British Prime Minister David Cameron’s special Czech relationship

12-05-2010

The British Conservatives under leader David Cameron have won power after 13 years in the political wilderness. The newly installed British Prime Minister has been a frequent visitor to Prague in recent years to forge closer relations with the Conservatives’ Czech sister party – the Civic Democrats. David Cameron says he feels a special, personal relationship with the Czech Republic.

“I feel a special bond with your country because 70 years ago a relative of mine, a man called Alfred Duff Cooper joined the British cabinet. He was responsible for the Royal Navy. And a year later the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed the Munich Agreement dividing Czechoslovakia and giving the Nazis control of the Sudetenland. And as you know, this shameful decision was accepted by many people. But my relative, Alfred Duff Cooper, did not accept it. He resigned from the cabinet the very next day.”

David Cameron, Mirek Topolánek (right) in 2009, photo: CTKDavid Cameron, Mirek Topolánek (right) in 2009, photo: CTK David Cameron there, speaking about his great, great uncle’s action in 1938 at the congress of the centre-right Civic Democrats in Prague in 2007. Duff Cooper later went on the serve in Winston Churchill’s wartime cabinet.

At that Prague conference, David Cameron referred to the then Civic Democrat leader and prime minister Mirek Topolánek as his friend Mirek and expressed admiration for the Czech government’s achievements.

David Cameron was in Prague again in May last year to back the Civic Democrats in their campaign for the European Parliament elections. And the British Prime Minister has referred to the Civic Democrats as the Conservatives’ closest sister party in Europe.

No surprise then that the two centre-right ideological bed fellows were at the heart of steps to create a new, more national and eurosceptic, faction in the European Parliament after those election results came in. Both parties would like to curb some of the grander designs for the development of the European Union and felt out of place in the pro-European European People’s Party.

David Cameron, photo: CTKDavid Cameron, photo: CTK And top Czech Civic Democrats have expressed hopes that the British Conservatives new power in Westminster will help them fight off other European plans, such as those for stepped up regulation of financial markets. They say the regulatory plans are unpopular in Prague and London.

Nearer to home, and perhaps nearer to Civic Democrats’ immediate concerns, there has also been speculation that David Cameron could make his first trip to the Czech Republic as Prime Minister before the end of the month to back the Czech party’s flagging campaign in elections to the lower house of parliament.

Civic Democrat campaign manager Ivan Langer said at the start of the week that such a visit could be on the cards if the British leader could find the time. According to newspaper reports, David Cameron had already been in contact with the new leader of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, to make sure that the special Czech-British relationship was still on course after Mirek Topolánek stepped down almost two months ago.

Petr Nečas (left), photo: CTKPetr Nečas (left), photo: CTK But British politics and its new prime minister are still getting used to the unsettling new rules of coalition politics, something the Civic Democrats could probably give some advice on. David Cameron still has to form a cabinet with junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and set in place what are expected to be tough austerity measures. So Prime Minister Cameron’s first visit to Prague might be delayed for a little while. But if past experience is anything to go on it should not be too long in coming.

12-05-2010