Friday, October 1, 2010

No, I fear this is not the right way either

One of the least likely stories about the young Vladimir Ulyanov (later to be known as Lenin) is that when he, at the age of 17, heard of the execution of his older brother Alexander for the attempted assassination of the Tsar, said "Мы пойдём иным путём" ("We shall take another road"), thus signifying his early understanding of the need for a class revolution as opposed to mere assassination.

There are many things wrong with that tale, dutifully learnt and repeated by every school child within the Communist system, not least the problem of the recipient of the confidence. Lenin's father was dead, his mother in St Petersburg hoping to intercede for her son, his older sister Anna in prison for her marginal involvement in the conspiracy. Possibly he said it to the servants or his younger siblings.

It is, nevertheless, a good story and one I recall every so often, particularly when faced with yet another book, speaker, organization or think-tank that promises to produce ideas for reforming the European Union and setting it on a different path.

Unlike the Boss of EUReferendum I try not to attack a new venture before going to the launch and chatting to people there. Afterwards it is a different tale. So, I went to the launch of New Direction yesterday, held rather grandly (well, it is the Toy Parliament's money, after all) in the Chartered Accountants' Hall in the City.

My intention was to listen to the presentations and ask a few straightforward questions. Well, one would have done. However, once I realized that the guest of honour was going to be Lady Thatcher I knew there would be no questions, let alone answers. She did not speak but spent some time chatting to her admirers and being photographed with them and by them. So, no blame can be attached to her.

I do, however, think that if you are in the business of trying to convince or convert people Liam Fox may not be the best choice for main speaker. Not to put too fine a point on it, the man is dull and verbose. He droned on and on, mentioning that this was "new thinking" and "new ideas" and "new directions" in every sentence. (Well, in every sentence I actually managed to listen to. Someone else told me he switched off after the first two so I did better.) Apparently Europe needs to change directions if it wants to remain of any importance in the globalized world; also we must remember that the best way forward is through national sovereign states so the trend towards integration and centralization must stop; furthermore Europe must spend more on defence if it wants to count in the world (no, don't bother to work that one out); in short, we cannot go on like this and we need new ideas, which, fortunately are going to be provided by the new think-tank which is (as they dutifully point out on their website) largely funded by the Toy Parliament. It was quite a relief when he finished, especially as it was not possible to ask the obvious question: Well, what are you going to DO about it all, Mr Fox?

We had already been informed by Mr Geoffrey Van Orden, President of New Direction that what we needed was fresh thinking and new ideas and wasn't it terrible how much money we had to pay over to the European Union. Anyone would think that if we paid over less the whole idea would become more acceptable. Also, Mr Van Orden informed us, the European Parliament is going to cost more in the coming year than at any time before. Well, I have an answer to that but I doubt if Mr Van Orden will like it.

There is a list of research topics that the New Direction will take on. There is one missing: an analysis of how the European Union is structured and how it legislates. Were they to understand that they might just begin to work out that no amount of so-called new ideas will reform this sclerotic organization. Nor will its direction change just because Mr Van Orden or Mr Fox or Mr Shane Frith says that it would be a good idea.

Мы пойдём иным путём.

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