Cameron flails to explain why £1.7bn was a turn-up for the booky-wooks

House Of Commons

The revolutiony-wutiony starts here. Having been handed a bill for £1.7bn by the European commission on Friday, David Cameron came to the House of Commons to explain why the demand was far too heavy-weavy and why he wasn’t going to pay it.

“It’s just not fair that someone can come to you and ask for money that you owe and expect you to pay it man I mean imagine if you’d been running a successful crystal meth lab and then a power supplier said hey dude you’ve been using so much leccy that the bill you had forgotten you would have to pay because it only comes around at the same time every year is going to be a lot more than last year you’d say lay off you fascist capitalist pig it’s my right to pay what I choose,” the prime minister said breathlessly. Or something very similar.

Ed Miliband didn’t see it in quite the same way. It was unfortunate for Nicky Morgan that she had just had education questions and was therefore forced to sit next to the prime minister as the leader of the opposition read out details of her letter written in March, while still at the Treasury, in which she had said the department was alert to the probability of an increased demand from the European commission. She did her best to look defiant, before closing her eyes to avoid watching her career pass before them. “Months and months when he doesn’t do the work, followed by last-minute pyrotechnics when it goes wrong,” said Miliband. “For all his bluster, he has been asleep at the wheel and it is the British people who have paid the price.”

There were also incongruities in some of the prime minister’s other timings. After initially insisting that the first anyone in the government knew about the £1.7bn was when Jean-Claude Juncker sent in the bailiffs on Friday, he later admitted that George Osborne might just have learned about it three days earlier and forgotten to tell him. “The email was down and he didn’t want to bother me,” he said. “Two days is no big deal. I’m not taking any lectures from you on a failure of communication.”

Cameron’s arms started waving frantically as he failed to adequately explain why the bill that he hadn’t expected was so much more than he had expected. It was as if each hand was grabbing at imaginary piles of cash and failing to catch them. “Thing is man that this year the EU is including the shadow economy of narcs and prozzies and bad stuff like that as well as charity good fluffy things and it was like wow that the country has had a bumper year for both the good and bad shit and we are being punished for being so much better at this than all the other countries whose figures can’t be trusted anyway.”

The point seemed to be that the government’s long-term economic plan was working thanks to drugs, hookers and soup kitchens. Even Russell Brand would applaud that. Despite this, Cameron never did say how much of the bill he wouldn’t pay. Or when he wouldn’t pay it by. Though before the Rochester byelection was ruled out.

Nor was there any safety to be found on the government benches. “May I first of all sympathise with the prime minister for being taken by surprise on a subject which everyone in the Foreign Office and the Treasury must have know was coming along for the last five months,” said Ken Clarke, whose passion for the EU is matched by his distaste for the prime minister.

John Bercow’s smile widened as he exacted his own revenge for Cameron’s humiliation of him at last week’s prime minister’s questions by allowing Clarke to ramble on and on. The prime minister twitched in irritation. A £1.7bn bill might easily slip the memory, but a parliamentary feud never gets forgotten.

Powered by article was written by John Crace, for The Guardian on Monday 27th October 2014 20.22 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010