On the day that Cameron finally capitulated to the little Englanders, xenophobes and closet racists of the anti-EU movement (within and without the Tory Party), and promised them the “in-out” referendum that they believe will take Britain out once and for all, we examine his stated position – achieving some sort of semi-autonomous EU membership.
The incoherence and sheer pointlessness of Cameron’s stance was excellently explained in a recent Times article by Matthew Parris. Now I am well aware that Parris is a former Tory MP and no friend of the working class. His article is written from a bourgeois perspective that Shiraz Socialist self-evidently does not share. Neverthelss, it’s a brilliant demolition of Cameron’s position and might just give pause for thought to some of those on the “left” who think there’s something “progressive” about campaigning against the EU. The article has been edited by me – JD:
As a hard light shines on the Eurosceptics’ glib prospectus of an association with the EU from which we get all the benefits but none of the costs, the conjecture will be revealed as the Never Never Land it always was.
Consider how easily the case against second-tier membership is made: “I don’t think it’s right”‘ David Cameron said earlier this month, “to aim for a status like Norway or Switzerland, where basically you have to obay the rules of the single market but you don’t have a say over what they are.” This is a strong argument and — just as important — it sounds like a strong argument…
…British Euosceptics believe that our present EU membership imposes big burdens on British business. If that’s true, then seeking a new kind of membership would involve lifting those burdens. And if that’s true, then British business would acquire a significant advantage over its continental competitors. And if that’s what we demand, why won’t the rest of Europe reply that a single market means a level playing field, so we must accept the same rules for our businesses as they impose on theirs?
Ask any fair-minded person to assess the following request: “We British want unimpeded and tariff-free access for our widget exports to your widget-buying customers — but, oh, by the way, we’re not going to impose on our employers the employment laws, the product specifications, the limited working week, the workers’ rights, that you impose on yours.”
We’re on to a loser here. How well I remember, from when I was an MP, the fury of British producers and unions at what they felt was “unfair competition” from abroad. We’d be mad to think that the French (for example) woud resist behaving similarly.
There’s only one possible Eurosceptic answer to this. “In logic,” they could say (and do), “you may be right. But Europe needs access to our market even more than we do theirs. We’d have them over a barrel.”
I don’t quite share that confidence: one should never underestimate people’s propensity to cut off noses to spite faces. But let’s say it’s true, and we really do have continental Europe over a barrel. In which case why mess about with any kind of EU membership at all? We could quit completely and say: “Right: give us access to your market in return for access to ours.”
The problem with the case for joining a European Economic Area-style “second tier” is that it is too strong. If we really do have the clout to name our terms of trade with our European neighbours, we don’t need to be in any club. The case for second-class membership (with burdens and costs) becomes, a fortiori, the case for quitting.
It was instructive to follow online responses recently to a Times report on “second class” EU status. A great many readers took the view that despite that pejorative terminology, associate membership sounded like a helpful suggestion. So, I notice, did the arch-Eurosceptic Tory MP John Redwood in his blog: a response I think he’ll come to revise. The balance of The Daily Telegraph‘s online response was more hostile, a common view being that Britain shouldn’t waste time with second-tier membership, but simply quit. I predict that the bulk of British Eurosceptic opinion will in time swing behind the Telegraph readers’ view.
For that, I predict, will be the final effect of proposals for the middle way of a “trade only” second-class membership. Examined in detail, it will lose its allure. Before the next geneal electon, therefore, the debate will polarise towards a simple choice between staying as a full member and leaving.
The new deal that Mr Cameron negotiates will be prety thin and won’t satisfy or evn calm his anti-European critics. Nevertheless, when e holds his referendum he will win it, so long as Labour, too, recommends acceptance. I honestly don’t know which way I would vote in an in-out referendum.
But Eurosceptics will not accept the result and will switch from having urged the PM to stop ducking a referendum to complaining that he held it too early while the eurozone was in the middle of vast internal changes; and so the referendum result won’t count; it will be only interim.
Which of course will be true. But so long as Germany wants us, we’ll carry on as a full member, grumbling and dragging our feet; and old Eurosceptics will die and new ones will be born. And only this is certain — Mr Cameron’s speech will settle nothing. Hey ho.
-Matthew Parris, The Times, Jan 5, 2012.
From Conservative Home
The Fresh Start Group calls for four “significant” EU treaty revisions. Will Cameron back them on Friday?
By Paul Goodman
The Editors of this site wrote yesterday about David Cameron’s coming EU speech on Friday and what he should say about a referendum.
No less important is what he should say about the repatriation of powers, given that party opinion is coalescing around the option of “Common Market or Out”.
The Daily Telegraph this morning previews today’s launch of the Fresh Start’s “Manifesto for Change. The paper reports that it contains four proposed “significant revisions” of EU treaties:
• The repatriation of all social and employment law, such as the Working Time Directive;
• An opt-out from all existing policing and criminal justice measures;
• An “emergency brake” on any new legislation that affects financial services;
• An end to the European Parliament’s costly monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg.
The Fresh Start document also calls for agriculture, fishing policy and regional policy to be repatriated and makes proposals to limit the free movement of people across the EU.
It’s not “Common Market or out” (Douglas Carswell reminded readers of the Financial Times yesterday of the difference between a common market and the Single Market).
None the less, the proposals are wide-ranging and raise the question of how they would be achieved, given occupied field and the role of the Court. We will find out more later.
William Hague writes a foreword to the document. The Foreign Office’s door is open to Fresh Start – the Foreign Secretary has been hugging the group close – but his words are cautious:
“Many of the proposals are already government policy, some could well become future government or Conservative Party policy and some may require further thought.”
Which raises another question – namely, which idea falls into which category as far as the Governent is concerned. We may discover more on Friday.
George Eustice is quoted as saying that although it’s too early for the Prime Minister to set out proposals for negotiation, the group’s ideas are intended to stimulate debate.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in Europe | Permalink
Jeremy Hunt, the new health secretary allegedly objected (as culture secretary) to the scenes in Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening pageant that celebrated the NHS. The allegation has been made by Labour’s Andy Burnham and I have no way of verifying it. What is a matter of record is that Hunt is listed as one of the co-authors” of the book Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party, which contained the follolwing passage:
“Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of healthcare in Britain, so extending to all the choices currently available only to the minority who opt for private care.”
Also on the record is the fact that in 2007 Hunt signed an early day motion supporting homeopathy. This is pretty close to believing in magic, as Sir John Krebs told the Guardian: “There is overwhelming evidence that homeopathetic medicine is not effective. It would be a real blow for those who want mewdicine to be science-based if the secretary of state were to promote homeopathy because of his personal beliefs.”
The overwhelming, unanswerable case aginst homeopathy is most effectively (and entertainingly) explained to the layperson by Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science blog here and also in his excellent 2008 book of the same name. here’s just a small part of the book’s chapter on homeopathy, dealing with ‘The dilution problem’:
“Most people know that homeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extent that there will be no molecules of it left in the dose you get. What you might not know is just how far these remedies are diluted. The typical homeopathic dilution is 30C: this means that the original substance has been diluted by one drop in a hundred, thirty times over. In the ‘What is homeopathy?’ section on the Society of Homeopath’s website, the single largest organisation for homeopaths in the UK wil tell you that ’30C contains less than one part per million of the original substance.’
“‘Less than one part in a million’ is, I would say, something of an understatement: a 30C homeopathic preperation is a dilution of one in 1 in 100^30, or rather 1 in 10^60, which means a 1 followed by sixty zeroes, or – let’s be absolutely clear – a dilution of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000, or to phrase it in the Society of Homeopaths’ terms, ‘one part per million million million million million million million million million million’. This is definitely ‘less than one part per million of the original substance’.
“For perspective, there are only around 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Imagine a sphere of water with a diameter of 150 million kilometers (the distance from the earth to the sun). It takes light eight minutes to travel. Picture a sphere of water that size, with one molecule of a substance in it: that’s a 30C dilution.”
Is a man who believes in such patent nonsense a fit and proper person to be in charge of the nation’s health?
All the more reason to support this…
This really is a very big deal (adapted from the BBC website):
Labour calls for independent inquiry into Cruddas boast
Labour is demanding an independent inquiry into a Tory treasurer’s boast that large donations to the party could secure access to the prime minister.
Peter Cruddas quit as Tory co-treasurer after his claims, filmed by undercover Sunday Times reporters, were published.
David Cameron has pledged to hold a party inquiry into the claims, which he described as “completely unacceptable”.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said that that was not good enough and a “proper independent investigation” was needed.
Mr Miliband said it would be right for the prime minister to make a statement to Parliament on the issue.
Mr Cruddas was secretly filmed saying that a donation of £250,000 gave “premier league” access to party leaders, including private dinners with Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, and with any feedback on policy shared with Downing Street staff.
Party funding and lobbying can be two of the most toxic areas of modern politics. But when they combine (as in the case of the Cruddas episode) the results can be even more poisonous.
That’s why Cruddas resigned so quickly and politicians on all sides have issued swift and strong condemnation. David Cameron is stamping on any suggestion that the party’s rich friends in finance can buy influence or shape policy.
But it’ll be hard to draw a line under this affair. Labour says questions remain. How many donors have been invited to cosy dinners or drinks in Downing Street and Chequers? Did any of them happen to mention their views on big policy decisions – like the reduction in the 50p tax rate?
A trawl begins today for any evidence that donors shaped policy, and the can of worms that is party funding reform will be opened once again.
He was heard initially saying that it was not possible to buy access to the prime minister.
But he then went on to discuss what access different size donations would get.
He was speaking to the reporters posing as staff from a fake wealth fund based in Liechtenstein who were interested in doing business in the UK.
He told them: “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.”
He said they would be able to ask Mr Cameron “practically any question you want”.
“If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at number 10 – we feed all feedback to the policy committee.”
Mr Miliband told the BBC that the claims were “very disturbing”.
“These allegations can’t be swept under the carpet – there needs to be a proper independent investigation into what influence was sought, what influence was gained and what impact it had,” he said.
“We need to know what happened, who paid money, what interaction there was between the prime minister and the chancellor and the people who paid money.”
“I think people are bound to ask questions about whether policy is being made in the national interest or in relation to the Conservative Party interest,” he said.
Mr Cameron said the incident should not have taken place.
“This is not the way we raise money in the Conservative Party. It shouldn’t have happened.
“It’s quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can’t happen again.”
‘Impression of impropriety’
In his resignation statement, Mr Cruddas said: “I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.”
The Conservative Party currently has several levels of donation, with the top one being the Leader’s Group, where for an annual donation of £50,000 donors can be invited to join Mr Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-Prime Minister’s Questions lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.
Transparency is, the prime minister once said, the best disinfectant. ”
Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said “reform” of funding system was necessary.
He said there was a “perception that people who make large donations – be they wealthy people from the city or trade unions – have influence. They should not have that influence, nor the perception of that influence.”
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Conservative Party would continue to make clear to donors that there was “no question of people being able to influence policy through making donations”.
Mr Cruddas had been involved in fundraising for the Conservative Party since June last year, and took over as the party’s principal fundraiser earlier this month.
Lord Fink will now return as principal treasurer, the party announced on Sunday morning, with Michael Farmer acting as co-treasurer
The anti-EU “left” should read the Daily Mail. I was tempted to go on and write that they might find more in it to agree with than they would expect. But that would be unfair. I suspect they would, in the main, be suitably appalled. By this poll , in Saturday’s Mail, for instance:
Worryingly for Mr Cameron, most of those
polled believe the 81 Eurosceptic MPs who rebelled in the Commons this week are
‘more in tune with Tory voters’ than the Prime Minister.
Three-quarters said rebel MPs were right to
defy his three-line whip. Mr Cameron admitted yesterday that he must ‘work
harder’ to persuade his backbenchers he is on their side.
The Daily Mail has learned that he has ordered
every Whitehall department to draw up a list of powers to be grabbed back from
Right, you Morning Star “lefties”: study that Mail poll, and study it good. Note the areas in which the Mail’s respondents want “powers returned”:
* Immigration (86%)
* Human rights law (71%)
* Employment law (65%)
…and you lot (the idiot-”left” who campaign against EU membership) still think your pathetic little “left” anti-EU campaign(s) can somehow be “progressive”? Wake up, you morons! Sometimes the left has to fight for leadership of public opinion…this is one of those times.
From the borough most sharply affected by the Tories’ removal of school roofs:
I’m delighted to welcome former Deputy Leader of Sandwell Conservatves, Councillor Elaine Costigan to the Labour Party. Elaine says that “Michael Gove made me ashamed to be a Conservative”.
Elaine is a powerful voice for Wednesbury and Sandwell. She’s passionately cares about the future of Sandwell’s children and was rightly appalled by the Coalition government’s callous cuts to Sandwell’s schools. I’m delighted she’s joining Labour and look forward to further discussions with other councillors.
Up and down the country, people are realising that they were hoodwinked by David Cameron and Nick Clegg during the General Election. Whoever wins the Labour leadership election will have to build alliances with members of the other parties who feel betrayed by their political leaders.
From Sandwell MP Tom Watson’s website
You’re probably aware that Conservative high-flier and demon-purge charity campaigner Philippa Stroud failed to win her Tory target seat of Sutton and Cheam in the recent election.
Not to worry! She has been made a special advisor at the DWP.
I look forward to some interesting policy announcements from that government department.
Perhaps long-term jobseekers will need to submit to an exorcism if they are to continue drawing benefit.
Maybe new incapacity benefit claimants will be subject to a medical test involving a ducking stool and a pond.
And I wonder if being demonically possessed means that you count as two people under housing benefit rules?
And you thought the Flexible New Deal was bad!
I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.
- Neil Kinnock, June 1983
Comparing David Cameron to Disraeli, Peter Oborne declared that the new PM has ‘a chance to change Britain, to reshape the political landscape and to turn the Conservatives into the progressive party that New Labour never became.’ His article is indicative of the general impression that Cameron has in some way modernised the Tory Party. Even the perceptive Kammo agreed that ‘he’s completed the task of transforming modern Conservatism and of once again attaining office.’
The argument goes like this. The Conservatives lost two elections that they fought on Daily Mail headlines. Cameron realised this and, as leader, he has tried to reclaim the centre ground from Labour. The easy ride Cameron has had in the media has reinforced the impression that he has indeed made the Conservatives a moderate and reasonable political force. Labour’s cry of ‘same old Tories’ was dismissed as scaremongering from a government scrambling for a propaganda line. A closer examination proves that the image of a Conservative Party at ease with the twenty-first century is just that.
Last week I wrote about Philippa ‘Pray the Gay Away’ Stroud, rightly rejected by the voters of Sutton and Cheam. The blogs and social networking sites hummed with activity when the Observer made this revelation, but no other paper followed it. Twitterers demanded to know why the fact that a prominent Tory candidate tried to exorcise demons from addicts and gay people was met with silence yet when Gordon Brown made a minor gaffe in Rochdale the world seemed to go mad for a second. As Nick Cohen explained, a servile media didn’t want to offend the UK’s new boss.
Yet Stroud is just one visible signifier of the Conservative dark heart. Far from isolating extremists in the Tory Party, Cameron has surrounded himself with them. It’s common yet ignored knowledge that he left the EU’s moderate conservative group to ally with fringe nutters and SS fetishists. The Big Society policy was quickly exposed as the sinister Victorianism that it was. Less attention is paid to his friends in the UK’s Christian right.
Like Islamic Forum Europe, the Christian religious right in this country doesn’t run on its explicit beliefs – it knows voters would reject them. There’s a group called the Christian Legal Centre that generates coverage for high-profile victimology cases like the nurse who wasn’t allowed to wear a crucifix at work. It’s run by Andrea Minichiello Williams, who is also behind Christian Concern for Our Nation, an ally of Tory wingnut Nadine Dorries in her campaign to reduce abortion time limits. According to Sunny Hundal: ‘CCFON isn’t a normal Christian organisation. Williams believes that abortion should be illegal, homosexuality is sinful and the world is 4,000 years old.’
The chairman of the Alpha Course (like Cameron himself, it’s less liberal than it sounds) has given at least £50,000 to the party. Thirty-seven election candidates were members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, set up by the hugely influential Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home. The Christian Legal Centre even works with the Alliance Defence Fund, the US religious right group, which counts Eric Prince, theoconservative founder of mercenary army Blackwater, among its biggest donors. (The clippings on Blackwater don’t do it justice – you have to read Jeremy Scahill’s essential investigation.)
If religious extremism doesn’t particularly bother you, take a look at the political extremism of the Young Britons Foundation, which trains parliamentary activists and whose research director used to be Cameron’s chief of staff. The YBE advocates abolishing the NHS and sends its members to residential camps that include training in sub-machine guns and assault rifles. As Chris Huhne said (this was before the election): ‘The YBF’s tentacles reach deep into the shadow cabinet and show the influence of the extreme anti-NHS, pro-torture, neocon wing of the party.’
And this is the regime that Nick Clegg is propping up. Shameful.