" nE deux chases rune" (one of 1--• these alternatives must he accepted) say French commentators when they want to have it both ways in the matter of being nasty to somebody.
It is hard to resist the temptation of their example over the Princess Margaret story, De deux choses rune: Either the Prime Minister knew he was walking into a big row when he tendered the constitutional advice that the visit to Paris should be cancelled or the perturbations of the last few weeks have upset his political judgment.
Applying very much this technique, that rugged Englishman, Douglas Clark. of the Daily rtpress asks whether this was a deliberate slap at de Gaulle and adds that the only alternative to this explanation that MPs could see was thoroughly inept planning of royal engagements.
On this alternative, Clark's fellow Beaverbrook commentator, Robert Carrel, of the Evening Standard, remarked with some justice the next day that the official explanation that Princess Margaret had to stay in England during the Queen's tour was wearing so thin that no serious attempt was being made to sustain it.
Mark Arnold-Forster goes a shade further in the Observer: "There can be no doubt at all that Mr. Macmillan's roguish decision was intended to convey a severe reproof to President de Gaulle, who had had the temerity to ask her (Princess Margaret) to lunch." The papers in the Beaverbrook stable have, of course, good reasons of their own for taking a strong line on this issue. They must feel special gratitude to General de Gaulle for doing in a few days what they have been striving industriously to do over the years-block Britain's entry into the Common Market. But in fairness it should be added that in limit treatment of the Princess Margaret story they are in numerous company.
The point about their attitude to de Gaulle is neatly illustrated for us by John Gordon in the Sunday Express: "But if Macmillan doesn't like de Gaulle at the moment, he may yet come to bless him . . . Today de Gaulle might justifiably say to Macmillan: 'Why be angry with me? Had you gone to the country on a Common Market policy you could have been beaten. By giving you the crown of martyrdom, I have saved you from the fury of the electors'."
High-flown perhaps, but it comes near to a valid point about Britain's attitude success at Brussels would have had more political embarrassments for the Government than one would gather from ministerial statements.
The Economist evokes the fundamental question of tactics in the post-Brussels period. It is whether our national policy should be "wait and see" or something more dynamic, The Economist stumps for dynamism. General de Gaulle, it says, gets his results not only from his own audacity . . but also from his opponents' lack of it. The habit of the British is to move with circumspection but the situation they are now in does not seem to permit it.
The need for a decision on the point is brought out indirectly in the Spectator where David Watt, Daily Herald Common Market correspondent, remarks that already some deep-seated illusions have been dispelled. "The idea is dead that the Commonwealth can provide an economic alternative to Europe, far less a harbour for visions of imperial grandeur . . . The notion that Britain somehow belongs to Europe has gained ground-partly, perhaps, for the admirable negative reason that anything opposed by General de Gaulle and Dr Adenauer must have something in it, but more I believe, from a general realisation that far from losing an identity in Europe, Britain might find one."
We should stop to ask ourselves what is this identity we are to find in Europe and where it is intended to lead us.
In an article in the Observer, Sir William Hayter, once British Ambassador in Moscow, does just this: "If we take a realistic view of the world, and of our position in it, we shall see that it is clearly our duty, and our interest, to try to re-create the kind of Europe we were hoping to join, and then to join it."
This Europe he conceives to be the one that inspired the founders of the Common Market, a very different one from the Europe of de Gaulle, and one which would be accepted probably by most Frenchmen and, certainly, by most Europeans.
His argument just misses a hull's eye by forgetting that the British Government tried to go in with blinkers on, ready to accept what it thought to be de Gaulle's Europe. but less enthusiastic about the Europe of the founding fathers of the Communities.
It is worthwhile asking ourselves, too, how far we have contributed to President de Gaulle's misconceptions by careless talk to say nothing of unenthusiastic silence.
Take this plaint by a lady reader of the Guardian : "Now that there is presumably to be a respite in our attempts to become fully European, perhaps the Government will see to it that my New Zealand born husband and his compatriots are once more permitted to be British when they enter England. It is rather disconcerting to find oneself an alien in this country as well as Europe proper." The substance of de Gaulle's charge is that we are Europe improper and it is disconcerting to find just how many people are willing to admit the impeachment.
Sir William liayter is not one of them. In the Observer article he roundly dismisses the attractions of the Commonwealth as a rival grouping and adds: "It all comes back to Europe. This is what we are, whatever de Gaulle may say, a European Power . deeply and irrevocably committed to Europe's destiny, our freedom and our prosperity inseparable from the freedom and prosperity of Europe."
Comments on the Canadian situation suggest that some sections of the British press have no scruples about hitting a man when he is down but they probably feel that Mr. Diefenhaker has not earned mercy in this country.
The Times, for instance, speaks of his "tortuous" argument while the Economist's Canadian correspondent also applies the adjective "tortuous" and speaks with even more sting of his continual obfuscation and occasional hlatent misrepresentation of Canada's commitment to use defensive nuclear warheads with tactical weapons both in Canada and Europe. They have for long been endured with steely silence by American officials. "Had the British Government been faced with similar double-dealing over any question as vital to Britain, the Canadian public certainly would not have been left in ignorance of the fact."
Comment in the New Statesman is equally barbed : "The crisis was precipitated by the American State Department's tactless (though probably truthful) accusation of deliberate equivocation over Canadian acceptance of nuclear weapons."
The writer then comes to the gravest aspect of the situation from an international standpoint. "It requires no great imagination to discern the lines on which Mr. Diefenbaker will choose to fight the election," he says. "Already, last June, he was referring to Lester Pearson, the leader of the Liberal Opposition, as 'the White House candidate' and his tactics this time will clearly be to expand on that theme and try to sweep the country on a rugged platform of violent anti-Americanism."