We may pay as European leaders sleep at the wheel

IT’S been dubbed the slowest car chase in history. Caroline Turner, 76, powered along at 10mph in her Ford Fiesta, driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway as a fleet of Essex police patrol cars “chased” her at a snail’s pace for 27 miles last Tuesday.

She willfully ignored their wailing sirens, flashing lights and even the “rolling road-block” they threw around her vehicle after the authorities forced an emergency closure of the carriage-way to other traffic.

In a Father Ted-esque finale to the drama, Ms Turner was only stopped when an officer jogged alongside her car and tapped on the window.

Even then she refused to accept any responsibility and snapped: “There is nothing to discuss, I’m going home,” whereupon she was taken to an overnight holding cell at a nearby police station as officers feared her driving could lead to a fatal accident.

The bizarre escapade brought to mind the slow-motion car crash that is the never-ending eurozone crisis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stubborn refusal to realise the looming dangers ahead as she tries to push against the tides of history and logic. But unfortunately, there is no concerned fiscal police force ready to show her the error of her ways and expose the shocking lack of European leadership over an unravelling disaster that increasingly threatens to sink us all.

Competing with the pootling pensioner case for the strangest headline in recent days was one from the Daily Telegraph website which read: “Steve Jobs Dies: Latest.”

Erm, I’m guessing the “latest” would be that he’s still dead?

Just as any response to the headline: “Euro Crisis: Latest,” would be, “Erm, I’m Guessing We’re Still All Hoping It Will Just Go Away, Angela?” While Ms Merkel did push another “rescue” package through the German parliament last week in order to buy a couple of months to try and stop the teetering Greek economy finally plunging over the precipice and so dragging the eurozone down with it, that measure will only act as a sticking plaster until the next shock wave to smash through the EU economy, which on patterns is due anytime about now. Though having the most power to play with, Ms Merkel is certainly not the only culprit in what amounts to the greatest betrayal of European leadership since the 1930s. Indeed, we have seen three years of Chamberlainesque appeasement and drift and it is high time for a Churchillian moment of decisiveness and action.

But don’t bother looking to London for a lead, despite keeping its own currency — and therefore being able to dramatically devalue and thus endure a recession rather than Ireland’s depression — the much maligned Gordon Brown was able to exert strong influence in the 2008 financial crisis which did much good.

Now, despite the normally ultra-cautious governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King making dire predictions that the global financial system is heading for the greatest crisis in history, the British cabinet has not been split on the desperate need to change course on a economic policy almost certain to plunge them — and due to our close trading ties, us — into a double dip recession.

No, the only row going on at the upper level of the British government has been a vicious, and very public one, over a cat called Maya.

Home Secretary Theresa May attempted some blatant rabble-rousing and drive-by EU-baiting at the Tory conference by claiming an alleged Bolivian shoplifter could not be deported under European human rights legislation because he had a pet cat. This blatant twisting of the truth prompted outraged Justice Minister Ken Clarke — one of the few senior Tories who could carry off the description “vaguely normal” — to brand Ms May “laughable” and “child-like.”

The on-going “CatGate” spat drew so much attention that Prime Minister David Cameron had to intervene to sort things out between his warring ministers when he should really have been heeding the grim warnings of Governor King instead.

And don’t expect any statesmanship to emerge from the other side of the English Channel either as Nicolas Sarkozy’s hopes of re-election next May already look unlikely to survive a corruption scandal threatening to engulf his inner circle, so the very last thing he will risk offending French voters with is the financial hardships that will be inevitable if the eurozone — and therefore the French and German economies — are to be saved from the impending disaster Paris and Berlin keep merely delaying rather than dealing with.

And, of course, there’s no place like Rome when Premier Silvio Berlusconi is in Bunga-Bunga party mood as guests like 17-year-old “model” Karima el-Mahroug, nicknamed “Ruby Heartstealer”, will testify.

It’s still unclear whether it will be Italy, the world’s eighth largest economy, or Greece, that finally tilts the eurozone into the mire, which is why the antics of its comedy prime minister are so serious.

Police wire-taps of an alleged pimp who helped find “guests” for the Italian prime minister’s notorious social gatherings give an even more alarming than usual insight into how Berlusconi’s brain works.

In one call Berlusconi boasts about being a “part-time” prime minister, and in another claims to have enjoyed the company of eight women in one night — leaving another three unlucky ladies lingering outside his bedroom door.

Perhaps if the priapic 74-year-old spent more time on the job of being prime minister, rather than merely on the job, Italy might not be in so much trouble.

But then Berlusconi has more important things on his mind, such as when he took time out from official duties to ensure that one of his regular guests, the showgirl Barbara Guerra, was not voted off the Italian version of Big Brother running on one of his TV channels.

How comforting to know that, just when post-war Europe has never needed greater leadership, Benny Hill is running one of its major economies. Across the Atlantic, things do not look much better. While it is good to know that there is now absolutely no chance of Sarah Palin becoming US president next year, in reality that just leaves the field open for the Republicans to elect a new mayor of Crazy Town to take her place. And all the while Barack Obama is held hostage by the Tea Party zealots in a grid-locked Congress.

Painstakingly slow danger-pensioner Ms Turner was fined €220 for driving without due care and attention. Unfortunately, we are all about to pay a much higher price for our leaders being asleep at the wheel.

Twitter: @Shaunconnolly01

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