Ar­ro­gant and vain (no won­der the French gave him the Le­gion d’hon­neur), the bit­ter ego­ma­niac with very com­plex loy­al­ties

Daily Mail - - News - by Quentin Letts

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

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