Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Should Have Left Him On Genesis

Here’s a question: if UKIP is so pathetic, how come so many senior Tories can’t write a note for the milkman without slagging them off? The latest is John Redwood, hitting all the talking points.
I do, however, find it extraordinary that well intentioned Eurosceptics can think the UKIP strategy is a winning one which will make the problem better. The last three General Elections have shown that neither the Referendum Party nor UKIP can win a single Westminster seat, however strongly and fiercely they put their case for disengagement or withdrawal from the European Union.
Yes, and the result of the last six elections have shown that you can vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee, but it makes not the blindest bit of difference. The Tories binned one of their most successful leaders at least partly because of her opposition to federalism. On the other hand, since Redwood mentions them, let’s talk about the Referendum Party. These lunatics were dedicated anti-Europeans, with a wagon load of insane policies, like claiming that there should be a referendum before Britain joined the Euro. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the asylum, and what was proof of lunacy 15 years ago is now policy of all that the three main parties.

See, this is the crucial difference. Even Redwood, one of the more deep thinking of Tory MPs, can't see that party politics is just one small part of the wider cultural context. Yes, the Referendum Party was a failure in so far as it never returned any MPs, but in so far as it turned the need for a referendum on the Euro from an obsession of the fringe to an uncontroversial article of faith, it achieved more than most Tory MPs have ever managed.

As far as actual evidence of Tory euro-scepticism goes, we’re stuck with this sort of thing:
Eurosceptics are often asking me what assurances I can give them that the current leadership of the Conservative Party wants to reverse the slide to federalism. They say they do not hear anything from the Conservatives to give confidence. I find this particularly surprising. I am David Cameron’s advisor on economic policy, chairing his Economic Competitiveness Commission. In 1997 I published “Our Currency, Our Country” (Penguin), exposing the dangers of European Monetary Union and setting out the case against joining the Euro. In 1999 I published “The Death of Britain?”, a strong attack on the constitutional changes being forced through by Labour, preparing the ground for Britain to be a fully integrated part of the EU state. In 2001 I published “Just Say No, One Hundred Arguments Against the Euro”, which ranged more widely, opposing federalist transfers of power generally. In my most recent book, “I Want to Make a Difference, But I Don’t Like Politics”, an integral part of the case I make is that remote, bureaucratic unelected and unaccountable Brussels Government is part of the reason people are so turned off politics.
Actually, John, that’s part of the problem: it’s always you saying it. As with IDS’s advocacy of family values there's more that a hint here of the mad woman in the attic being allowed out to toss some red meat to the base. Not to be rude, but how come we never hear this rhetoric from people with actual careers ? How come none of Mr Camoron’s bright young things ever come out with this stuff ? For a principle that's so important to them, they seem awfully anxious not to talk about it.
Eurosceptic critics of the Conservative Party forget that we have now had three leaders of the party who have all opposed the currency and the EU Constitution in principle.

One question: how come you never hear of anyone opposing slavery ‘in principle’ ? Or cannibalism ? Or human sacrifice ? Exactly. Opposition ‘in principle’ turns out to be a post-dated check drawn on a deeply overdrawn account.

Indeed, the only specific promise the boy king made in his leadership challenge was to withdraw his party's MEPs from the super-federalist EPP grouping. And what happened? Nada. So here's a guy who is going to drive through meaningful reform in, say, the Common Fisheries Policy yet bottles it even with a completely anodyne decision of no real importance outside the symbolic ?
There is no pleasing some people. Every time a leader of the Conservative Party talks about some other subject, Eurosceptic critics shrug their shoulders and say, “There you are. You cannot trust the Conservatives as he has made another speech on something other than Europe”.

And that’s the other thing: Tories keep assuring us that they share the same values as mainstream Conservatives, but then the mask slips and they admit that, really, they think the base is a bunch of crazed obsessives.
Most people going into the local department store do not want to get involved in an argument about the company structure, the corporate governance of the shop, its stock policy, what contractual relationship it has with its suppliers, or what its staffing policy may be. They just wish to see a good choice of goods and will buy the ones that are attractively priced and to their liking. The same is true for many of politics.

Well, it's something of a chicken and egg deal, isn't it? The actual mechanics of the EU are plenty tedious, but with around seventy percent of new British legislation actually originating in Brussels, there’s not much you can do where the EU doesn’t have an influence. If the public haven't yet made that the connection, then that might reflect a political class that would rather talk about almost anything else. Just today, we have this. In so far as this measure involves government foisting one of their traditional responsibilities onto industry, what were talking about is stealth tax. Isn't there anything we need £100,000,000 worth of more than this latest eco-lunacy? Whatever, but it is neither insane nor obsessive to raise the question.

The larger point is that Redwood’s argument doesn’t even make sense. In reality, even UKIP itself isn’t just concerned with the EU these days. Tom sums it up well:
Here's what Mr Redwood doesn't seem to have grasped yet: It's not a question of some minor quibbles that conservatives have, regarding one or two changes in the direction of the C.P.'s policies - it's much more radical than that, and this is, I think, what the Conservative Party has got to start getting its head around: For many disillusioned voters, UKIP is not just seen as a "protest vote" party, or a just-about-plausible temporary alternative; to all intents and purposes The UKIP IS the conservative party, and Mr Cameron's party IS NO LONGER the conservative party in any meaningful sense.

Let’s use an analogy here for Mr Redwood. It’s as if he opened his front door and saw Michael Portillo there on the doorstep, dressed in a thong with big tub of KY jelly claiming he’s ‘looking for the hard right’.

See ? That’s a terrifying mental picture right there, and it would stay so no matter how you change the details. It’s the central concept that’s the problem, not the specifics. That’s how it is with the Tories. It’s not the minutiae of policy; it’s more profound than that. It’s Francis Maude claiming that Lady Thatcher made his brother die from AIDS, Brian Coleman comparing England fans to Nazis and, yes, it’s John Redwood depicting Eurosceptics as deranged monomaniacs.

In so far as the modern Conservative Party is, amongst other things, pro-EU, pro-ecolunacy, high taxing, anti-British and anti-family, how exactly would a Tory government provide anything more meaningful than plausible deniability for the Liberals whose insane ideas the Tories accept wholesale? In short, what is the point of the Tory Party ?

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