Thursday, July 26, 2007

Prime Minister’s Evasions

It is said, and widely observed, that the peoples of the United Kingdom are increasingly disillusioned by the political process, and have little, if any, respect for their political leaders. There is a crisis of confidence in our democracy, and turn-out at elections appears to be in terminal decline. Yesterday’s PMQs perhaps highlights one reason for this. It has ceased to be about holding the government to account, but has become a tedious exercise in duplicity and obfuscation. But tedious for whom? Backbenchers on both sides of the house revel in the theatre, as do political ‘anoraks’ who understand something of the importance of ‘Punch & Judy’ politics which at least gives a semblance of a functioning government and opposition. But for the ordinary voting public, the occasion is both an incomprehensible mystery and a profound disappointment. They want answers, yet all they get is evasion.

When the Leader of the Opposition raised a question about the EU constitution, the mutterings turned to uproar. It appears that the mere mention of ‘Europe’ is sufficient to fan the flames of disapproval, as if merely raising the issue were heresy. One could almost sense the desire to drag Mr Cameron from his pulpit and march him through the streets to his stake, where his body might be consumed by flames. But Mr Cameron’s crime was to ask a very precise question about a very precise subject of not insignificant importance to the governance of this nation:

The Irish Prime Minister says that 90 per cent of the constitution remains in the treaty and the Spanish Foreign Minister says that 98 per cent remains. What figure would the Prime Minister put on it?

The Prime Minister responded:

I see, Mr Speaker, that we are quickly back to the old agenda. I have to tell the Rt. Hon. Gentleman that, if he examines each aspect of the treaty and what we secured in our negotiations, he should support it, not oppose it. The first issue is the charter of rights - t is non-justiciable in British law, so we secured our negotiating objective. The second is justice and home affairs - we have an opt-in, so we secured our negotiating objective. The third issue is security, foreign affairs and defence policy, which remains intergovernmental, so we secured our objective. The fourth is social security - no expenditure affecting us will be made without an emergency brake that we can put on, so we secured our negotiating objective. National security will remain a matter for individual Governments, so we secured our negotiating objective. He might be better off, in the interests of unity within his own party, looking at what the chair of his democracy taskforce said only a few days ago. He said that, as a result of what we had negotiated, a European referendum would be ‘crackpot’, ‘dotty’ and ‘frankly absurd’.

A simple question which used figures and statistics comprehensible to any voter could have been simply answered, but the Prime Minister might as well have responded in Greek. Of course, politicians, the intelligentsia, and readers of Cranmer’s august blog understand the response, but for the ordinary voter-in-the-street the answer was a turn-off. There is little understanding, if any, of how this Westminster cult operates, and its priestly cabal appears alien to those outside.

The facts are clear:

In 2005, the Government promised a referendum on the ‘Constitution for Europe’.

While this has morphed into a ‘treaty’, M. Giscard d'Estaing says that more than 90 per cent of the Constitution remains, and Jean-Luc Dehaene says that 95 per cent remains.

The President of the Commission refers to the EU as ‘the world's first non-imperial empire’.

Labour’s Trade Minister, Lord (Digby) Jones, says: ‘This is a con to call this a treaty; it's not. It's exactly the same: it’s a constitution.’

Both friends and foes of the new 'treaty' deem it to be identical to the previous 'constitution'. Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde says that there is not 'one single difference in legal obligations'.

But the Prime Minister insists that ‘The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them by a single text called “Constitution”, is abandoned.’

It is as though the constant recital of the mantra brings it into being; the words make truth. Democracy has been supplanted by glossocracy: government of the people, by the people and for the people, has been replaced by government of the word, by the word and for the word. And the more meaningless the word, the more useful it is for glossocrats. This is the impulse behind political correctness, which twists and obscures everyday language and terms, and enforces new words by changing the meaning of old ones. This totalitarian pursuit has been most effective in tearing down the religious fabric of society and eliminating the Church and Judeo-Christian thinking as ideological competitors. Thus words become weapons of crowd control, and those who fail to use the acceptable terms or to comply with the new definitions are heretics.

‘Europe’ is one such word. It is now synonymous with enlightenment, progress, optimism, truth, future, and salvation. To be ‘Euro-sceptic’ is to incarnate the antitheses of backward-looking medievalism, lies, and damnation. Yet the ordinary voting public somehow senses that this is not the case. There is something in the psyche of the British people which knows, deep down, that ‘Europe’ is antithetical to ‘British’.

If Mr Cameron were to make a manifesto pledge to a retrospective referendum on this ‘treaty’, there would, for the first time in a generation, be ‘clear blue water’ between the parties on Europe. The ordinary voting public would comprehend this, and be eternally grateful for the choice. Such a pledge would not only rally his own troops, it would bring back the errant UKIP vote by the thousand.

Trust the voting public, Mr Cameron: let the people decide.

10 Comments:

Anonymous B. Taylor said...

Backward-looking medievalism, lies, and damnation? It's funny that such words should be used to describe Euro-sceptics, when that is essentially what the EU stands for anyway!

26 July 2007 at 11:46  
Anonymous Sir HM said...

Your Grace

I think it should be repeatedly put to the Conservatives that if they make such a manifesto pledge as you suggest, then they will overwhelmingly win the next general election.

They might care to run two referenda concurrently:

1. Should we accept this treaty?

2. Should we withdraw entirely from the E.U?

I suggest such a pledge would force Mr. Brown to hold a treaty referendum, in order to head off the Tories (but that would still leave the pledge on an E.U. membership referendum).

After all, there is a precedent for this - 1975 was a retrospective referendum, and carried out by the LABOUR party.

:)

26 July 2007 at 14:19  
Blogger Newmania said...

Yes indeed and even in the regimented ranks of the left there is some discomfort that the electorate has been lied to . I gather Open Europe have obligingly tranlated the beast which is currently only available in French and even intranslation remains impenetrable.

An outright lie from Brwon but qwith the BBC religiously pro Europe one he will get away with

26 July 2007 at 14:27  
Anonymous oiznop said...

It's also important to note that Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party in 1997 forced ALL parties to offer a referendum on the single currency. The pressure on all was too great to resist. It's difficult to argue against a referendum on this treaty if you're a democrat.

PS
Am I right in thinking that Cranmer is Voyager? They both seem to be very knowledgable in the same areas, and Voyager seems wedded to this blog.

26 July 2007 at 14:55  
Blogger Sam Tarran said...

Gordon Brown's answer to Cameron's last supplementary on the European Constitution question was bewilderingly silly. Rather than even bother to counterpose Cameron on the so-called 'benefits' of the 'reform treaty', he just flew into a withering tirade of anti-Tory abuse. It wasn't even an answer, really.

26 July 2007 at 16:54  
Blogger A S Grey said...

I see Gordon Brown has mastered the art that most politicans have mastered: that is, when asked a question, do anything but answer it.

As the British public are becoming gradually increasingly aware of what the EU really means (surrendering sovereignty and the power of a government that we elect to make all our laws spring to mind) I believe that a referendum in, say, a couple of years, would be perfect.

PS Your Grace, I have been reading Owen Chadwick's "The Reformation", and I found the story of your career and moments to your burning at the stake truly remarkable. In particular, your technique of basically saying "In your face!" to the people responsible for your burning was perfectly pitched.

26 July 2007 at 18:34  
Anonymous Sir HM said...

Your Grace.

Have you read Robert Fjordman's latest essay on the E.U?

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2266

26 July 2007 at 19:57  
Anonymous Voyager said...

PS
Am I right in thinking that Cranmer is Voyager? They both seem to be very knowledgEable in the same areas, and Voyager seems wedded to this blog.


I am not Cranmer but he may be me...(delusions are personal and I refuse to share them even when proffered)

I am an exploratory spacecraft from NASA looking for intelligent life in the universe (with limited success I might add)

Whereas to the best of my recollection Cranmer was incinerated on 21 March 1556 and passed from this life but has appeared in electronic form pixelated onto our screens....

Voyager's travels take him to many Blogs it is oiznop I fear who is restricted in scope - if he does travel further affield and meet Voyager I do pass on my best regards from Voyager II

PS. The air is non-existent up here - don't try to follow

27 July 2007 at 08:42  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Now we have dealt with oiznop's red-herring I can address the issue.

What the EU has presented us with is what the Germans call Anschluss the kind of Union presented to Austria in March 1938.

As you recall the Austrian Kanzler Schuschnigg wanted a referendum in the hope that Austrians would reject a German Union but his government was overthrown by the Nazi Party and the plebiscite "harmonised" the result in favour of union with the German Reich.

Funnily enough prior to the Austrian Corporal getting the top job in Berlin, the Austrian Government had been negotiating a Customs Union with Germany in 1931.

So you see how quickly Economic Union can move to Political Union once a politician gets the bit between his teeth....and possibly why Gordon Brown fears a referendum as his government is overthrown and an EU-compliant one holds a "harmonised" referendum showing 99.73% support for the Constitution

27 July 2007 at 08:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vaclav Klaus recommends:
Vote YES to Free Europe Constitution at www.FreeEurope.info

27 July 2007 at 10:26  

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