Friday, 2 October 2009

Tories Drop EU Referendum Pledge

The subject of the EU is traditionally one of the most controversial in British politics, and so it proves again as the Conservatives have sneakily dropped their much-hyped promise to offer a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Well, that's not quite fair because they haven't, at least they are trying to avoid talking about their position on the subject as they try to hoover up anti-EU votes under pressure from right-wingers in Ukip.

For my own part I think this highlights the not inconsiderable hypocrisy on their party and their major internal divisions on the subject.

Many tory-voting business leaders trade heavily with the continent and recognise the value of having a democratic forum to regulate relations with our partners and neighbours, but they also depend heavily on cultivating a UK-first attitude within their base.

Now I'm a Euro-realist. I love the place in all it's diversity and I think we benefit hugely from integration, despite the massive frustrations caused by the imperfections inherent in creating a system of politics which stretches across half-a-billion people with separate competitive histories.

But the simple fact remains that the institutions of the EU are the product of peaceful relations founded after centuries of rivalry, war and oppression by people on all sides. Having a functioning union is what prevents us from returning to those darker days.

It is the same with every country: unity brings peace, disunity brings war.

And all stable countries are to greater or lesser extents popular unions. The United States of America and Mexico, the Bunds of Germany and Austria, the union of France and the united provinces of the Netherlands. In the cases of former British colonies such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and India they have federal syatems of government, while even in places such as Scandinavia a sense of common heritage and unity is retained despite their division into separate monarchies. The Russian Confederation is another peculiar example.

So ultimately the Conservatives have conceded to the inevitable - their policy was unsustainable and they are fighting the tide of history, even while trying to surf on the appearance of a wave of popular opinion.

Making a big song and dance about the individual niggles is not the way to express a coherent political philosophy, and it is not the correct manner to address business.

So while I'm happy the tories have given an indication that they are waking up to reality I'm more convinced than ever that their sickly appeal to conventional orthodoxy is not the attitude Ii demand of leadership.

One thing I am sure of - when we say it is each man for himself, women and children get trampled on.

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