that alcohol is to be banned in Richmond House. This is because in 2014 Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne quietly handed the building over to Middle Eastern investors under the terms of an Islamic bond, otherwise known as a sukkuk. One of the terms of the lease is that the building must operate under sharia law. Consequently, the presence and consumption of alcohol will be banned to MPs should Richmond House be used as an alternative Parliament. Just how many other British institutions now operate under such a ridiculous regime?
Londongrad: The publication of the report of a full public inquiry into the 2006 murder of Russian émigré Alexander Litvinenko by Russian agents should have been a landmark moment in British foreign policy. At the very least Cameron should have immediately moved to expel the Russian ambassador, many of the now Cold War level of Russian spies operating in London, and sought to increase sanctions against the Putin regime. Instead, apart from a risible statement by Home Secretary Therese May in Parliament, Cameron did all he could to kill the story and quickly. Why? Simple. Russian oligarchs have invested billions in the City of London over the past twenty years. President Putin controls the oligarchs, ergo President Putin controls the City of London. Even though the Russian economy slid by some 8% last year Putin increased defence spending by some 28% safe in the belief that for all the rhetoric to the contrary he has Britain by the financial balls. Will Britain ever stand up to Russian bullying?
Lonjing: The culmination of President Xi Jingping’s October 2015 state visit to Britain was some £40bn worth of trade deals. Known as the Grand Kowtow under the deal a Chinese state-owned company is to be allowed to build and control three nuclear power plants across England. MI5 was so concerned that Britain’s spies went public and warned that London could never be sure what software would be inserted by the Chinese. During the visit China’s daily industrial levels of cyber-attack on Britain subsided for a few days. However, even as President Xi stepped onto British soil an American warship was undertaking a freedom of navigation cruise to uphold the right of free movement under international law in the South China Sea, which Beijing is determined to establish as an exclusive economic and security zone. In a confrontation between Britain’s main liberal ally and a main illiberal investor what side would Britain choose?
One of the many paradoxes of David Cameron’s very paradoxical premiership is the extent to which a powerful Britain behaves like a weak Britain. Some commentators have put this down to post-crash economic fragility and post-Scottish independence referendum political fragility. Both factors can go some way to exploring Cameron’s retreat from influence, the strategic pretence which has marked his premiership, and the often massive gap between what he says and what he means.
However, Britain’s strategic malaise also reaches deep into the culture of contemporary British government. Mix the Cameron/Osborne policy of narrow mercantilism with a Whitehall bureaucracy that champions management over strategy, and in particular the management and culture of decline, and the reason why Britain continues to retreat and decline beyond the necessary becomes sadly apparent.
Indeed, Britain has become like Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus with David Cameron selling Britain’s body politic to an array of devils in return for short-term political gratification and foreign policy destroying financial investment. If there is no such thing as a free lunch in politics, there is certainly no such thing as a free nuclear power station. If this is a foretaste of Britain’s brave new globalised world outside of the EU then I am not at all sure I want it.
David Cameron and George Osborne are far too interested in, and close to, big illiberal money, and are far too willing to pay whatever price to kowtow to it. The result is a country that might appear to be one of the world’s strongest, but in fact is most decidedly not. This sad truth was reinforced last week by a laughable tax deal for Britain with technology giant Google whereby the latter would pay the former some £130m for over £24 billion of earnings in the UK. San Lonfrisco?
So, when David Cameron eventually steps down in 2018 or 2019 he will leave Britain a toxic and cynical foreign policy legacy which will not only make Britain more insecure, but undermine both NATO and the EU. Sooner or later there is going to be a real reckoning between American-led liberal power and Chinese and Russian-inspired illiberal power. When that moment comes, as it must, the very real danger exists that Britain will be hors de combat because Cameron and Osborne abandoned foreign policy principle having sold the British body politic down the wadi, as well as the Moscow and Yangtze Rivers.
In Faustus’s final hour as he prepares to complete the contract he signed in blood when he sold his soul to the devil he watches with creeping despair as the minute hand of a clock ticks slowly by. “Oh lente, lente, currite noctis equis”, he pleads. Oh slowly, slowly run the horse of the night. At one point over dinner Donald Tusk, sorry Mephistopheles, pleads with David Cameron, sorry Faustus, “Oh David, forget these frivolous demands which strike a terror to my fainting soul”.