Clumsy Cameron holding a gun to Britain’s head
- BY:PETER HOLMES A COURT
- From:The Australian
- January 25, 2013 12:00AM
I AM guessing British Prime Minister David Cameron has seen Mel Brooks’s 1974 cult comedy classic Blazing Saddles.
It’s a politically incorrect spoof-Western that features Cleavon Little as a young black Sheriff Bart who is sent to the whites-only town of Rock Ridge.
In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the sheriff finds himself surrounded by the racist townsfolk, their six-guns drawn, ready to shoot him dead.
In a wonderful piece of lateral thinking, the Sheriff pulls his own gun and points it at his head.
“Hold it! Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!”
The dim-witted townsfolk take him seriously: “Hold it, men. He’s not bluffing. Listen to him, men. He’s just crazy enough to do it!”
The townspeople drop their guns and Bart, pushing the gun into his own neck, drags himself out of group.
Once he is safe inside his own office he congratulates himself:
“Ooh, baby, you are so talented!” and then he looks into the camera and says “and they are so dumb!”
This scene is all I could think of as I listened today to Cameron’s “England and Europe” speech.
I am sitting at a folding desk in the media room of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos listening to a webcast. To my left are a team of Chinese video journalists, young, fast-moving women with nice cameras. Behind me is the team from one of the most conservative British newspapers.
They know what they are doing, type quickly, talk faster, and are producing column inches quicker than I can get up to get another cup of coffee.
I’ve been pondering the issue of how worldly this forum really is. At times I feel as if the W of WEF stands for White or at least West. The organisers will hate me for making that simplistic joke, but I wonder how the Chinese think about Cameron’s big European speech today.
The world is burning, we’re facing a lifetime of financial turmoil and the leader of the seventh-biggest economy has just ensured that the personal relationship between England and Europe will remain a focus for the next five years.
Wouldn’t China just sort this thing out? And wouldn’t a democratic leader just make a decision, and stand by it? If they want to vote him out, they’ll have a chance to do that once, possibly twice, in the next five years.
The tweet from Cameron was shorter than the Prime Minister’s talk, so to save you 5700 words of pure populist circularity this is what he wrote on the micro-blogging site:
“5 principles for a new #EU: competitiveness, flexibility, power flowing back to member states, democratic accountability, fairness #EUspeech”
Whoever advised it to be called the “eu-speech” was spot on.
Cameron wants a better, more dynamic, less bureaucratic Europe. He’s not alone: so do 300 million Europeans.
Europe didn’t come together and try to be bureaucratic and slow-moving. It is just the nature of the damp squib of regulations that they dropped on the continent because the previous years of brave, inspirational leaders hadn’t worked out so peacefully.
Cameron and others complain that the Brussellian bureaucrats are unelected, which is certainly true. They would love an elected mandate, but no one wanted to create another tier of government, so Europe agreed on another layer of bureaucracy.
Leaders lead — or they are supposed to, David — and bureaucrats bureau (French for making office).
It is at times like this that the World Economic Forum feels like a place where white people from old economies have heated conversations about old people’s problems. The economics of where’s-the-closest-bathroom, the politics of will-my-knees-handle-this-hill.
I raised my concerns with the organisers, and they sent me plenty of information to confirm there are actually a large number of representatives from Asia (700 at least), and plenty of sessions covering Asian issues. The WEF has a Chinese Annual Meeting too.
There’s also over 1000 of the next generation, Young Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders, many here but hundreds more spread around the planet who are doing great things. They are 50 per cent women, and 100 per cent driven. The WEF gives their projects a platform, and connects them to each other and the big end of town.
OK. I sit here soundly corrected.
But I can’t help feeling that what we are doing is very Western.
We are here to use multi-lateralism — which is not the Asian way of operating — to solve a problem — which we’ve defined as them!
Europe has a problem, Cameron says, because its share of global GDP is falling. He’s not saying that Europe’s GDP is falling (yet) but that its relative share of world wealth is falling. That’s essentially like saying that because your friend’s about to get rich, your life is about to suck.
And while politicians use the fear of the growth of China to drum up support for their agendas, what the growth of China means in human terms is quite different: the average Chinese person will be poorer than the average Brit for at least the next 50 years, even under the more bullish estimates.
Exactly how long does the average Chinese person deserve to stay poorer than the average Brit? Fifty years, 100 years, or forever?
Cameron speaks of the rise of Asia in terms of “the challenges coming from the surging economies in the East and South” and that “we should be in no doubt that a new global race of nations is under way today. A race for the wealth and jobs of the future.”
A race? A yellow race by chance? Who suggested that word be used?
The problem, as defined by many Western leaders, is not that we spent money we didn’t have, not that we waste money on poorly planned wars or ridiculous drug policies, but that the Asian nations are “soaring”. The horror! Watch out, crouching tiger, flying economy!
People at the forum are still talking about China’s visit a few years ago, when they made it very clear that they would keep their currency at a level that helped their people.
The shock! Monetary policy to benefit your own peasants, not other people’s bankers?
It’s radical, and it makes you wonder what is the purpose of a currency after all.
Britain seems to want a United States of Europe, the way Canada wants the United States of America: a large uniform market that is very close but not such that they have to accept their neighbour’s whacky way of life.
If the goal is to fix Europe, what has giving English people an optional vote in five years got to do with that?
Oh that’s right, it’s the “gun to your own head strategy”.
“Agree to our demands or the British public gets it in the head!”
The problem with Cameron’s plan to put EU membership to a plebiscite is what happens if the Europeans are not as stupid as the rednecks of Rock Ridge. If the Europeans are smarter, they’ll call his bluff, and he has to pull the trigger.
Businessman Peter Holmes a Court is at the WEF in Davos.