With friends like these, who needs enemies?’
It may be one of the hoariest clichés in politics, but it will have flitted through David Cameron’s mind more than once during PMQs this week.
There he was fending off the usual slow long-hops tossed at him by Ed Miliband, while his back-benchers queued up to hurl stilettos between his shoulder blades.
One after another they posed ‘questions’ which were, in fact, little more than sly reminders about the stance they expected him to take at the European summit in Brussels.
Cameron is an equivocating, vacillating wreck when it comes to Europe and it will eventually be the issue which does more than any other to tip him out of Downing Street.
Alarm bells began to sound among the many Europhobes in his parliamentary party when he went back on an election pledge to hold a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty.
Since then he has been sending out messages so mixed there are severe doubts as to whether even he knows what he really believes when it comes to the EU.
He looked distinctly discomfited as ‘honourable friends’ lined up to trap him into saying something which sounded remotely like a commitment.
And in the distance came the rumble of heavy artillery. Boris Johnson – who wants to be the next Conservative leader so desperately he is threatening to invest in a comb – has called for a veto or a referendum if changes are made to any treaties involving every EU member.
Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has described a referendum as ‘inevitable’ if the relationship between Britain and Brussels undergoes any meaningful change.
Such statements – being unambiguous and categorical – are an alien concept to Cameron. His decision not to sign up to the new accord – but not to exercise the veto either – was a typically slippery way of avoiding a referendum.
But Britain will be effectively isolated – and the next move by the Europhobes is entirely predictable. They will want to know the point of remaining within the EU if we are not playing by their rules.