One of the most perverse and enduring failures of the media and political classes is their obdurate refusal to recognise that our supreme government is no longer in London, but in Brussels.
Nothing better symbolises that failure than the continued references to what effectively amounts to the "Cabinet" of that government as a "summit" rather than by its correct title of European Council.
We have written of this before and will, no doubt, write of it again, but there is no more sense or validity in calling this gathering of the high officials of our government a "summit" than there is in applying that label to a cabinet meeting of our former central government.
However, as long as breathless hacks can continue with their "terminological inexactitude", it gives aid and comfort to the ostrich-like tendency in our political classes, who still see Westminster as the centre of their world and simply cannot come to terms with the fact that the seat of our central government lies elsewhere.
The effect of this circumlocution is profound. We refer naturally to "the government" and the usual inference is that we are referring to the Westminster/Whitehall complex that used to govern us (and indeed still has some residual powers). We also tend to refer to the "European Union" or "Brussels" as if it was something different, something separate, so much so that it is most often reported in newspapers in the category "foreign affairs".
If, on the other hand, the reality was properly recognised, we would by the term "the government" actually be referring to the European Union "institutions", another delicious circumlocution which disguises the fact that they are the institutions of government - our government.
Thus is was that yesterday, when Mr Brown attended the "summit" in Brussels – where this time he did take part in the "family photograph", and looked mightily pleased with himself into the bargain (pictured) - he attended not as a member of the British government representing our interests, but as a functioning member of the European Council, part of our central government.
And, while the meeting itself was recorded as one of the shortest in recent history, the same cannot be said of the Council conclusions, running as they did to 28 pages. And their function – like all the others – was to set out the policy direction for the "Union", to be taken away, studied and implemented by the various provincial governors (aka prime ministers and heads of government) of the member states.
Yet, the only part of those conclusions to which the media paid any real attention was one small section was a plan to set up a "reflection group" that will look at the long-term future of the Union. This, according to the conclusions, is to "help the Union anticipate and meet challenges more effectively in the longer term (horizon 2020 - 2030)" and includes:
…inter alia: strengthening and modernising the European model of economic success and social responsibility, enhancing the competitiveness of the EU, the rule of law, sustainable development as a fundamental objective of the European Union, global stability, migration, energy and climate protection, and the fight against global insecurity, international crime and terrorism.Additionally, we are told, "Particular attention should be given to ways of better reaching out to citizens and addressing their expectations and needs."
However, no attention at all was paid to the strident declaration at the very end of the conclusions, signed and agreed by Mr Gordon Brown and the 26 other members of our government. It says:
We will continue building a stronger Union for a better world.And that is our government's policy. It is also, by default, the British provincial government policy. The European Council has spoken.