Monday, 15 March 2010
It’s old news now but I was truly impressed by Nigel Farage’s broadside against Gordon Brown in the European Parliament, a video of which was posted on another website I belong to recently. It’s the first time I’ve heard that particular speech, and only the second of Farage’s that I have heard after his onslaught against Herman Rumpy Pumpy, the laughable Euro president. It came after Brown delivered his own dead statement, saying that none but those on the political extreme would question that Europeans are stronger together and safer together than apart.
Well, I’ve never thought of myself as being on the political extreme, but I would challenge that contention, and challenge it vigorously. No matter; let that pass. What is important was the way in which Farage took Brown apart while the benighted man tried to retain that bizarre frozen smile on his face. Farage is quite right; Brown is popular in Europe for forcing the Lisbon Treaty through Parliament in defiance of a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum. It was indeed arrant knavery, a devaluation of democracy.
Devaluation of democracy is rather what the European Union is all about. More specifically, I think the Labour government deliberately added to this process; that it never had any intention of holding a referendum on the Constitution or Treaty, no matter the manifesto window dressing, because it knew the British people would never vote yes, no matter how the deal was cut up and packaged.
The British are not like the Irish, saying no one moment, yes the next. The British people cannot be intimidated and blackmailed in the way that the Irish were intimidated and blackmailed by Jose Barrosso, president of the European Commission, with his hints of possible ‘reprisals’ if the second vote did not go the way expected. I’m fully convinced that no matter how many referenda were held in this country the vote would have been no, no and again no.
Farage goes on to make the point in his speech that the whole process of European integration cannot be forced through in defiance of public opinion. If you do this against the will of the people, he told Brown, you are storing up enormous social and political problems for the future.
The last time we in this country had a say on Europe was as long ago as 1975. So, only those in their mid-fifties, only those in my parents’ generation and beyond have ever been allowed to vote on this most fundamental issue, an issue governing major changes in our constitution, major changes in our lives. Even those who did vote in 1975, and voted yes, thought they were voting for membership of a free-trade area, not the monstrosity that has since come to life.
Yes, it’s this disassociation between the institutions of Europe and the people that may very well result in serious constitutional conflicts in time to come. I’ve not long since written an article on the reign of Charles I, a time when government also thought it knew what was best for the people, a time when problems were allowed to fester just below the surface, only to break through eventually in a disastrous Civil War.
I’m not suggesting for a second that the problems of Europe will end in civil war, or any other kind of war, for that matter; but just as there was no divine right of kings in the seventeenth century there is no divine right of prime ministers in the twenty-first century. There was no mandate here, or across most of the rest of Europe, for the Lisbon process. To assume such a mandate simply because a particular party was elected to office is dangerous in the extreme, especially when that same party promised a vote on the subject. It really does confirm that we are living in a post-democratic age.
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.