Thursday, November 5, 2009

Just because they're paranoid ...

... doesn't mean they're entirely wrong

Malcolm followed the frothings and maunderings on the Tory web-sites, defending or bemoaning Cameron's U-turn over the Lisbon Treaty. It became v-e-r-y repetitive and v-e-r-y boring. Even so, it had its moments of provocation.

It obliged him to re-appraise his own assumptions.

The level of mindless abuse

First and foremost, the sound and fury was proof positive that there are many angry people out there. Most of them are window-lickers (© Paul Staines). They see the EU as the natural successor to the Whore of Babylon, and all her sisters in terror.

Malcolm may think they're sadly misguided. Even so, he concedes that he himself is a reformed anti: he came round to being, at best, ambivalent over Europe after full embroilment in the early '60s in Dublin, and campigning in the 1975 British Referendum. There are those who suggest all that was a long while ago: poor old Malcolm's eyesight, hearing and hair all testify to that. Yet Malcolm recognises similarities between 1975 and now: the antis of 1975 were acutely aware and warned then, as Brutus does in Julius Caesar:
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities:
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.
That's a specious argument, and Shakespeare intended it to be heard as such; but it has its superficial merits.

The great British public saw through such claims; and voted two-to-one against the antis' warnings.

Nuff said.

Malcolm, though, had the wit to recognise that the argument against the EEC had been well-and-truly trounced. Since when, while never being a whole-hearted Euro-fanatic, he has warmed to the notion.

Were one to believe the vitriol of Tory loyalists on the Tory websites (such as Iain Dale's), those who argue still from a hard-line anti- perspective are "trolls" or "NuLiebor stooges". Abuse, and hackneyed and concocted insults are the norm in such dark corners. It's pot-and-kettle stuff, with very little light. Clearly, those using such terms do not comprehend what "trolling" involves (and, ahem! Malcolm in his cups will quietly admit to have done his bit under at least three pseudonyms.) Nor are they exclusively UKIPpers.

Something has gone sadly, badly, madly wrong in the relationship between the great British public and the EU when so many misrepresentations and misconceptions are prevalent. The EU has a vast budget to expend on its own image: but the message does not get through. Instead we have the bar-room fantasies of straight cucumbers, unbent bananas and EU-standard condoms. That is largely because the Murdoch machine and its fellow travellers have been so successful in distorting and disseminating their black propaganda.

Anti-Labour hysteria

One does not have to venture too far into the undergrowth of Europhobic monomania to be told it's all a plot: Gordon (inevitably "Gorgon") Brown is a paid-up member of the Illuminati, who fixes the ballot boxes while decent folk are a-bed. Or some such.

The present Government, for all its faults, is no where near being a guilty party. Everything that has occurred in the long and involved (and occasionally honourable) relationship of Britain and the EU is a natural consequence of such developments as:
  • What we knowingly endorsed in 1975. By that time, it should be remembered, the ERM, proposed in 1970, created in 1972, was already in place.
  • The recognition that we couldn't continue to pump out mega-tonnes of acid rain to poison Scandinavian forests, nor hoover the seas of all marine life. The "Green Agenda' took time to evolve; but the basic concepts have been there a while.
  • The establishment of democratic regimes, first in Iberia and Greece, and then in Eastern Europe needed to be supported, sustained -- and kept democratic and honest. This implied implied European-wide "rights" and obligations. Similarly, Article 9 of that German Basic Law, which Cameron and Hague now hail as a model, derives from the benefits that British TUC-men, such as George Woodcock and Vic Feather, despatched by Walter Cirine and Ernie Bevin, invented for the de-nazified West German trades unions. Such rights became demanded -- quite properly -- by the workers of other nations. There is some irony that only the British Tories wish to cop out of the deal.
  • The Single European Act of 1986 was one of the achievements for which Margaret Thatcher, despite having to be dragged, kicking and screaming, deserves credit. What the British Tories wanted was full and free access to the wider European marketplace. What they didn't fully appreciate is that our EC fellow-members expected a level-playing field, which meant full harmonisation of all operating practices.
  • This led on to Maastricht in 1992, creating the EU, with the UK giving assurances on currency, foreign and security policy, justice and internal affairs. Again, the hang-up for the Tories was not just over "sensitive" matters of defence and foreign policy, but that the "social chapter" (another part of that harmonisation) granted rights to British employees. That was the issue on which Labour and Liberal MPs (with the held of anti-EEC Tories) broke the Major government.
So, by the time of the present Labour Government, with the EU at 25 (and then at 27) members, consolidation was overdue: which is where Lisbon comes in.

In the immediate future the entry of Croatia and FYR Macedonia will need to be settled. An educated guess is that will happen in the life-time of the next Parliament; but not involve a Referendum, come what may. One might equally assume, too, that any UK Government will make cooing noises about Turkish entry; but be none too energetic in pressing it.

Any sane person, with any breadth of vision, should feel that what we've got here, now, is, on balance, better than the alternatives. Those who sweat buckets over "ever-closer union" might care to look back beyond the last couple of decades or so, when "ever-wider disunion" was the only game in town.

"A cast-iron promise"

When Cameron gave his "cast-iron" promise, he was in a corner. His polling figures put him not far off the electoral ropes. He and his Svengali, Andy Coulson, were set on wooing Murdoch. That meant paying Danegeld and surrendering a large degree of control over European policy to Wapping. Hence Cameron's "cast-iron promise" and the recent negotiations to wriggle out from under it. The full story of that will, doubtless, provide a chapter in somebody's memoirs at a later date.

Probably Cameron (or was it Coulson, holding his writing hand?) went a bit further than second-thoughts might have suggested. If so, Cameron was either:
  • presuming he would not have to deliver. In which case he was being casuistical and equivocating: not an unusual characteristic (or even a cardinal sin) in a politician;
or
  • assuming that the Irish, the Poles, the Czechs or A.N.Other would already have rubbished Lisbon before he had to honour the "cast-iron promise". In which case he was being calculating: again, not necessarily unknown among political minds.
Neither implies a cuddly, endearing personality: both are the norms in the trade, however.

It transcends human understanding that Cameron would have wanted to be in the position of leading a newly-elected UK Government into the rĂ´le of wrecker of the present European settlement. Or that he genuinely wanted a full-blown referendum on EU membership (which, undoubtedly, is what he would have been expected to offer). The natural support of the Tory Party, in the City and business, could not countenance the UK leaving the EU -- especially when "Exit" is clearly, even invitingly, sign-posted for the first time in the Lisbon Treaty.

These, then, are the measures of Cameron's weaknesses:
  • At the time the "cast-iron" promise was put together, he prostrated himself before the Great God Rupert.
  • He then had to seek a pontifical pardon and absolution from the Great God Rupert (as The Sun tacitly and smugly recognised) before he could withdraw the promise, address his Parliamentary Party (where the Whips and loyalists were dragooned into orchestrating the applause), and then go before the cynical Press. That is a most peculiar order of business for a "leader".
  • His reconstructed assurances to the Tory Party have to promise more than he has just withdrawn, to attempt to gloss over his present moment of apparent self-contradiction. At the key moment of that Press conference Malcolm heard in Cameron the impotent Lear:
I will do such things,--
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth.
All in all: A Mad World, My Masters.

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1 comment:

quietzapple said...

Most significantly if Chameleon wins and doesn't hold some sort of Referendum rather more than Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell will make his life impossible.

But there, he may not.

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