Gordon Brown manages to make the matter of signing the EU Reform Treaty a national disgrace, so what are the reactions? The eurosceptic papers unsurprisingly whine about signing away sovereignty (good piece from Political Betting). William Hague has a field day, accusing Brown of being rude and at the same time signing up to the Treaty. More EU favourable papers like The Guardian publish leaders admonishing Brown, and rather polite comments urging him to do more.
So what about the blogs? Iain Dale chips in with criticisms along the lines of Hague’s and a similar line is taken on Conservative Home. There’s nothing on Lib Dem Voice or Labour Home about the issue, and one solitary post (other than mine) on Bloggers4Labour – from ‘Could Have Been A Contender’ who rails that pro-Europeans are incapable of putting forward a case for the EU any longer. Beyond the party political partisan blogs, Gulf Stream Blues has a good piece, as does Jean Quatremer (in French). Richard Corbett MEP‘s reaction is not surprising from him – he has nothing on his blog about the signing of the Treaty at all, which I read as demonstrating he probably dislikes what Brown has been doing but he’s too much of a smooth politican to dare say anything.
Yet let’s look a little wider for a moment… As I have argued before there’s quite a community of people that blog about EU affairs. But what about within UK political parties? Eurosceptics of varying degrees are well represented (Dale and other moderates, and rabid sceptics like EU Referendum). On the Labour side there’s basically nothing – this blog is practically the only one that consistently writes about Britain’s relations with the EU from a critical yet pro-EU perspective. There must be other Labour bloggers that care about these issues, but – rather than just be concerned that nothing is being done (see Could Have Been A Contender) – why not try to address the issue and write some decent content? I’m not a Labour blogger ostrich with my head in the sand about these issues – it’s time others were more up front and honest too.
[UPDATE – 14.12.07, 1830]
ConservativeHome has picked up on this entry in its Latest News & Blogs section, which also follows a trend – a previous post that I wrote, speculating on the future UK European Commissioner, made Devil’s Kitchen, Liberal England and Mark Wadsworth react, and there was nothing from the Labour side. I’m not setting out to cause a fight, but manage to provoke the other side anyway, whereas I would far prefer it if I managed to get Labour folks thinking a bit…
[UPDATE – 15.12.07]
Seems I have been too hard on Corbett – in a post yesterday he says it was a ‘pity’ that Brown’s late arrival allowed eurosceptic newspapers to write about how Britain is marginalized. Ever the smooth operator when it comes to Labour matters on his blog.
John Somer, you remind me of sayings from the heady times of the British Empire (and later Commonwealth) that Britain is with Europe, not of Europe.
A fact, often attested to, is that the UK has a superb diplomatic machinery within the EU (Council). Alas, it is put more to the use of defeating the purposes of integration than to make it work and advance.
Britain is not “marginalized”, it has marginalized itself, in part because of the euroseptics (that’s the proper spelling….) and because it still thinks that the Atlantic is narrower than the Channel. You yourself, John, are guilty of the same faulty vision when you speak of he “UK’s relations with the EU”, thus implying that the UK is out of the EU and has diplomatic relations with it.
It is like this with most of the big issues, or any of the issues where Labour is unpopular.
Look at Labour Home, supposedly the voice of the grassroots. It’s biggest story today is that the Tory vote declined in a council by-election in Bermondsey. Cheering for them, but not exactly a top news story anywhere else.
I suppose the reason is that the grassroots are worried that if anyone barring the usual suspects speaks out of line, it’ll be picked up as “Labour division”.
Of course Conservative Home just takes it to the other extreme, and is immensely damaging to the Tories, so probably acts as a deterrent to the left rather than something to copy.
I’m with Ralph G. on this. If Brownite Labour is going to be this petty on Europe, genuine Europhiles like Jon need to think about whether Labour is the right vehicle for them.
I can actually foresee the LP dying under Brown, in a way I couldn’t, oddly, with Blair.
Jon, a few additional thoughts.
Perhaps you could try to think out of the box, i.e. connect with PES activists not only inside Britain, if you want to find a community based on party affiliation. The EP manifesto 2009 is being debated.
Another option could be to decide that you are a constructive member of the European public sphere, who conveniently happens to write in English.
Both options would liberate you from the British Labour conundrum without making your blog entries less interesting for your readers in that category.
Labour are split from top to bottom on Europe. With the few remaining EUdaphiles in the Conservatives such as Quentin Davies defecting to Labour or retiring, the Conservatives are becoming a unified eurosceptic force at the same moment Labour are getting close to fracturing.
Even former EUdaphile Heseltine is advocating withholding our budgetary contribution.
Labour MPs just keep quiet apart from Gisella Stuart and Austin Mitchell. The rest are scared of discussing the topic at all, leaving Cameron an open goal.
Ralf: You’re absolutely right. When returning from negotiations on the Reform Treaty, Labour was worst at playing the game of “We’ve saved Britain from these nasty foreigners” – which is essentially the message that comes out when banging on about ‘red lines’.
When it comes to being enthused about politics, I am more so by European Politics (e,g, the EP) as that’s closer to consensus and doing what’s best for the people than UK politics which is based on spite, destroying opponents and each party only being interested in power.
Jon, you have every right to yearn for more and better Labour blogging on the European Union.
For me, party politics is not the crucial issue, but the future of Europe. British public discourse on the EU is a baffling experience for an outsider: vitriolic, based on shouted exaggerations, uncivilised and uncivil.
When, in addition, government action and parliamentary scrutiny seems to be focused on what the UK has been able to block or opt out of effectively enough, one wonders where the concept of “team player” was invented and what has become of the country since then.
Jon, your blog is commendable, but many more thoghtful British blogs are needed (Labour or not).
I’m a fairly hardened sceptic but I would agree with you that this is what the EU should be for and I suspect most fair-minded sceptics would agree. My difficulty is not just that I think the EU is not fufilling most of those objectives at the moment, but that the way it is set up means that it is unlikely ever to do so.
I’m all for co-operation, but not integration. Integration has not helped to make the EU more democratic nor made it economically more competitive.
The Single Market has added â‚¬200 billion p.a. to the EU’s GDP but the cost of implementing the Single Market’s regulations is, at the Commission’s own admission, â‚¬600 billion p.a: three times as much!
Today’s comment by President Sarkozy sums up for me the EU’s problem with democracy. He says that “Europe was blocked, without knowing how to move forward and we found the solution with this treaty.” It does not seem to bother him that Europe was “blocked” by the voters of France and the Netherlands. That he and other European leaders seem so proud of their sleight of hand in getting this treaty through without consulting voters seems very sad to me.
I don’t mean to carp, but it seems to me that the way the EU is st up presetly means that it is never likely to achieve what we all want it to.
Mine would be ‘The European Union is there to achieve collectively that which could not be achieved by the member countries by themselves’.
@DK: I’m well aware of Nosemonkey’s blog – it’s the only pro-EU UK blog that I regularly read and appreciate. I’ve never fully understood all of Nosemonkey’s positions though – I could not guess who he would vote for in UK politics – that’s why I excluded that blog from what I wrote above as I don’t expect party political positions from him.
@Robert: as concisely as I can manage it… The EU is about guaranteeing peace and stability within Europe, economic cooperation to boost EU countries’ economic growth, and pursuing for social and just globalisation. Now it might not do those things too well presently, but that’s what I want it to be doing.
The (non) response of Richard Corbett doesn’t surprise me. His entries are usually well-written and informative, except when it comes to Labour – when he reverts to sycophantic mode.
I do agree, though, that a lot of the pro-EU blogs rarely have full-on ‘positive case’ stances – most of the time they’re running along behind trying to do damage limitation, being apologetic or dealing with euromyths. In other words, always being on the defensive.
Ask any pro-EU blog the simple question ‘What is the EU for?’ and see how many of them come out with an immediate, concise and positive answer. It would be an instructive test.
“On the Labour side thereâ€™s basically nothing – this blog is practically the only one that consistently writes about Britainâ€™s relations with the EU from a critical yet pro-EU perspective.”
He’s not Labour (or any party), but Nosemonkey at Europhobia (which was always a bizarre name, given his essentially pro-EU position) has been taking that stance for years. I have sparred with him on numerous occasions…
Admittedly, he doesn’t write much now…