Mandelson: though twice disgraced,

we should not blench at using

him as a weapon with which

to help the EU’s demise

Time was when a brawl in a pub would be resolved after the verbals and the finger-wagging by an exchange of brutality with fisticuffs. Nowadays brawls start with the blade, the bottle or the Glasgow Kiss. Thus in life, so in politics as we witnessed last night Peter Mandelson eschew any opening preliminary skirmish and jab a broken bottle into Sarkozy’s face: “I am being undermined.”

In my days prosecuting or defending in cases involving pub brawls, it was remarkable how often the question: ‘Who started the fight?’ elicited the response: ‘The little feller.’ For some reason the diminutive amongst us seem to be the most aggressive. Perhaps it is because they have the same amount of testosterone as the rest of us but in a smaller frame which makes them go off pop so easily.

Thus it was France’s own Bantam Cock, little Sarko, who started this little bagarre when he graciously attributed Ireland’s bloodying of the EU nose to our very own Mandy. Now we see the makings of a feud which will go on, one must fervently hope, until the very end of Mandy’s sojourn in Brussels.

In some ways the two are utterly ill-matched.

Sarkozy, with his whirlwind courtship of and nuptials with a seriously good-looking lady very shortly after trading in his last wife, oozes heterosexuality from every pore of his body. He has the scarcely concealed demeanour of bottle of nitro-glycerine which may (and, one suspects, will one day) go off with a very loud bang. He reminds me of the swarthy and irascible Corsican hero of Goscinny-Uderzo’s Asterix en Corse, one Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, whose immediate response to any supposed slight is to produce a large sharp knife with which he threatens to eviscerate his enemy.

Ocatarinetabellachitchix: a

dead ringer for Sarko, or is it

the other way round?

Mandy, on the other hand, does not, nor does he exactly ooze heterosexuality. Rather he is the cold, utterly calculating type whose motto is undoubtedly ‘revenge is a dish best eaten cold’ who reminds one of Strelnikov, the ruthless Bolshevik in David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago. So last night he, having carefully bided his time, chose his moment with care and precision and, finding the space between Sarko’s shoulder blades with unerring accuracy, plunged his dagger up the hilts in the President’s back.

This is a good thing. The more that the ferrets can be encouraged to fight inside the sack, the better chance there is that this whole rotten edifice will come crashing down round their ears. If one of the instruments of its destruction has to be the Europhiliac Mandelson, then let us find some way of giving him all the encouragement he needs to go after Sarko and his protectionist chums.

As the economic situation continues to bite, the more these two will find themselves at odds. Sarkozy’s frustration is such that we must also begin to wonder at the state of the French economy. If he is so keen to get into a bit of toe-to-toe with Mandelson, and thus the rest of the boss-class in Brussels, it suggests that the French economy is faring worse than has hitherto been let on.

France’s traditional enthusiasm for protectionism, at which skill they are past masters – just ask our sheep and beef farmers – is well known. What interests one is whether we are witnessing a fundamental change to the raison d’être of the EU being trailed by Sarkozy or whether this is just France being France. Back when the Treaty of Lisbon was being drafted, Sarkozy tried to slip in a crafty clause which would have allowed him and his kind to enforce a tacking towards protectionism. Mandelson senses this and sees it as undermining the thoroughly modest and frankly useless opening up of markets he is trying to engineer.

Only time will tell if France is allowed to debauch the EU’s pretended virtues of open markets. In many ways one hopes they will. Protectionism is such a political dead duck here that it would provide a very useful piece of ammunition for the Eurosceptic mangonel. As a trading nation we need protectionism like a hole in the head and, for the most part (save for some particularly boneheaded lefties) the people of Britan know that. If the EU were to seek to undermine our ability to trade, all the (utterly bogus) arguments put up by EuroLovers about the advantages of the EU to our trade will vanish into thin air.

Meanwhile, let us sit back and enjoy the contest in this Bantamweight Brawl.

Seconds out, round two!