Arrogant and vain (no wonder the French gave him the Legion d’honneur), the bitter egomaniac with very complex loyalties
HAS there ever been a more unprepossessingly narcissistic figure than Dominic Grieve? Has Westminster a worse example of the silken slitherer?
Mr Grieve is the 62-year-old Conservative MP who this week led the Tory Europhiles’ rebellion against Theresa May. He claimed in the Commons that he was not remotely interested in stopping Brexit.
Now he has been caught slipping into the European Commission’s London headquarters to address a meeting of people plotting directly that.
Though we cannot know the precise detail of what was said at yesterday’s meeting, one thing is a pretty fair bet. We can speculate without too much danger of being awry that Dominic Grieve will have talked down to them in the most lawyerly, pedantic way. It’s what this monumentally conceited man does.
He is a Privy Council member and a Queen’s Counsel. He is a former Cabinet minister (Attorney General until David Cameron could bear his fussy interventions no more). And he is chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the highest civilian body to scrutinise the top-secret work of our security services.
Yet there he was yesterday conspiring in foreign diplomatic premises against the chosen will of the British people.
At Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Grieve attempted to force the Prime Minister to make a potentially deadly concession that could allow the Houses of Parliament to seize control of our Brexit negotiations with Brussels at the last minute, and deny Britain the ability to walk away without a deal and without paying the agreed £37 billion divorce bill.
If that happens, the greatest popular project ever in British politics will be ripped away from the elected Government and will fall to the clutches of an elite that has never wanted to leave the European Union.
That shift of power from populace to sneering inner-pod will bring decay to our body politic.
Did you watch the Commons as it debated Brexit yesterday and on Tuesday? Did you understand what was going on? Friends, I have worked at Westminster as a sketchwriter on and off for a quarter of a century and I was pretty baffled, so please feel no shame if you, too, struggled to follow every turn and twist. WE
HAD a table of ‘ Lords amendments to disagree’ and arrangements for ‘further messages’ from the Upper House. We had groupings. We had resolutions, clauses, ‘questions proposed’, a programme motion, subsections (5c and more) and oodles else.
We had something like 12 divisions, which is to say votes, over the course of three hours, each signalled by clanking bells and ended by shouts, to costumed doorkeepers, of ‘lock the doors!’ It was bewildering. It was arcane.
For all the flummery and confusion, I don’t suppose the British public is really in much doubt about what was happening. Pro-EU politicians were trying to block Brexit. A small core of committed Europhiles were playing games, plotting to retain their privileged way of life.
In all of this, Dominic Grieve was to the fore, sitting in that part of the Chamber which has become home to the 12 or so Conservative backbenchers who have set their bitter faces against Brexit.
These MPs include the erratic Anna Soubry, former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, a twitchy fellow called Bob Neill and multi-millionaire Jonathan Djanogly, who occupies the safe Tory seat Huntingdon ( his predecessor was John Major).
They may be a low-grade lot, but Mr Grieve enjoys greatly his status as their unofficial leader. He revels in it. The man struts and preens. The vanity is staggering.
On Tuesday, he sat there polishing his spectacles with a large handkerchief, admiring his reflection in the lenses. He stroked his chin. He consulted not one, but two mobile telephones. He brushed the lint off his expensive suit.
When Labour MPs took cheap swipes at Mrs May and her stated policy of honouring the majority’s historic vote for Leave, a smirk crept to Mr Grieve’s slender lips.
When he spoke, it was with the patronising hauteur of an Edwardian barrister addressing a provincial assizes. His tone was pitying, superior, brooking little doubt or criticism.
He was ‘amused’ by the contribution of Brexit Secretary David Davis. He pooh-poohed the debate as ‘irrational’.
He placed himself on a higher sphere, intellectually, morally. He wafted his hand as he dismissed the possibility of parliamentarians wrecking the Brexit negotiations. Not a problem, little ones.
He merely sought to be ‘sensible’ about our relationship with the EU. For us sketchwriters, this Grieve may be a gift. Not that our teasing of him will ever have much effect. Like his low- wattage munchkin Djanogly, Mr Grieve has a completely safe Tory seat (Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire) and local Conservative associations seldom seek to de-select a sitting MP.
He has a job in politics for life, or at least for as long as he wants it. And although he may seem to cut an unworldly, bookish figure — the voice quacks nerdishly — be in no doubt about his ambition.
Egomania in this one is as rampant as mint in an unweeded country garden. He was aghast when Mr Cameron dumped him from the Cabinet. Cameron! A second-class brain to the Grieves of this world.
His father Percy Grieve was a lawyer, junior judge and a relatively minor backbench Conservative MP. Like his son, the old man was a Francophile.
Posted as a British liaison officer to work with General de Gaulle’s Free French in World War II, he grew to worship de Gaulle (who was notoriously anti-British). In the process, Percy Grieve married a French girl. Dominic Grieve is himself therefore half-French. Make of that what you will.
ATOrY chief whip once said of Grieve Senior, ‘the trouble with Percy is that he likes foreigners a great deal better than his own people’.
Is the same true of his son? One must naturally be very careful about chucking around allegations of treason. There can scarcely be a more serious charge against a parliamentarian or indeed any figure in public life.
But ask yourselves: why do we allow Europhiles such as Lord Adonis and Sir Nick Clegg and Ken Clarke — and now Dominic Grieve — to trot off to Brussels or consort with our nation’s rivals flagrantly undermining our negotiations with the European Commission?
Our country’s future is at stake here. Should they not be helping the national effort, rather than betraying it?
Could we not conclude that they, like Percy Grieve, ‘like foreigners a great deal better than their own people’?
Educated at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle in Central London, at Colet Court prep school and Magdalen College, Oxford, Dominic Grieve has long had a family home in Brittany.
He recently told a newspaper interviewer that he planned a break from Brexit with ‘clifftop walks at our house in Brittany, snoozes by the fire and a swim in the sea to celebrate New Year’s Eve’. At Colet Court, the young shaver Dominic won an oratory competition for making a speech about de Gaulle. A family obsession, it seems.
This is not a man obviously much in touch with, say, the working-class voters in the North of England who so strongly supported Leave.
Mr Grieve is president of the Franco- British Society, an
organisation ‘dedicated to encouraging closer relations between Britain and France’.
He was awarded the Legion d’honneur in 2016 (Percy held the same honour). At a ceremony at the French embassy, the ambassador said: ‘Cher Dominic, you provide a vital link between our two countries which know each other so well.
‘In the peculiar times we’re living in, your role is more important than ever.’
Bilingual, Grieve broadcasts in French on French radio and television. Many French people probably listen to him and mistake his views for those of the British people. What an awful mistake they make.
Money is not short in the Grieve household. He is said to be worth £3 million, with a home in West London and a rental property in the capital.
On the mantelpiece of his office is a bronze clock that belonged to an antecedent who was a doctor in Paris in the early 19th century.
He was an expert in cholera and wrote the definitive treatise on nymphomania. That may be one way to impress the French. Another is to cosy up to them, damaging your own country’s true interests.
We have, I submit, a figure of complex loyalties, a disappointed careerist easily flattered, a bespectacled oddball who revels in the limelight.
Were that the limit of his influence, we could laugh at another example of flawed humanity. Yet the ramifications of what is going on here could scarcely be more important.
If the May Government loses control of the Brexit negotiations, our nation’s economic and strategic fortunes will be immediately dented.
Worse, the sight of the elite grabbing power from the Queen’s Government will rupture trust in the ballot box.
That could imperil centuries of British support for parliamentary democracy.
And people like Monsieur Dominic Grieve will be largely to blame.
Award: Dominic Grieve receives the Legion d’honneur at the French residence in London in 2016 Medal: Dominic Grieve