Wednesday, 23 January 2013

David Cameron, the EU and Conservatism

I listened watched David Cameron talking about Britain and the EU this morning and was most impressed. This will surely go down as a historically significant speech, one that will have far-reaching repercussions within the UK and indeed within Europe.

While fervently wanting the UK to remain firmly within the EU, I am nonplussed by its headlong drive towards Federalism and greater integration; despite the total lack of popular support by any of the peoples of Europe for this. There have been no protests in the streets of Rome, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Warsaw, London or indeed Brussels, calling for a United States of Europe Now. The European Project, which has kept the Continent from warring for many decades, has been driven from the centre, but where it's going today fills many of its citizens with anxiety - the least of which is the lack of consultation about it.

There is, however, a commonly-held view across the 27 (soon to be 28) Member States that being out on one's own in a globalising world is extremely risky, and that it is better to be in than out. But in what, precisely? I agree with Mr Cameron that the EU should be more of a network than a bloc.

Mr Cameron's speech was brilliantly targeted at three groups: at home, Labour (will they call for a referendum on the EU? If they say no, they will appear undemocratic) and UKIP (outflanked, they will lose support in the polls) and in Brussels (the thought of a British exit worries everyone save the French), as the threat should push other EU governments to steer a less integrationist path.

How did it go down? The bellwether of opinion on this one, I believe, is the Daily Telegraph, upmarket of the loathsome Daily Mail yet also the voice of Middle England. Its story on Mr Cameron's speech attracted well over 800 comments, the lion's share being eurosceptic, hostile to the prime minister, to the coalition government, to the Tory party - and these are not Labour voters.

These are people seeking an extra-dry Conservative Party, the equivalent to the Tea Party movement in the US, people hankering over a return to 1955.

Yet their language, their tone, is not deferential, not gentlemanly, but aggressively radical. The Death of Deference (what's that in Polish?) has led to a situation where the same small 'c' conservatives who are railing against modernity and all its flaws are using decidedly un-conservative language.

Mr Cameron position is a difficult one to explain and defend; a middle road between isolationist Little-Englandism and full-on Euro-integrationism. Which opens him to attacks from both sides. And this means having to construct clever, nuanced arguments to fend off one side without the other side turning it against him.

I predict that today's speech will have the following three effects: 1) a weakening in support for the Labour Party in the polls, 2) a weakening in support for UKIP in the polls, and 3) increased support for Britain's position on the EU from other Member States.

I shall certainly be actively campaigning for the UK to stay as one country and within the EU - a family of nations more competitive, less bureaucratic and more flexible than it is today.

And its politicians - more accountable. What's 'accountability' in Polish? Literally, it should be 'rozliczalność' - but there's no such word. Maybe because the Polish language lacks a word for 'accountability', its politicians often behave as though they are not!

David Cameron's historic speech coincides with Moni's 20th birthday (Happy Birthday, Darling Daughter!)

This time last year:
Citizen Action Against Rat Runners

This time two years ago:
Moni at 18 (and 18 months)

This time three years ago:
Building the S79 - Sasanki-Węzeł Lotnisko, midwinter

This time four years ago:
My return to skiing after an eight-year break

This time five years ago:
Moni's 15th birthday


Anonymous said...

The Telegraph has never been the voice of middle England, Senior and Middle Managers of England perhaps.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anon

In which case my argument is even stronger! Senior and middle managers should not resort to ad-hominem attacks on their political leaders - rather to attack their policies.

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately Internet comments on politics in the UK is now completely polarised as per politics in the US whereby anyone who suggests anything from a party you did not vote for is the worst idea ever.

I did not vote for the Conservative Party and never will but some of their ideas are fine in my book, just like some of the ideas from the other parties are crap!

Reasoned debate and the Internet do not go together.


Anonymous said...

Both "responsibility" and "accountability" translate to Polish as "odpowiedzialność", but the meaning is wider in Polish, and depends on the context.

AndrzejK said...

The missing Polish word is "rozliczalność" as indeed is a whole raft of accounting and accountability terminology. Not surprising in a way as the Polish szlachta with its liberum veto and prywata never was accountable to anyone.