Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not so much died as was never born

There is a good deal of excitement on certain forums or fora (take your pick, they are both correct) about this article by Iain Martin in the Wall Street Journal. Mr Martin is the Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe and used to be all sorts of things in the Telegraph group. In other words, he ought to know about British politics. When it comes to the title of his piece: "Strange death of Cameron's Euroskepticism" one could argue that the more accurate one of "Euroskeptic critics of Cameron are proved right" does not have quite the same zing to it.

To start off, he lists all the things that were going to happen according to "the widely accepted wisdom". Interestingly enough, they were all things that this blog and EUReferendum dismissed as so much froth and got a fair bit of abuse for. You'll see, our abusers, said, Cameron in Number 10 will be the best thing for Britain and the eurosceptics. To some extent, the second part of that is true: Cameron in Number 10 has made ever more eurosceptics realize that they cannot ever rely on the Conservatives and that is a good thing. In the same way, President Obama and House Leader Pelosi have been a good thing for the right in the United States.

Mr Martin lists all the things that were going to happen: troubles with the EU, fraught relations with Sarkozy and Merkel, an explosion of opposition to further integration. Notice that even now Mr Martin cannot give any kind of definite ideas as to what the Boy-King was going to do in the EU. In any case:
Absolutely none of this has happened. Why?

Almost unnoticed, his MPs have voted for a list of measures that would a few years ago have triggered full-scale Tory war. There was the expansion of justice and home-affairs powers, involving the extension of the so-called European arrest warrant. The European External Action Service—or EU diplomatic service—was nodded through. New regulations for the City of London require the establishment of three pan-European supervisory bodies. This was accepted by the Treasury and if there were protests from the Conservative benches they didn't make much noise. A higher budget for the EU has also been approved.
Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. Well, why?
Ask senior Conservatives about all this and they point to the coalition with the Liberal Democrats, enthusiasts for integration. It necessitates compromise.

But that is the myth designed to make Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg feel good. Mr. Cameron had decided long before he failed to win an overall majority at the general election that he was not going to die in a ditch over Europe. He prepared accordingly, removing his commitment to a referendum on the Lisbon treaty on the grounds that it was too late and would look ridiculous.

Mr. Cameron also put in a lot of effort into wooing Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy ahead of the election, reassuring them that he would be a good member of the European leaders' club. This work has continued since he took office.

He is aided by having William Hague at the Foreign Office. One of the most enduring myths of public life in Britain is that of Mr. Hague as Euroskeptic. He was once so minded, when he lost the 2001 election heavily pledging to "Save the Pound." Since then he has kept the reputation while moving steadily onto mainstream establishment territory. As a fellow Conservative puts it: "William has a couple of years ahead of him doing an agreeable job, and then a lifetime of book signings and profitable speech-making afterwards. He's not going to do anything confrontational that puts all that at risk."
True enough except for one thing: neither the Boy-King nor the disaster we call the Foreign Secretary are all that pragmatic. Mr Martin is still trying to be nice to them and showing them to be a lot smarter than they are. In actual fact, Cameron is a europhiliac as we have known for a long time and Hague does not exactly know which way is up. [OK, stop sniggering at the back.]

Nor do I exactly agree with Mr Martin that the scene is tranquil and everything in the garden is coming out roses because the old Tory civil wars over the EU have died. Mr Martin does not seem to realize that those promises of strong euroscepticism and standing up for Britain's interests that he and his media colleagues produced before the election are likely to backfire as supporters of the party (not exactly an overwhelmingly large proportion of the population) and people who are a little bemused as to why politicians keep not being able to see the problems turn on Cameron.

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