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Cameron’s Europe ‘unveto’ brings jollity, glee and hysteria

Ed Miliband was in good form in Commons – but he needs to stop when he’s winning

The prime minister, back from Brussels, ran into serious opposition from an unexpected quarter – the Labour party. Lots of backbench Tories were unhappy too. But they tripped round the issue, niminy piminy, like boys forced to join a ballet class. Labour, by contrast, resembled a bus full of rugby players on the way home. They roared, laughed and jeered, and at one point they even started singing. And Ed Miliband was very good, for once. He still has a cloth ear, and having scored, blathered on some more. I heard a voice shout: “Enough! Shut up and sit down, now!” and realised it was my own.

David Cameron announced gravely that last year he had not got safeguards for Britain, so he had vetoed the treaty. Since on Monday he had unvetoed the treaty, Labour members erupted into a massive, carousing, gloating, jubilant yell. “We will not be taking part!” he announced. (Tory cheers, but hesitant, even gingerly.)

“We will take action, and if necessary, legal action!” (Labour cries of “Whoooo!” – very camp.) As the noise grew the Speaker, who was clearly loving every moment, declared there was a fine line between jollity and hysteria. And, he might have added, between hysteria and sheer, demented glee. For at that point Labour started singing what sounded like a football chant, admittedly one from halfway down the Blue Square Bet League. The prime minister struggled on, with precious little help from behind him. “Britain is setting the agenda … Britain is leading the way!” he exclaimed. Then up spake Ed Miliband. “The whole house knows the truth – a veto is not for life, it is just for Christmas!” As the raucous hilarity swelled, he leaned across and said: “Calm down, calm down, dear …” (because the Commons is endlessly self-referential.)

“The phantom veto is now exposed,” Mr Miliband cried. The new deal “talks like a treaty, walks like a treaty, and it is a treaty!” The Speaker ticked off a Tory backbencher for gesticulating (called in the army, “dumb insubordination”). “More!” shouted Labour, the first time they’ve ever yelled that at Mr Bercow. Meanwhile, Ed was banging on. He needs to give his PPS one of those crooks used to yank vaudeville acts off stage, or at least to say, like Mr Bennett: “My dear, you have delighted us enough.”

Mr Cameron decided to be patronising. He explained why the treaty wasn’t a treaty – very carefully, so we could understand. Ed Balls started flapping his arms, like a windmill on steroids, not drowning but flailing. The Speaker ticked him off too. “I thought he was playing with his cooking utensils!” he said, a reference to the alleged “lasagne plot” against Miliband. But we are pasta that, boom boom!

Bill Cash, the Europhobes’ Europhobe, was sarcastic. Bernard Jenkin, another, said the 25 nations were “hijacking” EU institutions for their own purposes. Mark Reckless asked precisely what the prime minister had vetoed, which was quite rude, if phrased almost demurely.

But some of the most effective opposition came from Labour. Gisela Stuart said the EU was living in cloud cuckoo land, and even remembered that the phrase came from Aristophanes. But then Gisela was educated in Germany. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds