Friday, September 28, 2007

Praise be for anti-Europeans

I'm rabidly opposed to the use of referendums. And I've very pro-European. And I think that we'd lose any such vote on the alleged EU Constitution. But there's a strong argument for Gordon Brown agreeing to call one.

But first, some background: Tom has found one pronounced example of anti-EU fruitcakery here. Annoyingly, more of the same been deleted by the moderators at the Telegraph under this post by Mick Fealty.

I've spent the last couple of years arguing that hi-traffic blogs should delete comments ruthlessly, leaving only responses with actual content. I know Mick agrees with me (we've jointly-authored a pamphlet to this effect). But it means that all of the CAPS LOCK ON COMMENTS ABOUT HOW THE EU IS AN EVIL CONSPIRACY have been deleted from under that post.


When I worked for an MEP a few years ago, I had a meeting with an anti-flouridisation campaigner who seemed reasonably rational at first, but the more I probed the more that I found that he believed that the Illuminati / Four-by-twos / EU were one-and-the-same thing - and were secretly plotting to poison us all.

It all makes being pro-EU a good deal easier. Your vocal opposition are always at least 50% clinically insane, and for this reason, we will always win arguments that are settled in a rational way (this excludes referendums, obviously).

Having said that, Heath's referendum in the 1970s was partly won because pro-Europeans decided to turn the spotlight on the quality of their opposition. One newspaper cartoon (can't remember where or by who now) showed an anti-EEC march being led by Enoch Powell and Tony Benn with an assortment of Nazis, Communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists (replete with beret, beard and bomb) the IRA and other sections of political life that are an outrage to the British sense of it's anti-political self.

Maybe a referendum is a good idea then? OK, we'd lose. The vote would ...
  • not actually be about whatever it is supposed to be about
  • only a fraction of the people voting would be able to pass a simple test about what the EU is and what it does
  • would allow no weighting for strength of feeling and offer no scope for trade-offs
  • be decided largely by newspaper proprietors who have a massive vested interest in limiting EU broadcast regulations
  • provide xenophobes with an opportunity to place themselves in a position of leadership
... and so on.

But it would absolutely poison the Conservative Party for a few more years. It would provide nutters with the illusion that they've won an argument - and that the Conservative Party is their vehicle for doing it again and again.


Tom said...

I heard a BBC journalist saying on the radio the other week that one good reason for Brown to call an early election is that otherwise the EU constitutional treaty will be going through parliament for the next few months and will dominate the media in the run-up to a spring election.

I'd have thought, actually, that that would be very much to Labour's advantage - spend several months letting the opposition remind the electorate that they're rabidly obsessed with something most people don't really care about that much, and then ask them who they'd prefer to have running the country.

Bob Piper said...

Paulie, I dismiss much of what you write on the grounds that you assert your opinion as if they were facts. However, your case is made all the weaker when the facts happen to be wrong. I think the black stuff has addled your brain.

Which Heath referendum are you referring to?

Incidentally... what is a pro-European? It seems as inane as being an anti-European. Europe is a continent. We live in it. There are good things about it, and bad things about it. Does a pro-European have to be pro not only the good things (french bread, Italian wine, Portugese weather) but also have to be in favour of the bad European things (Italian drivers, the English football team, Dutch cheese)?gnnwnww

Bob Piper said...

Please ignore the last sentence... it is not my growling, simply me typing the verification code in the wrong box.

Paulie said...

Fair enough Bob. I thought - for a second - that you had actually combusted with rage ;-)

Yep. I assert argument as though its fact - I have - in the past - tried to post more even-handed essays and no-one read them. So I pick fights a bit (though - I hope - not without some element of reason).

And 'pro-European' is indeed shorthand, but I don't think many people misunderstand it. But let's see if there IS a referendum on the 'constitution', will those who oppose it upon perfectly reasonable grounds find their argument being dwarfed by the xenophobic rhetoric of the Tories, UKIP and the Murdoch papers?

And yes, you're absolutely correct. Heath took the UK into the EEC and Wilson sought endorsement of his 'new terms' a couple of years later.

I was in short trousers at the time.

Bob Piper said...

Ah, now that's better Paulie. Of course those who oppose the EU on perfectly reasonable grounds will have their arguments dwarfed by the xenophobes... but hey, that's the way democracy works. My objection to the EU has got nothing to do with straight bananas or any of the rest of the Daily Mail crap. My objection is that the EU is fundamentally undemocratic. Yes, I will be lumped in with the Sun readers, but that shouldn't mean I am prepared to sacrifice democratic principles.

If the BNP want to nationalise the railways, I don't oppose the nationalisation just because they have an entirely different reason for proposing it.

Paulie said...

If we both don't find ourselves spending the next month on the knocker Bob, I may even be tempted to write a 'Is the EU undemocratic?' post.

I certainly think that there is nothing undemocratic about the way we got into it, and how our involvement in it has deepened ever since (though we should never have had a referedum in the first place). And I'd also argue that - if your understanding of democracy is the same as mine (pro-representative democracy) that it would be profoundly undemocratic if our relationship with the EU were shaped - or even ended -by a referendum.

Off topic, I'm persuaded by your conviction (on your own blog) that an election is looking very likely now. My bet is that we'll have a brief return to Parliament - but not long enough to give the Tories their EU Consitution debate.

I must admit, I was initially a little gloomy about the prospect (thought it was a bit risky) until it started to look a genuine goer. Then - once I realised that this gave us a chance to get stuck into the Bullingdon Boy sooner rather than later - I'm quite looking forward to it now.