I agree with Tony. (Or why British PMs shouldn’t actually try and do Hugh Grant’s Love Actually PM speech.)

by Stephen Tall on December 13, 2011

Perhaps it’s because it’s Christmas. Or perhaps it’s because the right-wing press is frothing with excitement at the Prime Minister sticking it to Johnny Foreigner.

Either way, the last few days’ events have put me in mind of the speech Hugh Grant delivers as a British prime minister (coincidentally called David) in the film, Love Actually. You can watch the clip I’m thinking of here.

It’s a knowingly funny pastiche of Little Englander pride in this country’s past glories, invoking cultural icons such as Shakespeare, The Beatles, Sean Connery… and David Beckham’s right foot. And at the end of it the patriotic PM, standing tall for plucky little Britain, socks it to the bullying US President.

Substitute the EU for the US — or the real French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, for the pretend US president — and I think you’ll see where my analogy’s going.

Which brings me to Tony Blair.

For the record, I think his decision to hug the US tightly and take the UK into the disaster that was the war in Iraq was the single worst foreign policy mistake a British prime minister has made in modern times.

But he did make a sound point in 2005 about the nature of diplomacy, and the need for politicians who are world leaders acting in the true best interests of their countries to take a longer-term view than the next day’s headlines:

“I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause.”

Quite.