Howard Davies is reported in Le Figaro as saying:
"On Europe, we do not yet know if Sarkozy is a friend or an enemy.... Selling the Brussels result will be arduous for Brown… It is crucial for him that Sarkozy continues to defend the idea that the new treaty does not mean much. The slightest suspicion that this treaty is the first step on a new federal adventure will be blown up out of all proportion. Any triumphalism about the withdrawal of the reference to competition will make Brown’s life very difficult. For the first time since the rejection by de Gaulle of our request for accession to the common market, a British government finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being liable to a French president. One false move, one word too many from the Elysée, and Prime Minister Brown will have big problems. Brown, who has waited so long and impatiently for his moment, is particularly frustrated at not being in charge on the European agenda. That means that he is condemned, whether he likes it or not, to keeping close relations with Sarkozy. Brown cannot let him leave his sight." (Hat-tip to OpenEurope for spotting this and translating it.)
Howard Davies is Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), before which he was Chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), before which he was Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, before which he was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industries (CBI). All roles in which he should have eschewed political partisanship. And all organizations (with the possible exception of the Bank) of which there is a strong whiff of Third-Way politicization. Now look at that statement again.
- "On Europe, we do not yet know if Sarkozy is a friend or an enemy". To the LSE? Or to Britain in general? You can't mean to the British Government, because you are impartial about friends and enemies of the Government, aren't you Howard?
- "Selling the Brussels result will be arduous for Brown". You meant "explaining", not "selling", didn't you Howard? Or are you encouraging the Government to spin the outcome? In what way is that consistent with your current or any previous role?
- "It is crucial for him that Sarkozy continues to defend the idea that the new treaty does not mean much." Continue? Sarkozy has already said quite the reverse. Are you saying that Sarkozy now ought to lie about his view of the treaty, in order to help Brown?
- "The slightest suspicion that this treaty is the first step on a new federal adventure will be blown up out of all proportion." So opposition to the Government's preferences are irrational and mendacious. That's very impartial (and reasonable) of you, Howard. Notice, incidentally, that what matters is that suspicions not be raised, not that no grounds be given for those suspicions. You may be planning to rustle our horses, Nicolas, but what matters is that you not scare them first.
- "Any triumphalism about the withdrawal of the reference to competition will make Brown’s life very difficult." Now why did you tell him not to crow about this achievement, Howard, rather than telling him that it is not achievement. Remember, the official version in England is that this makes no difference. Do you have to put it a different way in France, and if so, why? Why would one be triumphalist about something that didn't make any difference?
- "For the first time since the rejection by de Gaulle of our request for accession to the common market, a British government finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being liable to a French president." But the British government agreed to the changes which now put it in an uncomfortable position. If they didn't like them, they should have refused to accept them. Accepting them, but asking the French president to keep quiet about them is the real mendacity here, not opposition pointing out the consequences of those changes.
- "Brown, who has waited so long and impatiently for his moment, is particularly frustrated at not being in charge on the European agenda." Then don't ratify the treaty, and insist on a renegotiation now that the British team are under his authority. Seems like a funny way to try to grasp the European agenda - to ratify a treaty that he did not negotiate, and about which he is so embarrassed that he has to ask other European leaders - through a supposedly impartial intermediary - to keep quiet about it.
- "That means that he is condemned, whether he likes it or not, to keeping close relations with Sarkozy. Brown cannot let him leave his sight." I assume these close relations are mutual, and that we're not just puckering up as usual? In which case, does Sarkozy need to keep an equally close eye on Brown? Is Sarkozy asking Brown to modify his language on the treaty? Is Brown having to tone down his triumphalism on this issue?
What is more annoying? That Brown has to send an envoy to France to ask them to keep quiet about the treaty or the British people will figure out that something is up? Or that the chosen envoy has been responsible for a succession of organizations that should at least be independent of government policy, and preferably looking critically at that policy?
At least this helps to explain how the CBI went from being a motor for deregulation to a champion of regulation, from a representative of all businesses to a mouthpiece of those corporations who have a symbiotic relation with big, interventionist governments, with their generous outsourcing contracts, and their regulatory burdens that only the biggest can shoulder. Davies, it seems, is part of the glue that holds (as a friend would put it) the Greater Bureaucracy and the Fat Lazy Bastards together.
It also helps to explain how the LSE went from being an intellectual powerhouse of market liberalism, into a leading academic apologist of Third-Way interventionism.
And perhaps it even helps to explain David Cameron. When so many of the leading and supposedly impartial institutions in this country have been infiltrated and politicized in this way, perhaps it is realistic to judge that the only way to have a hope of gaining power is to pretend to share their philosophy. The test will be, if the Tories gain power, how long people like Davies remain in their jobs. What a shame that we have embarked down that third-world route where change of political direction must be accompanied by a change of management in supposedly independent institutions. The consequences for the democratic process of such politicization and factionalism are serious. It's very hard to unwind.
Still, at least there is some justice in the world. Davies supports Manchester City. Karma, Howard, karma.