It is never easy when you are double booked – you can end up satisfying no-one.
Of course the Liaison Committee of the Commons would have changed its date to question the PM if asked. The fact they were not asked implies that Gordon Brown planned to leave signing the EU Treaty to Miliband. When pressure was applied, he decided he had to do both. The EU was insulted because the PM did not appear at the official ceremony, and Eurosceptics were angry because he gave in without seeking the approval of either people or Parliament.
I am all in favour of the PM taking the Commons seriously. I am glad he turned up to answer questions from Committee Chairmen. I would think he meant he takes Parliament seriously if we had enjoyed a vote on whether he should sign the EU Treaty before he signed it. What is the point of Parliament debating it and voting on it now he has committed us? We know we will be told we are not now allowed to alter any part of it. We know the government’s majority will be used to steam roller it through, with the Lib Dems helping drive the roller. All those who voted UKIP or stayed at home because the Conservatives were not proposing immediate withdrawal from the EU should be kicking themselves now. The Conservatives are the only party voting against this Treaty and for a referendum. Pity there are so few of us.
The PM would have made himself a hero with many if he had refused to sign the Treaty and had demanded the retention of vetoes or a better deal for Britain when he took over from Tony Blair. He had spun that he was far more Euroscpetic than Blair. He told the press he hated these grand EU gatherings, and saw much of the EU back slapping as a needless diversion from important matters at home. It is a pity he did not remember this when he became PM. That explains the savage change in press attitudes towards him.
The most revealing answer he gave to the Liaison Committee was when he said he now spent more time reading the newspapers but less time enjoying them. That tells us that he is just as much a slave to the media as his predecessor, thin skinned and concentrating on the wrong reading materials. He should remember Margaret Thatcher’s advice to senior collegeaues – "Don’t read it" – when the press wrote unpleasant things. She was told daily what the thrust of criticism was in the press, but did not usually spend her time pouring over different editions. She did not hold meetings to deal with press stories – only meetings to deal with real problems which sometimes might also be appearing in the press.
As a Minister myself I spent little time reading newspapers, as I had so many official papers to read and write, and so many people to talk to. If I was doing my job properly I knew more about my subject than the press knew, so I did not need to waste my time catching up with the newspapers. If the newspapers ever knew more than me about something within my government remit, then I had to make sure we caught up quickly! This bunch of politicians are too reactive, too slow, and spend too much time on dealing with the media. By the time it’s in the media it is usually out of control. That’s why the departments are so badly run. Whilst Ministers read newspapers, officials put data on discs and send it through the post, and lend ??30 billion to a bank without setting proper repayment and security terms.