There's a lot of emotive talk around at the moment about being left outside the room, missing the boat (or train), being bystanders or stragglers. These metaphors can of course be turned on their heads: as someone said, when the boat is the Titanic, it's better to miss it, while at the scene of a motorway pile-up the role of bystander is preferable to that of full participant. In neither form are metaphors such as these very helpful: their appeal - like that of high-pressure salesmen - is purely to an atavistic fear of being "left out". As an example of how they can distort judgements, witness the prime minister of Lithuania (I think it was), who yesterday claimed that his country was now more influential than Britain because it was part of the new fiscal union. Really? Just how much say did Lithuania have in the content of the deal? Perhaps it was allowed to choose which colour ink to use when rubber stamping it? While acknowledging the power of the human desire to be an insider rather than an outsider - even during a housefire - I admit I'm surprised that all the other nine non-Euro using EU nations have rushed to put their wrists and ankles into Merkel-forged manacles when they didn't need to. Were they suddenly convinced of their incompetence to run their own affairs? Or were they just afraid of not being part of the club? Will their populations feel the same way? Will we ever find out?
Which brings us to the other main reason for caution about the deal on offer yesterday, other than the fact that it's very likely not to succeed in its primary aim of preserving the Eurozone. This is that it makes the already precariously-democratic institutions of Europe (in its various configurations) still more remote from the people they were created to serve. As of March 2012, when Angela Merkel wants an urgent meeting with the finance ministers of Spain, Ireland, Greece or Italy, she need only look in the mirror. Surely that can't be good?
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems look set to implode, and Labour is busy arguing that they definitely wouldn't have signed either, but they also definitely wouldn't have not signed - just as they did and didn't support the public sector worker strikes last month. I'm sorry to say that, under Ed Miliband, that kind of decisive lead is par for the course.