Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stuck on stupid

As the news comes that President Vaclav Klaus has decided not to save the Conservative Party's bacon I find myself inundated with messages from various Conservatives about the pointlessness of having a referendum once the treaty has become law and not slamming stable doors (or, maybe, closing them after all) once the horse has bolted as well as the need to mover forward. Roughly what they say every time and they wonder why they cannot break the 17 point lead towards the third term of a deeply unpopular government.

The Boss has dealt with the issue of symbolism over on EUReferendum and has been following media reactions. Wouldn't catch me doing things like that.

There is also a great deal of hysteria around with people wailing like lost souls in the way they did when I first became involved in euroscepticism over the Maastricht Treaty. For everybody's information, nothing is ever over; this is not the end of the world; the EU is not the Soviet Union and even that was brought down by people refusing to support it any more.

Nor am I particularly impressed by people's snide comments about Klaus's lack of backbone, being a traitor and being paid off. This usually comes from people who have not done anything much in the fight. Let us not forget that President Klaus held out as long as he could. He found himself opposing both elected Houses of the Czech Parliament and by the Constitutional Court. No democratic president can persist in that sort of opposition.

Meanwhile President Obama welcomed the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty in fulsome terms. To be fair to the man (and you do not often hear me say this) he probably has not the faintest idea what he is talking about. The man who maintained that Austrians speak Austrian and his uncle liberated Auschwitz is unlikely to grasp that Europe is not actually a country and never has been.
Are we about to hear from the Conservative eurosceptics who supported him because he was not in favour of European integration? Step forward Daniel Hannan MEP, with whom I had a fierce argument on the eve of the American election last November. McCain has form, he insisted, whereas Obama would see that European integration was not in America's interests. We must support him. Obama, I retorted, will see what the State Department will show him.

The prize for stuck on stupid must go to that Conservative Party front organization, Open Europe. Their press release is so unbelievably silly and ignorant that it deserves quoting in full:

Open Europe calls on Conservatives to pledge a referendum on EU reform

Following President Klaus' signature of the Lisbon Treaty today, Open Europe calls on the British Conservative Party to now pledge to hold a referendum on reform of the European Union.

The potential election of a new Conservative government will coincide with the opening of EU budget negotiations, where discussions will be held about how much each country should pay into the EU over the period 2014 to 2020.

The UK has a veto over these negotiations, and should be prepared to use it to fight
for a package of reforms which must be fleshed out between now and the election.

This Reform Package should be put to the British people in a referendum, with a question along the lines of: "Are you in favour or against withholding agreement to the EU budget until the European Reform Package has been adopted?"

Tomorrow, Open Europe will publish the first in a series of papers looking at which policy areas the Conservatives should propose to tackle, and how. The first paper will look at EU social and employment policy, which currently accounts for a staggering 25 percent of the total cost of regulation in the UK.

Open Europe Director Lorraine Mullally said:

"Now that Lisbon is a done deal, the Conservative Party must pledge to hold a referendum on EU reform. They must not follow Labour and the Lib Dems and go back on their promise to give people a say on the future of the EU."

"The public are crying out to be consulted. The Conservatives should now announce a referendum on a package of meaningful EU reforms which they should draw up carefully over the next weeks and months. Linking their ideas for reform to the EU budget, a Conservative government could be in a strong position to work with key allies in Europe for a better, more democratic and modern European Union."

"A simple 'manifesto mandate' for these things will not be enough - people want
their long overdue say, and the Conservatives should give them it. A
strong mandate from the people will strengthen the Conservatives' position in
Europe when the time comes."

As fine a piece of muddle and prevarication as you would ever find in politics. Let me try to explain though I know that Open Europe is so sure of its position and righteousness that they tend to ignore any factual argument.

You see, we are not in a position to reform the EU. It can be done only by an IGC with a unanimous agreement to re-write the treaties. Do we really think that the other 26 members will simply agree to some ridiculous reform package that Open Europe and the Conservative Party work out between themselves? What happens if they don't? Go on vetoing the Budget? Where does that get us? We still need an IGC for that reform.

Get used to it. This will be the Conservative Party's line. But a few simple questions usually destroy their smugness. It's alwasy a pleasure to see Toryboys get really annoyed because they are in the wrong.

They should all have a look at Der Spiegel, which is gloating over the collapse of all opposition to the Treaty. In the interests of the narrative, though not the truth they tell us that "in the wake of the court's decision in Prague there has been a widespread relief across the Continent". Not precisely. There may have been widespread relief across the chancelleries of the Continent and I am not sure that even that is true. Some people at the top may have realized that there was a reason why this whole process has been so long and so painful and why none of them have dared to ask the people whether they agreed.

I look forward to hearing lamentations very soon about the gap between "Europe" and "the people", which surprisingly enough will have widened in the last eight years.


  1. Dear Helen, I bring you sad news: someone shot Open Europe's fox last night (with the good doctor's gun):


    (See first comment.)

  2. "Manifesto pledges are not subject to legitimate expectations"EVER!