It is not as if he goes round wearing a yarmulke. If I had given any thought to his character and antecedents, what attracted my attention was the fact that his father was a noted (by those whose inclination is to note such things) Marxist theoretician, whose passion for his ghastly hero was so great that he had himself interred close by Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. It was a fact that was far more informative of his character than any notional attachment to a particular religion might be.
That both his parents were of Polish-Jewish extraction had entirely escaped me until The Foreign Secretary petulantly thrust the fact squarely into the public domain yesterday in an extraordinary exchange with Michael Connarty the Labour Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee.
For those of you already bridling at what you think is about to be an anti-semitic rant, it is not: read the piece carefully.
The nub of the exchange came at a time when the Foreign Secretary was being given an extremely rough time (justifiably) by Mr. Connarty and his colleagues over the worth of the so-called ‘Red Lines’, the chosen totems of the Prime Minister and Mr. Miliband with which they seek to persuade us that they are defending British Independence and our National Interest. Mr. Miliband was extolling at some lengths the virtues of these ‘Red Lines’ such that he was making it sound as though the UK had indeed been close to servitude but had been saved by the adept manoeuvring of himself and his boss.
Mr. Connarty opined that “We have visions of peace in our time when you speak, Secretary of State”.
“Excellent!” cried the hapless Miliband, thinking that Mr. Connarty had seen the undoubted error of his ways and was running up the white flag. In fact he had totally missed the tone of Mr. Connarty’s intervention which was encrusted with sarcasm and irony.
“You have come back here with this great deal!”, said the Chairman. This time Miliband caught the tone. As he did so he realised just how badly this session was going.
Thus far he had managed to treat his inquisitors with lofty disdain, making it plain as a pikestaff that he was far brighter and more clued in than all of them put together on the virtues of the Constitution Mark II and that he regarded their attacks as a elephant might the buzzing of a particularly irritating tsetse fly: several times he waved a dismissive paw at some proposition put to him that he felt was well beneath his concern. His facial contortions at his interlocutors’ obvious stupidity will have made him few friends on that particular committee.
In reality he was making a complete fool of himself for he had utterly misjudged the committee’s mood and bearing, so satisfied was he with his own great skills and superior intellect. He had not realised that the Chairman and his committee wanted answers of substance not wave-offs.
Off into distraction mode he went: “Not excellent actually, that’s a terrible suggestion. I thought you meant peace between us!”
He then exploded into puffed-up indignation that the Chairman might have likened him, a Jew, as he implied, to someone who had done a deal with that arch anti-semite Adolf Hitler, that someone should have had the chutzpah to draw any sort of comparison between himself, a virtuous crusader against the dreaded EU, and that awful Tory chappie Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement of 1938.
It was a truly extraordinary moment as this singularly secular man retreated into the false shelter of his religion, knowing full well that he was playing the ultimate Joker of accusing someone of the highest crime of all, anti-semitism.
That it was such a retreat must be so, for Chamberlain’s 1938 peace deal with Hitler at Munich was about the shameful surrender of Czechoslovakia into the maw of Hitler’s territorial ambitions: its only connection with the Jews was that the Munich agreement was signed with a man who had already begun to persecute the Jews and would go on to foment the Holocaust. The agreement itself did nothing directly to harm the Jews, nor did it in any way directly impinge upon them. Miliband was thus drawing a comparison between himself and something which does not exist.
The Chairman’s remark was, rather, all about how the Government has come back from its talks with the other 26 members of the EU bruiting it about that they have saved England’s bacon once more, when in fact they have done just the opposite. Mr. Connarty, one would like to think, may have been recalling, perhaps, that remark attributed to Churchill: “You had the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you shall have war.”
In reality Miliband knew exactly what the Chairman was saying and knew that it had nothing to do with his religious background yet he chose to make it sound as if the Chairman had wounded him deeply, as a Jew, with his comparison with Chamberlain. This was a piece of false indignation of the very worst sort, wickedly importing as it did the smear of anti-Semitism against a member of his own party, whose only crime had been to stand up for Britain’s independence, something which Mr. Miliband has so singularly failed to do.
Well, now we have the measure of Mr. Miliband, who by this piece of unpleasantness has revealed his true character: a veritable Puff Adder of a politician with a deeply venomous strike.
Importantly the Committee seem to have worked out that the issue of the Red Lines is one in which absolutely no trust should repose. The fact that whether the UK opts in to some aspect of this Treaty in five years time is now hedged about with all sorts of bully boy financial threats if we do not did not impress them in the least. By sinking his fangs into Mr. Connarty Mr. Miliband has, one feels, made an enemy. He may also have handed Mr. Connarty a veritable nail gun with which to try and nail down Labour’s manifesto commitment to hold a Referendum.
Meanwhile Mr. Cameron has returned to the attack at PMQs today. His assault would have been somewhat more successful had Mr. Brown not been able to deploy some lethal quotes from one Kenneth Clarke, who is Chairman of Mr. Cameron’s Constitutional Commission (the irony of which will not escape anyone, even Mr. Miliband) who has described calls for a referendum as “crackpot, dotty and absurd”.
Let us hope the deeply EuroPoxed Mr. Clarke will now apply to himself a self-denying ordinance on the subject of Europe that means we shall hear no more from him lest it be to follow, as a senior former Tory Minister, the party’s policy.