"That in the opinion of this House, instead of the Pilgrim Fathers landing on the Plymouth Rock, it would have been better for civilisation had the Plymouth Rock landed on the Pilgrim Fathers."
Good point. For one thing, President Dubya would not now be preparing to re-invade Iraq with 20-odd thousand troops, nor his speech writers trying to freshen up variations on his triumphal 'Mission accomplished!' for future use.
The question belongs to the ever-popular 'what if?' segment of history. What if Hitler had won the war? What if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo? What if the Brits had won the War of American Independence? What if women had never got the vote? What if the BBC still held a TV monopoly?
Those 'what if?' hypotheses, by the way, are a good way of teaching schoolchildren history intravenously - for before debating, say, the wisdom or lack of it behind the partitioning of India, they would have to swot up who partitioned the dominion in the first place, and why.
An excellent real-life example of the 'what if?' school of history is to be found in this week's revelations that back in 1956 the French - or anyway one of their leaders - would have been happy to join the British Commonwealth under the nominal rule of our Queen. What de Gaulle thought of this wheeze we are not told.
What emerges, however, from Cabinet papers which have lain unseen since the year of the Suez crisis is that the then French prime minister Guy Mollet approached our own then Prime Minister Anthony Eden (it was a vintage year for 'thens') with the proposal that we should take the entente cordiale a mighty leap forward and merge our two countries into one, with the Queen as head of state.
So what if we had fallen for it? The short answer is that, of course, we did - but with France, in tandem with Germany, being top dogs instead of our good selves - and the Queen - if they finally get their way with us over a common currency - being banished from her own bank notes.
The merger was first called the Common Market, and finally, after as many changes in name as a dodgy street trader trafficking in merchandise fallen off the backs of lorries - the European Union. This was not quite what M Mollet had in mind.
A year before the Common Market, then trading under the name of the European Economic Community, had begun to seize the fevered minds of its supporters, he was a devout Anglophile, who thought of us as a nation of crumpets and cricket bats.
What Gallic values he hoped to bring to his proposed amalgamation of the two powers he didn't specify. Off the top of my head, I can only think of croissants, now obtainable from Waitrose, the Napoleonic education system and continental cafes.
These last are what our romantic government ministers, having once spent a weekend in Paris, had in mind when they brought in the 24-hour licences. Dream on, is all I can say.
� 1998 -