Thursday, 25 October 2007

Politics Decoded: Who cares about the EU anyway? More bottling and the Lib Dem Leaderzzzz

Here is my weekly column, Politics Decoded, that is published every Tuesday at The Wardman Wire:

Side-show Europe

So that was it then. Gordon Brown went to Portugal and sold us all out. Whatever protestations he makes over the semantics of an EU Treaty and EU constitution deep down he knows full well that he has broken an election manifesto promise.

OK, so he may secure his red-lines which are, we are told, drawn in the sand anyway and we will not lose any more sovereignty for another decade – which is just spin filled, meaningless clap trap. We are also told that Parliament will be given loads of time to debate the treaty; but we all know after that there will be no free vote, the Labour backbenchers will bottle it and the Tories will neither have the numbers nor inclination to be able to fight it down. In fact, as soon as they start to debate it all in Parliament, the Tories are very liable to split down Europhile and Europhobe lines. All this party politics at the expense of our sovereignty – yet no one gives a damn. The truth is: Europe is a side show and no one takes it seriously.

The Real issues we care about

Ask the average Joe in the street and they will not be able to name you a single practical implication of the treaty. They may be able to say something about sovereignty and French farmers taking all our money, but that will be the standard response to any question about the EU to a member of the British public. We instinctively hate it yet when it comes to talking about it or it having any impact on our voting intentions we seem to show remarkable ignorance and completely over look the issue. People care about the economy and health care, education and crime – dare I say, they care about personalities. They could not give a damn about Brussels or European elections. That is why Gordon Brown will get away with not holding a referendum. The Euro-steam roller relies on ignorance and apathy and while that is the case it will continue to keep on moving.

Apathy is the EU Politics of choice

Despite my rhetoric of the past few weeks, I am not actually fundamentally anti-Europe. In fact, I am on the whole in favour of a greater European integration. Europe has given us a great many number of benefits over the years. But, I am furiously against the back-door mentality that our government and other European governments have with regard to the EU. If it is all such a good idea, give us a democratic Europe and more immediately give us a vote on whether we want this treaty or not.

Most of all, stopping telling us lies and feeding us spin. Give us the information we need to make up our own minds about the EU. The reason there is such apathy is because no-one from either side of the debate is being straight with us. And it is in the interests of the government to get us interested, because while we may not give a damn about it right now, there is one thing that the European leaders and in particular Gordon Brown are doing and that is giving European politics a very bad name. It is also making Brown look like a sneaky, underhand politician. Yes they will get away with it, but at what cost in the future? One day we may well crack and demand a vote on our membership of the EU - and given the history of its underhand ways who would vote to stay in it? Why rush it through it now at any cost when you could get it right in future?

The media and electorate are watching and it may not be on European policy grounds the electorate turn, but on wider perceptions of unhand and sleazy politics. Brown is banking on us just not caring in a few months – the European way of doing politics it seems; I just hope it doesn’t stay that way.

Bottler Brown

So the latest installment in the Blair story by Dr Anthony Seldon claims that Ed Balls screamed at Mr Brown that he “bottled it” for failing to trigger a revolt against Tony Blair last year. I wonder how many more stories of Brown bottling it will come out over the coming months. Anyone who thought that he would shake the name off may well have to wait some time before the media have had their fun. It is convenient for the sake of the story that he was called a bottler and that does make me suspicious about how much truth there is in the detail – but it certainly shows that the mud is sticking! Dr Seldon’s latest installment looks to be full of fireworks – including the revelation that Ed Balls thought Mr Blair was moron and Brown threatening Blair with the line “If you don’t do what I ask, then there’ll be big trouble.” I bet Blair was shaking with fear as the clunking fist threw that empty promise at him. I wonder if this will tempt Blair to reconsider releasing his diaries before Brown finishes as PM?

Lib Dem Leadership Race

Clegg vs Huhne. Huhne vs. Clegg. Not much else to add – I much preferred the last one! Zzzzzz

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