Those proposing EU 'reform' must put up or shut up
From Brother Ivo:
On Sunday His Grace identified Lord Howe as 'unhelpful' to the Prime Minister, through a combination of abuse of opponents and a slavish commitment to an institution that many on his own side recognise as deeply flawed and desperately in need of reform for the sake of those wishing to remain within it.
As that post was being offered, Lord Mandelson was being interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show where he did his best to be avuncular and wise, assuring the interviewer, that he had been a European Trade Commissioner, and nobody needed to tell him about the institutional failings that needs to be addressed.
Unfortunately, he did not go on to share with us what those problems and necessary reforms might be, and neither, sadly, did Mr Vine press him to explain to the nation what he had in mind.
Herein lies a deep flaw at the heart of the Europhile case.
Brother Ivo often observes that it is one's best friends who are willing to tell us the hardest truths, and may God bless those who love us enough to reprove us, not in anger, but with wisdom and true pastoral care.
If the big beasts of yesteryear who have sustained the Pro-European dream for the past half century know these necessary truths, the identification of which are needed to make the Euro-Leviathan leaner and more fit for purpose, why are they being so reticent about making these helpful suggestions more widely known so that confidence in the EU may be more widely developed?
Brother Ivo has heard - but does not know if it be true - that former servants of the EU risk their pensions if they use their insider knowledge to bite the hand that feeds them. If that is true, then it gives us all the more cause for suspicion when we hear from the likes if Lords Mandelson and Patten. If not, it serves only to show how widespread is the suspicion of an institution that has consistently failed to deliver properly-audited accounts for decades. They need to re-establish their credibility if they seek to be taken seriously in this debate.
Whatever one's views on the ultimate fate of the UK within the EU, we know that it delivers crony capitalism in copious quantities, most recently illustrated by the plans to require restaurants to serve olive oil only in designated and marked containers.
Such nonsense is not of the Euro-sceptics' making, though they immediately see the fruits of industrial manufacturers' lobbying to the detriment of the quality small artisanal producer. Lords Howe, Patten and Mandelson have to engage seriously with how and why this kind of nonsense can happen and how it is to be stopped.
If the erstwhile great-and-the-good seek to preserve the UK within the EU, they need to do more than stand on their dignity and past reputations. They need to offer us analysis and substance. With Lord Lawson characteristically setting out his reasons for changing his mind in these matters, he implicitly challenges his colleagues to 'show their workings'.
There are some who believe and assert that necessary and helpful change is both identifiable and deliverable. If so, they have a duty to offer a comprehensive critique. If Lord Mandelson 'knows' what needs to be done, let him tell the Prime Minister - and us - in plain terms. Not to do so is a betrayal of the cause he purports to be able to sustain.
It was Lord Howe who famously likened Margaret Thatcher to the cricket captain sending his batsman out having broken his bat in advance. He and others are now sending David Cameron in to bat without any bat all.
If these grandees know how to end the nonsense, make the EU honest, and clip the wings of the proud, over-mighty and corrupt, let them help Mr Cameron with a comprehensive programme which he can use as his negotiation checklist as he enters discussion.
If they cannot or will not do this, then a little less patronising rhetoric would be welcome.
(Posted by Brother Ivo)