Monday, 27 April 2009

Cameron's delusion on Europe

David Cameron models himself on Tony Blair. He doesn't do imitation very well. Any honest reading of the history of New Labour reveals that one of the strengths of the former Prime Minister was his ability to shift his party by challenging its received wisdom. It is difficult to see a single issue where David Cameron has done this. And today he's launched a very familiar campaign which mines the Tories' obsession with Europe once again. It seems to be a very deep mine indeed.

He's called for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Had John Major held a referendum on the Masstricht Treaty or had Margaret Thatcher done so on the Single European Act- both far more substantial shifts in our relationship with Europe- then Mr Cameron's pleas may be worth listening to. They didn't and so we can safely walk on by.

It's an old Tory trick to try to turn discussion about the European Union into a neurotic discussion about institutional rules. But it's the issues that count. If you care about prosperity, the environment, security, and other issues of a trans-national nature then how exactly can we get by without strong cooperation with our European partners? In other words, the EU matters because we can't fight crime, support business and jobs, and address major environmental challenges without it.

We will see if the Czech Republic, Poland and Ireland ratify the Lisbon Treaty this year. We will also know within just over a year if David Cameron is in office. The simple question for him, is if he wins the next election will he seek to re-negotiate the Lisbon Treaty thereby plunging the UK onto the margins and creating an ongoing institutional crisis in the EU rather than getting on with dealing with the serious issues we face? If he fails to answer then this campaign is just political posturing. If he says that he would seek to re-negotiate the Treaty then he is willing to sacrifice Britain's self interest for his party's obsession with the EU.

And don't rule that out. Remember, he is taking his party out of the European People's Party much to the chagrin of Angela Merkel. Just as the lunatic fringe beckons for the Tories in the European Parliament, it would beckon for the nation as a whole if Mr Cameron failed to reverse his knee-jerk anti-europeanism. He claims that he is a 'progressive' yet he is more than happy to link up with the rabidly homophobic Polish Law and Justice Party in the Parliament. It seems there are two ways of interpreting this: he is weak and captive to his party's prejudices or he is not what he says he is. Neither bodes well for Britain should he become Prime Minister.

Even if he followed through on his barmy anti-europeanism, it wouldn't loosen Brussels' influence on our politics. It would simply mean that we have less influence over the decisions that affect us. We would be left sitting by the fax machine waiting for new Brussels Directives to arrive, without any influence on their content. Even worse, without influence in Europe, we lose our world influence. Does Mr Cameron seriously believe that President Obama will have any real strategic interest in a strong relationship with a UK that has no influence in the EU? Of course not.

So what's it to be Mr Cameron? Will you continue this self-indulgent pandering to your party's prejudices or will you lead your party to a position that is actually in this nation's interests? From the evidence of the campaign he has just launched, it is to be supine posturing. Ready to lead?

10 comments:

  1. "If you care about prosperity, the environment, security, and other issues of a trans-national nature then how exactly can we get by without strong cooperation with our European partners?"

    Which can be amply demonstrated, for example, by the fact that Norway is a stinking polluted hellhole riddled with crime and unemployment.

    "Remember, he is taking his party out of the European People's Party much to the chagrin of Angela Merkel. Just as the lunatic fringe beckons for the Tories in the European Parliament"

    The Italian neo-Fascists are joining the EPP after this set of elections, so I'm not sure teaming up with the Poles is much worse.

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  2. John- you are wrong. The Italian neo-fascists are not joining the EPP Group after the election.

    The Italian Neo-Fascists were part of the the short lived Identity, Tradition & Sovereignty Group last year. This was formed by a rag bag bunch of ultra nationalists with the sole intention of qualifying. They were united by their hatred of foreigners. Not suprisingly- they fell out with each other.

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  3. Mr Camerons MEPs will be sitting next to fascists and ultra nationalists in the Strasbourg Chamber in the next Parliament.
    They will be occuping seats on the far-right next to Le Pen, Kilroy Silk and Alexandra Mussolini. They will be completely marginalised and British interests will suffer as a result.

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  4. You're deliberately misunderstanding the point of a Referendum . In a Referendum THE PEOPLE, not the Government, decide which way the country should go.

    ALL the major political parties promised in their last election manifestos that a Referendum would be held on the EU Constitution (which is what the rejigged Lisbon Treaty is).

    Brown threfore did not have a mandate to sign the Treaty without holding the Referendum he promised and obtaining a 'Yes' vote.

    We should hold the Referendum as promised and THE PEOPLE should decide. The politicians can argue their case and try to influence the result, but THE PEOPLE should decide - and the Government should live with that decision. It's not their country; it's ours.

    Its really very simple ..... and the only reason Gordon Brown didn't keep the Manifesto Promise he signed up to is because he knew he lacked the skills to pursuade a sceptical British electorate and would lose. Disgraceful.

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  5. Bliston Bob, perhaps I meant 'post-fascists', then. The Alleanza Nationale faction in PdL are, at any rate, joining the EPP.

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  6. 'Anonymous',

    Oh dear. You know full well that this is just a political ruse to cloak the Tories' anti-europeanism in 'power to the people' rhetoric. If they cared so much about it then they would have had referendums in 1986 and 1991 when much more significant Treaties in constitutional terms were signed. There are cases where referendums are appropriate. Just not on this one. Just as there wasn't a case with Nice, Amsterdam, Maastricht, SEA, etc.....

    For me, the 'issue' is very much what is in the national interest which is the patriotic position to take. The Tories take an ideological position that diverges from the national interest.

    Oh, and on Norway- the fax metaphor I used is taken from Norweigan politics in fact. It is often said that they have a 'fax democracy'- laws come in from Brussels via fax and they have no influence over them.

    Is that a fate you want for the UK?

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  7. John,
    Alleanza Nationale ceased to exist as a seperate party in March. When it did exist, the party rejected it fascist ideological stance in the mid 90s.

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  8. Curioser and curiouser, Bob.

    When the Tories were thought to be looking to *join* a group with Alleanza they *were* neo-fascists (well after the mid 90s) but now when the Tories are looking to *leave* a group that will contain them, they *aren't*.

    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-4990666.html

    Seems federalists are having their cake and eating it on this one.

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  9. Does Alleanza Nationale exist as a distinct party? No.
    Does the Alleanza National have fascist roots. Yes.
    Has this faction distanced itself from its fascist past and engaged in concensus politics? Yes.
    Are they my cup of tea? No.
    Does this example mean that Cameron is right to marginalise his MEPs by teaming up with a bunch of bigots for the simple expediency of being able to qualify for funding? No.
    Is Cameron pandering to his party's prejudices. Yes.
    Is this in our national interest? No.

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