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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 17:13 GMT
Blair slaps aside Euro attack
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

David Cameron tried hard not to get into Punch and Judy - and pretty much managed it.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair pulled no punches
Tony Blair didn't make any such effort and spent much of his statement on his EU presidency battering the Tories over the head with a big pointy stick.

Mr Cameron said the prime minister had set a number of objectives at the start of his six-month presidency but had then failed to achieve a single one of them.

Mr Blair's pledge not to negotiate away the British rebate without fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) had been "not an unreasonable position," said Mr Cameron.

Not an unreasonable position! Wasn't it the Tories who pledged never to give away a single penny of the rebate under any circumstances?

Well, perhaps not quite, but it was the impression they always liked to give.

Still, said Mr Cameron, it was a terrible shame Mr Blair had failed.

Iron fist

Tony Blair looked exasperated. "Let me explain," he said, in the manner of a Basil Fawlty just before he jabbed Manuel viciously in the eye.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron left Punch and Judy out
It was always going to be reasonable to give up some of the rebate to help the accession countries who have only just emerged from under the iron fist of communism, he suggested.

And, in any case, what about the Tories, jeered the prime minister, entirely unconstrained by the new-look, non-confrontational approach to politics.

The only leadership decision so far taken by Mr Cameron was to pull his party out of the European People's Party in Brussels, he said. So who would they ally with in the European parliament?

"I've done the seating plan," declared the prime minister. Jean Marie Le Pen here, Madame Mussolini there, the Tories in the middle and "worst of all" Robert Kilroy Silk the other side.

The Tories, he said, needed to realise their Euroscepticism was not the answer, it was the problem.

On this occasion, at least, Mr Punch started looking strangely attractive.

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