Sunday, October 21, 2007

Europe: A Democratic Social and Con-Federal Europe?

Harry Barnes makes a clear argument for having a referendum and for voting yes in it. Bob Piper meanwhile wonders at the duplicity and triplicity of the Tories who are now calling for a referendum, having always opposed the same opportunity on far greater changes.

I would agree that referenda on all these things would be desirable and I may differ from Harry and Bob in thinking it should have been yes, yes, yes, and now yes. Though I think they're yes men now? Harry certainly is.

But I also differ I think in feeling that while desirable this is not politically necessary or, to be blunt, worth the risk.

Because these disgraceful Tories have denied the country plebiscites in the past if we were to have one now it would clearly NOT be confined in scope in the voters' minds to this amending treaty.

It would not be YES, taken together the changes in this particular amending treaty are satisfactory, or NO, taken together the changes in this particular amending treaty are unsatisfactory.

Insofar as it was about this treaty at all it would turn into a battle over a handful of cherry picked clauses. Without reference to the concessions gained in quid quo pros as these were conceded.

But more than this any referendum now would be about all kinds of spurious side issues, mass media myths and underlying issues of nationalism, identity, jingoism and hatred for the other. It'll be things like:

- SAVE THE POUND (sterling) "Sterling" incidentally is from the Old French esterlin transformed to stiere in Old English (strong, firm, immovable). Wiki.

- SAVE THE POUND (avoirdupois) If the word avoirdupois sounds a bit foreign too it is from French and Middle English (Anglo-French) avoir de pois, "goods of weight" or "goods sold by weight". Wiki.

- SAVE THE BENT BANANA, ERRATIC CUCUMBER and THE BARMAID's DECOLLETAGE (oo-la-la) All those standard EU Bureaucracy Myths and Cliches will simply come home to roost.

- VOTE FOR A FREE EUROPE Basically a charlatan alternative constitution with anti-Europe agenda based here.

- FOR ENGLAND AND ST GEORGE The patron saint of Aragón, Canada, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Russia, and Palestine, as well as the cities of Genoa,Beirut, Ljubljana, Freiburg and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organisations and disease sufferers. Wiki.

And this is before we get to "French Farmers are lazy paysans", "Greedy Germans hog the sun loungers", "Up yours Delors", "All right Jacques" and all the rest of the painful tossery that our Tory friends relish so much.

We are a mile from the beach as we swim across the channel. Twenty seven national flags adorn our swimming caps with some joining the event at different times. The Tories now wish us to stop swimming and tread water while there is a vote at home. And presumably turn round and return arduously to shore if that vote is NON.

Forget it. Let's get ashore and enjoy some toasted "emulsified high-fat offal tube" sandwiches. The European Union on average scarcely makes the top ten of people's political concerns.

If like we Irish we British were experienced in this referenda lark we'd have already voted on all the baggage and we'd keep our eye on the ball. As it is we can - like 25 other nations - do without this distraction.


Harry Barnes said...

If we do away with voting because many people will vote for stupid reasons, we will have to say goodbye to democracy altogether. It is the job of those who feel they are talking sense to try to influence the rest. There is no other democratic way.

Chris Paul said...

I agree in principle with the idea of a referendum on Europe. But I think the Tories left the stable door open long ago.

And I think that whereas in most elections we can overcome much of the stupidity and get a result that does not mean the sky falls on our head this thing is so far down people's priority list that the distracting effort of getting them to assimilate enough information to secure a sensible result is probably beyond us. Gargantuan and probably futile.

What are the NO side - particularly the Tories - actually proposing if they win? What would they replace this amending treaty with? Today's Guardian suggests Hague at least realises it is not in Britain's interest to pull out as Cash and Redwood might desire.