Monday, 8 February 2016

Drama-geddon. The Art of the 3 Act Renegotiation.

"Do we actually have any leadership - or have our parliamentarians already deferred to the EU as masters absolute? Dave stands on stage and plays to the script - and you have to wonder just who is directing this black comedy."

Dave jabs his fingers in the air - encountering the same substance as found in his EU reforms.

As a Brexiteer, it was hard not to feel an electric wave of revulsion at the sight of David Cameron strutting around in Chippenham making his 'hand on heart' speech. The look on his face as he suggests that if we were out, he would 'opt in' on these terms gave it all away for me. The eyes simply couldn't hide the desperation.

Considering the press response and more detailed analysis from the blogosphere, (see - The EU Question / & The Boiling Frog) there's simply no need to further criticise the paucity of this deal. The real issue that needs to be examined is whether David Cameron has actually reached the final act in this piece of theatre or not.

Staying with this analogy and considering this as a drama which is being carefully orchestrated to maximise the emotional impact of David Cameron's renegotiations - let's view this through the lens of the three act structure.


It's in the first act that we see the basic premise of the drama established, along with the cast characters integral to the plot. An incident will happen which will leave a question to be answered, resulting in the beginnings of an epic quest.



In the midst of the party faithful, David Cameron stands on a raised platform addressing the crowd with visceral passion.

... and I remember, casting a vote in 87 and that was a great victory. I remember working, just as you've been working - in 92, where it was an amazing victory. And I remember 2010, achieving that dream of getting Labour out and the Tories back in, and that was amazing - but I think 'this' is the sweetest victory of all.

At the end of his speech, the PM, grinning from ear to ear, steps down and crosses the room to the sound of thundering applause. He strides out of the room and in to ..


No sooner has he crossed the threshold than the smile has fallen from his face. His aides rush to flock with him. One thrusts out his hand, pushing a mobile phone towards the PM.

It's Mandelson.
(eyes rolling)
It's about the referendum. He says it can't wait.

Dave takes the phone and motions his aides away then moves in to a darkened corner. He steels himself, painfully contorting a wretched smile on his weary face before pressing the phone to his ear.

Peter. How good to hear from you. I wasn't expecting a call so ...
(V.O Filtered)
You've put the project at risk David. We need to make this right. It's time to put the plan in to action.


On the face of it, the plot would seem quite simple. Prime Minister makes manifesto pledge to give an 'In  / Out' referendum. Party wins election. Referendum gets declared. PM sets out to negotiate better terms for the UK.

Here's the sub-plot:

The Prime Minister, gripped with the fear that he'll lose his grasp on power, makes a promise that we can have a referendum in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo in parliament. On the basis that nobody has ever moved from coalition to increased full majority in the house, he never dreams that the promise will ever need to be honoured as their coalition partners will surely insist on removing the promise from the shared commitment.

It's the best of both worlds. He thinks he can mop up the pesky eurosceptic voters and stem the flow started by Reckless and Carswell without ever having to give the people the voice they've been demanding these past thirty years.

The sweet victory soon leaves a sour taste of promises that need to be honoured. He'll need to work fast with his colleagues in the EU in order to protect 'the project' from the people.



Typically in drama, it's here that the journey begins for real. Our 'hero' takes on a seemingly daunting quest to right wrongs. yet, encumbered by his own innocence, he falls short of the mark.


The PM announces that he's off to Europe in order to fight for the people. He issues his letter to Tusk with his four 'baskets' of talking points (so often referred to as demands) and then begins a series of meaningful negotiations to right wrongs and bring balance to the EU force.

In spite of all the miles that he's trekked and the endless hours thrashing out detailed solutions to the core issues that matter to the British people, the UK press denounce them as derisory, cruelly ridiculing the PM on their front pages.

Our wounded 'hero' is still convinced that he's done right by the people and pledges to find the energy within him to turn this around and get the people the change that they deserve.

Sub Plot:

In a carefully orchestrated exercise, Dave has presented us a deal so poor that nobody will ever take it seriously. It's simply so bad that the eurosceptics are no longer the loony fruitcakes of the UK - that title is now well and truly owned by those who suggest that the reforms are in any way substantial.

This is perfect for Dave because the only way is up from here. Now the mediocre will look substantial and with the right spin, victory will appear significant.

Knowing that this was ever to be the case, Dave moves on to the next pre planned stage.


In the final act, against all the odds and through a series of transformational trials, our hero throws his all at the mission in hand. In a feat of do or die, he pulls victory from the flaming and grizzly jaws of defeat.


Dave returns to 'Europe' to battle for the soul of the nation. In a series of all night highs and lows, he negotiates like a statesman and returns with something 'substantial'. A worthy prize that the people of Britain, so wearied now by the fluctuations of this euro-drama, are grateful to accept.


From the now subterranean depths of our collective expectation, Dave will present the jewel of his renegotiation. Something that  will strike a real chord with the people of the UK - at last, something that will be central to the debate. For it to be meaningful, it will have something to say about our relationship with the EU and it will have to negate the arguments that are the mainstays of the Leave camp.

What could that possibly be? We may have seen a game of volleyball going on in parliament the other day during PMQs where Johnson set up the PM to spike the ball over the opponents net. A move that, to my mind, has been widely misread as an act of Euro-scepticism from Johnson when, in fact, it's a team play in action.




Members of parliament pack the gothic chamber in the house of commons. From the benches, we see the blonde cropped mop of Boris Johnson rising amid his peers as he stands up.

Since you have been so kind as to call me, Mr Speaker, perhaps I may ask the Prime Minister how the changes resulting from the negotiation will restrict the volume of legislation coming from Brussels and change the treaties so as to assert the sovereignty of this House of Commons and these Houses of Parliament.

The Prime Minister, leaning heavily with one elbow on the dispatch box and jabbing the air with the remaining spear like hand, answers with relish.           

Let me take those issues in turn, because my hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise them. First, asserting the sovereignty of this House is something that we did by introducing the European Union Act 2011. I am keen to do even more to put it beyond doubt that this House of Commons is sovereign. We will look to do that at the same time as concluding the negotiations.


As the ministers begin to spill from the chamber, the natural flow of moving bodies brings Johnson and Cameron together. Almost in unison, each raises a single arm high in the air and they high five before each pats the other on the back.

You did me proud bro.

Think nothing of it homey.


Final thoughts on the matter

I find it difficult to believe what we've seen to date actually represents a package of reforms that David Cameron believes will be enough to win the referendum. If that really is it .. then Cameron has made a monumental error of judgement.

I'm expecting another play to be made over sovereignty, as telegraphed by Johnson and Cameron in the HoC. Some par-baked bait wrapped in legalese to be trumpeted and heralded as game changing - when in effect, it will be nothing more than a pacifier presented by venal and self serving project careerists.

The only thing that's made me doubt that the latter scenario is a foregone conclusion is David Cameron's recent assertions that Brexit could trigger the abandonment of the Le Touquet agreement by the French, resulting in the free flow if Calais migrants to the south coast of the UK. It smacked of sheer desperation to me, unless - of course, it's a classic piece of distraction.

(nb - for a sober take on the Calais issue - look here at the White Wednesday blog )

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