David Cameron: I mentioned the war – I think I got away with it
Journalists were told to wait by the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum before David Cameron’s speech on Europe. The key that unlocked hieroglyphics was a strange prelude to a speech that needed no de-coding.
David Cameron’s message was the Remain side has a “big bold patriotic case for staying in … If you love this country, the EU …is one of the tools that helps us” to walk tall.
You might be wondering why David Cameron hadn’t mentioned the threat of war before and why he had done something so (presumably) dangerous as to flirt with leading the “out” campaign (the much repeated “I rule nothing out” line used right up to the conclusion of the renegotiation).
“Can we be so sure that peace is assured?” David Cameron asked today.
Back in his Bloomberg speech in January 2013 he spoke of past wars and the origins of the EU in order to draw a line between that project – job done – and the contemporary task of building prosperity:
“And while we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen. But today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.”
The PM repeated the argument about Brexit weakening intelligence gathering. This, I hear, hasn’t always been seen as entirely convincing by British voters when they are focus grouped. The PM tells colleagues privately that he passionately believes in the enhanced capability that comes from EU membership and doesn’t seem ready to drop this argument.
He took a direct swipe at Michael Gove’s remark that Brexit could trigger the “democratic liberation of an entire continent.” He spoke of the “supreme irresponsibility” of encouraging “competing nationalisms.”
On Marr on BBC1 yesterday Michael Gove painted a picture of a PM who still enjoys his company and is relaxed about the stark differences of opinion on the EU. He said the PM still always had him in the PMQs prep sessions on Wednesday mornings (though I understand he was told to stay away on the first Wednesday after he declared for Brexit and other contact has tended to be with George Osborne or no 10 staff since that date).
But pity the two sides in this campaign. They have, broadly, said what they intend to say about the issues. They must now spend 45 days re-packaging those thoughts in ways that grab your attention having first grabbed the attention of news desks. That will mean eye-catching phrases and third party endorsements, gimmicks and slogans that convey the arguments in novel ways.
The audience here seemed mostly to be taken up with ambassadors (quite a few taking iPhone pictures of the PM) though I saw Grayson Perry in the audience and David Miliband was the warm-up for the PM. He said there was “alarm” across the capitals of the world about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU.
He dubbed the Leave campaign “Project Fantasy.” He referred to the strangeness of the “unusual and temporary alliance” with David Cameron though I have to say they cut a similar dash with their polished delivery.
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