The UK’s Toxic Discourse; Miliband and Euro-Defence

Richard Corbett MEP points to a bizarre feature of British debate on Europe; there is absolutely no certainty as to how anything will be reported or received. David Miliband recently gave a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges in which he stated that it was undesirable that the EU states’ deployable armed forces amounted to less than 100,000 men out of something like two million under arms in total.

(It’s a pity he still won’t answer the damn questions about Iraqi employees.)

The Daily Express, reliably insane under the ownership of porn king Richard Desmond, claimed he had a “project for the Islamification of Europe”. This is because he thinks the single market should eventually include North Africa; apparently the Express has forgotten that it demanded the UK should impose restrictions on the movement of labour, like France and Germany did, when Poland joined the EU.

The Daily Mail thought he was planning a “new EU empire”. The Independent and sometimes the Guardian thought he was diminishing the EU; the Guardian also separately praised the speech, thus scooping the pot for consistency.

What is this accusation of “diminishing” the EU (which Nosemonkey also bought into) based on? Well, it’s not the EU’s defence policy he was criticising, more the fact there isn’t more of one. And the most quoted sentence was that “Europe will be less important in 2050 than it was in 1950” – everyone seems to have read this as Euro-bashing.

However, how could it possibly not be true, given that by then India, China, and probably Brazil will be major world powers? Unless you’re expecting the United States to collapse, the EU will be one among many powers; rather than one of the three world industrial bases Harry Truman spoke of in the 1940s.

Meanwhile, there is real progress being made; when HMS Illustrious does the Royal Navy’s next eastern deployment she may have Italian or Spanish Harrier AV8B aircraft aboard. Granted this tells us more about the ragged state of the British armed forces, but it’s a start; although what the Spanish government will make of the following proposal is anyone’s guess:

The Royal Navy continues to study the idea of making Gibraltar the home of one of the new aircraft carriers.

Plans for a carrier base have been in development for several years. The idea would make Gibraltar home to one of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers along with the support fleet that accompanies it.

Euroscepticism does not get you elected

Jamie Kenny and Nosemonkey wonder why Labour is pro-EU. Enlarging on this post a little, I think it’s worth looking at some data. I suspect the data support that post. For example, despite all the bashing, a solid majority supports EU membership and has done consistently over time.

Further, the public does not worry very much about Europe; some 4 per cent according to a recent poll. However, this is historically low; in 1997 that figure stood at 43 per cent, and it was around 25 per cent during William Hague’s ferociously Eurosceptic 2001 election campaign.

But it’s not enough to say that the British simply don’t care, and that Euroscepticism is latent until activated by shouting sufficiently. 1997 was the election when John Major’s campaign ran huge posters of Tony Blair as a poodle on Helmut Kohl’s knee; and it wasn’t a great year for Eurosceptic Tories, was it? Of course there are confounding factors. Euroscepticism in 1997 involved either voting for the proto-UKIP Referendum party or a Conservative party as popular as nuclear waste; probably the issue was buried under the Labour landslide in places.

The principle, however, holds; nobody gets elected in Britain by being Eurosceptic. There are no votes in it; in a sense, Euroscepticism is a luxury. If you are actually struggling for office, you can’t be a true believer in it because you’ll have to take responsibility for it, and anyway, you have more productive things to do; if you have a safe Conservative seat, though, you are set for life and therefore free to spout any old tripe. The costs are minimal, and the benefits in terms of social approval in the kind of circles safe Tory MPs respect, considerable.

The same goes for the Eurosceptic backers, a small group of rich property tycoons (mostly – there are notably few industrialists) who amuse themselves by throwing money at politicians they like. As Winston Churchill said about small countries who insisted on proliferating battleships before the first world war, it is sport to them, it is death to us.