As ever in politics, there are several ways to look at a single event, depending on your point of view, and cynicism. Mr Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury, recently lost his battle to prevent Mr Juncker, the former Luxembourg Prime Minister, becoming President of the European Commission. Lost. Defeated. Humiliated.
But this need not be the case. If one squints, or looks at things with the aid of a mirror, one can see triumph. Mr Cameron sees triumph – or at the very least a victory for principle, integrity and determination. ‘My colleagues on the European Council know that I am deadly serious about EU reform,’ he said, ‘but I keep my word that, if I say I am not going to back down, I won’t.’
Since Mr Juncker is an arch-federalist (he is, isn’t he; that’s what we are told?), and the recent EU parliamentary elections have delivered a blow to the federalists, he deduces that what the Commission needs right now, like a hole in the head, is a federalist to prove the sceptics right: that the EU is not going to change course for anyone, least of all for the electorates of Europe.
Listen to the Labour Party leader and you will hear how Mr Cameron lost the vote 26 to 2 (which he did), how he and Britain are isolated in Europe and how this has been an ‘utter humiliation’, how he is pandering to the right-wing of his party, and how he is, by extension, the wrong person to be Prime Minister right now. The person most suited to the office of PM is, we must presume, Mr Miliband himself, despite the polls casting one or two doubts. According to a recent YouGov poll, 19 percent think he would make the best PM while 37 percent favour Cameron. But what sort of politician would he be without a certain degree of masochistic optimism?
I suppose this comes down to the key activity of politics – presentation. To Cameron this is, if not an outright success, a successful demonstration of his will to lead the EU in a direction more acceptable to its peoples; and to Miliband this is, of course, a failure. What is so utterly infuriating about the whole affair, and politics in general, is that there is an element of truth in both claims. Wouldn’t it be great if one could switch off one’s nuance receptors and see things only in black and white?