Greece may be a continent away, but Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party can’t stop talking about it.
Having spent the election campaign telling voters Britain was “in the same boat” as Greece when the Labour Party left office in 2010, the crisis-wracked euro nation now haunts debates on subjects ranging from immigration and Europe to health care.
London Mayor Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Theresa May, both possible contenders to succeed Cameron as prime minister, mentioned Greece in their speeches to the Conservative conference in Manchester on Tuesday while managing to make no reference to Scotland or Wales.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes Plc is offering evens that Cameron will mention Greece in his speech to delegates on Wednesday, meaning that a successful one-pound bet will yield a one-pound profit.
The structural differences between the British and Greek economies make comparisons difficult, but Cameron persevered with his pre-election line of attack as he raised the specter of Greek-style collapse if newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a hardline socialist, were to win the 2020 general election.
“Take a country like Greece, it actually slashed its health budget by 14 percent,” Cameron told Sky News on Tuesday when asked about Corbyn. “Because we’ve taken the long-term and difficult decisions to get our finances back towards balance we’ve been able to put 10 billion pounds extra into our NHS.”
Johnson, who studied Latin and Greek at Oxford University and likes to make classical references in his speeches, used modern Greece to make a point about the European Union in his speech on Tuesday morning.
“When you look at what is happening in Greece, where economic independence is being sacrificed on the altar of the euro, you could not say that democracy in Europe was in good health,” he said. “We should be sticking up for it.”
Earlier, May, when looking for a country to blame for Europe’s migrant crisis, passed over Italy to turn to the country that has become a byword for chaos and mismanagement.
“Once a migrant arrives in a country with weak border controls, like Greece, they can make their way across Europe and into Germany, or up to the British border at Calais, without checks,” she told delegates.
Looking for a bogey-man, a tragic victim or a specter of impending doom? Greece is the word.