Peter Oborne has a wonderful piece in the Telegraph today in which he argues that the Coalition government may one day be ranked alongside the great reforming governments of Herbert Asquith, Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher. Two things in particular earn Oborne’s praise: the attempt by Iain Duncan Smith to promote social justice by defending marriage, and the Coalition’s foreign policy, especially its readiness to engage seriously with the Palestinians – and even with Europeans. Indeed, Oborne says that the events of the past week may have witnessed the end of the 20-year Tory civil war over Europe.
Some of the Telegraph’s more leaden readers have reacted angrily. Here is a fairly typical comment: “Oborne, so you finally acknowledge your europhile status with this Qusiling and 5th column type of column. No doubt you would also sell your parents to get on the EUSSR Gravy Train!”
Yet this week’s defence deal with France is surely one of the finest achievements of the Coalition. Some tabloid scribblers have objected that our boys will henceforth have to serve under French officers. What a bunch of Poujadists these people are. Of course, British troops will come under French command from time to time, just as French troops will from time to time be under British command. There is nothing new here. It is not a plot by the Frogs. In the First World War British forces served under a French allied commander, Marshal Foch. In the Second World War, the allies served under General Eisenhower in France and under the American General Mark Clark in Italy. During the American Revolution General Layfayette served in the Continental Army under George Washington.
The French are besides ideal allies. They are brave soldiers. At Verdun between February and December in 1916 they and the Germans fought the longest battle not only in the First Word War but in all of military history. Both sides showed astonishing endurance and courage. In the Second World War France lost 92,000 dead before they were forced to surrender in June 1940. The key word here is “surrender”. “Cheese-eating surrender monkeys” was funny the first time it was used, on the Simpsons, but it was then flogged to death by chippy blue-collar Americans (who later joined the Tea Party) and the Right-wing think tankers in Washington (and their friends here).
Many will feel that the new deal with France does not go far enough. We have agreed to operate joint nuclear testing facilities, but we surely should get rid of our own hideously costly “independent” nuclear deterrent – which we’d never use without permission from Americans – and throw our lot in with the French. Together France and Britain could provide the EU with a truly independent nuclear deterrent. Next stop: a European army.
Don’t forget, meanwhile, that in spite of the lamentable French Revolution, France is the Eldest Daughter of the Church, and ought to be treated by us with love and respect.
In any case, well done, Dave; well done, Nicolas. Vive la France. Rule Britannia. Laissez les bons temps rouler. Yes, we can.