After all the fuss about Juncker, it was striking how little comment there was in Britain about the choice of Donald Tusk to be the next President of the European Council (the person chosen by prime ministers and presidents to chair their “summit” meetings). BBC TV news the next morning didn’t even mention it in its coverage of the meeting, and the Telegraph predictably tried to spin it as as a personal victory for Cameron — a perspective that, sadly, flies in the face of the facts.
The choice of Tusk has all the hallmarks of another defeat for Cameron. True, he minimised the damage by converting to Tusk at the last minute — something that he conspicuously failed to do in the case of Juncker, where he fought a high-profile battle well after it was clear he was going down to a humiliating defeat, presumably for no other reason than to please his backbenchers.
But Tusk was certainly not Cameron’s choice. After all, just a couple of months ago, Tusk took him to task on his scapegoating of Polish migrants in Britain:
The Polish prime minister has lashed out at David Cameron’s calls to scrap the overseas payments of child benefit for the children of UK-based immigrants, calling them “unwarranted and unacceptable”. … “We will not agree to changes that would stigmatise any particular national minority,” Mr Tusk declared. “Prime Minister Cameron has the right to change the rules in his country but they must apply to all beneficiaries of the system; not just a specific group. Nobody has the right to single out Poles as a particular group that abuses or exploits something.”
And when the famous tape recordings were released of the conversations about Cameron between Tusk and his Foreign Minister Sikorski, the exchange about Cameron was damning:
It’s either a very badly thought through move, or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up. Simple as that. He is not interested, he does not get it, he believes in the stupid propaganda, he stupidly tries to play the system.
In other words, Cameron surely had far more grounds to be wary of Tusk than of Juncker — who, after all, had announced early in the election campaign that he saw addressing British concerns as one of his priorities.
But, this time, he chose to back down quickly. Shame that no-one in the British media seems to have noticed.