Wednesday 15 May 2013

Being overtaken by events?

The Conservatives seem to be busy digging their European hole even deeper and wider as fast as they possibly can.  There is clearly within that party a deep-seated dislike of all things European.
It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with Norman Lamont, but on this occasion his assertion, although not quite in so many words, that ‘renegotiation’ was nothing more than a fig leaf to enable David Cameron to buy off his party in the short term and keep the UK within the European Union in the long term has a certain ring of truth to it. 
Whether the “renegotiation” ploy will work remains to be seen.  It clearly worked for Harold Wilson in 1975 but I’m not so sure that Cameron has as strong a grip on his party as Wilson had on his.  And Wilson’s Labour Party was badly enough split on the issue.
It’s difficult at times to work out exactly what it is about Europe that so many in the Conservative party have taken such a dislike to.  Lord Lawson attempted to spell out part of his objection at least.  He is quite clear that the European Union is attempting to obstruct the inalienable right of London based international capitalists to rip off the rest of the world and to destroy any country’s economy whenever they so choose.  Those weren’t quite the words he used, but it seemed to me what he was, in effect, saying.
Others have talked about freeing the UK from European bureaucracy in order to be able to compete more effectively.  Somehow it seems to me that the rest of the European Union’s members are unlikely to allow the UK to simply exempt itself from the rules which control them and then be allowed to gain economically through an unfair competitive advantage.  And the idea that the UK can compete (in the foreseeable future at least) with low-wage economies such as India and China, as has been suggested by at least one Conservative, seems to me equally fanciful.  Until such time as wages and living standards in those countries catch up with the West, it seems to me unlikely that competition is a realistic prospect.
It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the real issue is more to do with the perceived electoral threat from UKIP; but that is itself a euphemism for an attempt to appeal to a certain group of voters who traditionally vote for the Conservative party.  There is a section of the electorate which is deeply hostile to Europe, Europeans, and indeed 'foreigners' in general (and I rather suspect, to those of a darker hue in particular) and the line being trodden by those attempting to pander to that section of the electorate without appearing to become openly xenophobic, or even racist, themselves is a fine one.
Attempted populism always carries a danger that events starts to overtake those who think they are in control of them; quite apart from the other dangers which arise from any attempt to appease that particular section of the electorate.  Cameron’s weakness is in danger of leading him into a position where, although I suspect this is contrary to his own instincts, he ends up leading the UK out of the European Union.  And even if he's unlikely to win the election which is such an important precondition, it seems that there are those in the Labour opposition who are being tempted to follow the same line.
The idea that the UK can return to some sort of imperial age independence may appeal to a particular section of voters, but it’s unlikely that most of us would benefit from it.  But, for all their talk of maintaining a rather different union closer to home, it looks as if the separatists are gaining the upper hand within the Conservative Party - and gaining ground in the Labour Party as well.


G Horton-Jones said...

Yet again last night on the
main news - We witnessed a report where the announcer said that the renegotiation/ possible exit was in the English national interest and in the same intake of breath injected the word British as an after thought
Clearly we are most definitely not all in this (union) together. At this time in Empire decline Westminster should have the sense to give the people of Wales. Scotland, northern Ireland and England their own individual say at a time and wording of their own choice

You mean there's more??? said...

I think it is high time for proper disengagement from Europe.

Dig a bloody great ditch round the South of England and let them have their freedom, independence and all those other things they crave.

The rest of us can get on with it, learn from the follies of the Euro and rebuild a united Europe of nations in cooperation.

If things go wrong in the South East they can allways eat money.