May 19, 2009
This blog will use the remaining 18 days until the European Parliament elections to address the critical issue of how UK Conservatives propose to relate to the political group system in Brussels/Strasbourg. This blog is non-party political. However, it recognises that a likely UK Conservative government from 2010 will be constrained in its EU policy by decisions by mis-alliances within the European Parliament. This is a matter of concern for all UK citizens. The blog launches by citing Nick Cohen in The Observer, Sunday 17 May.
Cameron can’t run away from Europe much longer
There’s nothing compassionate about the friends the Conservative leader is making on the Continent
Nick Cohen – The Observer – Sunday 17 May 2009
I won’t be mean-spirited. The leader of the opposition is on a good run, but the deserved plaudits will end next month when he leads his party into the swamp of reactionary politics.
After the European elections, British Conservatives will leave the company of Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Fredrik Reinfeldt and the other moderate centre-right leaders who gather under the banner of European People’s party. Although they share reasonable conservative desires for lower taxes and sound finance, Cameron cannot stick with them because they also believe in a federal Europe. The Tories will ally instead with the proudly ignorant parties of eastern Europe. Know-nothing chauvinism, sexual and religious prejudices, and conspiracy theories from Europe’s dark heart motivate them, but they are against federalism and that is all that matters to Cameron.
Already, we have had the spectacle of the “decontaminated” Conservative party courting the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched on 16 March in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS. In Warsaw, the Tories are as keen to woo the Polish Law and Justice party whose leading figures have variously opined that Obama was the “black messiah of the new left” whose victory marked the “end of the civilisation of the white man” and that “homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilisation”.
In an effort to hold on to its thankfully falling vote, Law and Justice is backing candidates who once stood for the League of Polish Families, an ultra-religious party which combines authoritarianism and Catholicism and announces its admiration for the efforts General Franco made to “thwart communism” and preserve “traditional values”.
At least Cameron’s Czech allies in the Civic Democrats avoid the old hatreds of Jews, gays and blacks, but Vaclav Klaus, its leader and the Czech president, has found that a new spectre is haunting Europe: environmentalism. “Global warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so,” he explained.
I think it is fair to say that none of the Tories’ new friends would describe themselves as “compassionate conservatives” or “metrosexuals”. Cameron is going a long way from the organic restaurants of Notting Hill, and further still from a clear-headed understanding of the national interest.
The simple idea to keep in mind as you wade into the complexities of European politics is that the EU is closer to a diplomatic alliance than the “superstate” of Eurosceptic nightmare. Governments pursue political and national interests by forming coalitions with like-minded parties and states. Cameron is proposing to remove himself from the table, leave Britain’s best cards behind and run off to the fringe. When Merkel and other centre-right leaders discuss tactics and priorities before meetings of the European Council, they will exclude Cameron.
On the next rung down, when continental conservative ministers do the same before meetings on trade and foreign affairs, they will exclude ministers from the new Tory government. As isolated will be Conservative members of the European Parliament, who will make the journey from influence to irrelevance overnight. In the best diplomatic language he can muster in the circumstances, Hans-Gert Pöttering, the conservative president of the European Parliament, tells the Observer today that Cameron is cutting the British Tories off from their “friends in the mainstream”. But maybe they don’t want to be friends with the European mainstream.
I don’t want to mock the green and gay sides of the new Conservatives. They are their most attractive features. Cameron and his supporters give every appearance of being open and modern men and women with no connection to the politics of Blut und Boden. In my experience, however, their tolerant inclinations vanish as soon as you raise the European question. Nick Clegg is running an effective Liberal Democrat campaign by arguing that so instinctive is Tory antipathy that Cameron would rather be soft on crime than friends with European allies, who are – and very soon into a Cameron administration this may become significant – Nato allies as well.
The Europol police agency has helped break up paedophile rings in the UK, Clegg says. The European arrest warrant allowed the fast-track deportation to Britain of Hussain Osman who had fled to Rome after trying to blow up a tube station. Ordinarily, Tories are against paedophilia and terrorism, but the “Euro” prefix is enough to make them damn both the agency and arrest warrant.
Put like this, Cameron’s opposition sounds as fanatical as that of believers in the Latvian fatherland or a Catholic Poland cleansed of the corruptions of modernity. Yet when you look for Conservative arguments against the EU, you find not fervour but silence. Say what you will about Charles Moore, Peter Lilley and the older generation of Eurosceptics, but they knew the EU treaties backwards and put the case against on every available platform. By contrast, Cameron never talks about Europe.
“If he could press a button and make it go away, he would,” a Eurosceptic thinker explained. “He would much rather concentrate on other things.”
He will be lucky if he can. If the rest of Europe has not fully ratified the Lisbon Treaty by the time he takes power, his activists will make him honour his promise to hold a referendum. Even if the treaty has been ratified, they may force a referendum on him anyway. Meanwhile, his marriages of convenience with sectarians are putting him beyond the pale of respectable European society. With Britain sidelined, Franco-German domination of the Continent will increase and, as it does, it will heighten resentment in a Tory party, whose body language all but screams that it would rather die than co-operate.
Britain has three coherent European policies: to leave (Ukip); to go further in (the Liberal Democrats); and to co-operate but remain aloof from full integration (the Major, Blair and Brown administrations). Cameron lacks the courage to choose any of the above and his indecision will produce a crisis. George W Bush came to power in 2001 determined to keep America out of foreign entanglements. He ended up at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. David Cameron will come to power determined not to be troubled by Europe, but Europe will most certainly trouble him.Author : eurorealist