Archive for juillet, 2013

How to Widen Tory Appeal?

Mercredi, juillet 31st, 2013

Tim Montgomery writing in The Times July 29th 2013, proposes Five Ways to Widen the Tory Appeal and Win the next general election in 2015.

He assumes that by 2015, voters are likely to see the Tories as a party of deficit reduction, welfare control and Euro-scepticism. The party’s 2015 election campaign would then need to reinforce these strengths as well as counter an anticipated Liberal Democrat claim that, but for them in the Coalition, the Tories would have governed for the rich and powerful. Therefore, he suggests the five key pledges below for the next Tory manifesto which must also put concern for the lower-paid at its heart.

1. No more tax on petrol or home energy bills
2. A higher pension and a lower welfare cap.
3. Help for more first-time buyers to own their own home.
4. More apprenticeships for Britain’s youngest workers
5. A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

These pledges are aimed at reaching more voters (e.g. private sector workers, home owners and the grey vote) than at the last election in 2010, while leaving the door open to the possibility of a second Lib-Dem Tory Coalition, instead of driving the Liberal Democrats into the arms of Labour.

The article also identifies other issues on which the Tories could still be vulnerable and which are generally the major concerns of voters such as the Economy, Health, Education and Immigration. However, on the major issue for the Conservative party itself (but not necessarily the voters) of an EU referendum , the author could be considered rather optimistic in suggesting that by 2015 it is likely that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will have matched Mr Cameron’s EU referendum promise to “trust the people”.

The risk still remains of the party descending into civil war over Europe e.g. if Mr Cameron has to compromise on his EU referendum pledge during Coalition negotiations in 2015. The Conservative party also needs to more clearly differentiate itself from UKIP by not linking the issue of uncontrolled immigration to membership of the EU.

Parliamentary Sovereignty versus Popular Referenda - by Michael Webster

Mercredi, juillet 17th, 2013

I have succeeded in trawling through Gregor Dallas’s article below (No effective Debate on Europe in Parliament) on the issue of whether we should leave the European Union, to fish for the numerous very good points he makes in it.

After our recent debate (scroll down to article on Referendums) on issues being decided by Parliament and not being put to referendum, I was very struck by the point he makes that the recently elected Young Turks in the Tory Party who strongly favour our quitting the Union, frustrated by the opposition of their Liberal Party allies, are the very ones pressing for resort to a popular referendum.

If this really is the case, it really is deplorable. They were elected to make decisions and not to delegate them to popular vote.

Michael Webster

No Effective Debate on Europe in Parliament - by Gregor Dallas

Dimanche, juillet 14th, 2013

Last week, 5 July, I watched on BBC Parliament TV the second reading in the House of Commons of James Wharton’s private bill on the European referendum. James Wharton is the youngest Member of Parliament and he argues that he is ‘speaking for millions of people’ who want a vote on British membership of the European Union that is ‘long overdue’. He has the support of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, but this cannot be a government bill because the Liberal Democrat half of the Coalition is dead set against it.
When I switched on the channel I discovered a Chamber that was very empty. Over half of the House was apparently boycotting the proceedings — surely the most significant fact of the debate. But I must admit that the debate was lively and the speakers were wonderfully articulate, which is one of the pleasures of our little parliamentary house. They were, like their leader, mostly young; they are the Eurosceptics brought in on the wake of the Great Expense Scandal Purge of 2009. If ever proof is demanded of the political motive behind that parliamentary upheaval, it is in the opinions expressed by the members here present: the purpose of the purge was to clear the waters of the flotsam caused by all those pro-Europeans floating about. Since the takeover of Conservative Party by the Eurosceptics after John Major fell from power, those pro-Europeans have been a source of considerable annoyance to the party. The purge was largely successful. We now have in Parliament a party that is young and Eurosceptic.
They demand a referendum because they want Britain out of Europe. In their view Britain never wanted anything other than a free trade area — an extension not of the EU but of EFTA, that essentially British institution which you have probably forgotten about; but, yes, this British alternative to the Common Market created in 1960 still exists on the frontiers of the current EU, with all four of its members, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The EU is still growing, despite its economic problems. The lesson of the EFTA debacle was surely that you can’t have a free-trade zone of separate nations without a good dose of politics.
Fifty years later a young generation of Brits — the supporters of this private bill — still hanker after this kind of ‘free-trade area’. They are in revolt against an EU that aims at an ‘ever closer union’, which was in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome of 1957 that created the Common Market. It was still there at the time of Britain’s referendum of 1975. Did the British people misunderstand it? That may be the problem with referendums. At any rate, that hated phrase ‘ever closer union’ was quoted several times in the debate last week. These young members do not want to be ever closer to Europe. They don’t want the flag, the anthem, the parliament, the commission, the ‘politics’ of the EU. Just free trade. But then they don’t want the Euro either. In fact they don’t really want the ‘economics’ of the EU; they are convinced — if you listened to their speeches last week — of British economic superiority.
But the pound is once more in decline, a trend that it has followed since 1947, Britain is still in recession and European productivity has continually outperformed Britain’s for all but the last two years. Furthermore, the British state is facing what could be two imminent simultaneous catastrophes, not only the exit from the European Union but also the break-up of the United Kingdom. Will it only be a rump UK that votes to pull out of the Union?
The tendency not only in Europe but in the world as a whole is towards a greater union of peoples, what we call ‘globalization’. It is likely that South East Asia and Latin America will, in time, move towards greater union. There is no doubt that the EU is setting a trend here, and that includes her currency union which, despite the current troubles, is holding up pretty well ¬— there is no more talk, for example, of the Greek disease spreading elsewhere. That currency union is going to hold, notwithstanding British jibes at a currency system that go back to the 1970s. Eurosceptics have proven to be, over the last half century, very poor prophets.
Central to last week’s Eurosceptic arguments is the issue of sovereignty. Britain, say these MPs, must ‘claw back’ legislation that is now going through Brussels rather than through Parliament. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, who wasn’t there because UKIP has no MPs in Parliament, claims 70 per cent of Britain’s legislation is now made in Europe. In the last few days he has upped that figure to 75 per cent.
Sovereignty should be the concern of all of us. Now in France sovereignty, since the time of the Revolution, ‘resides in the nation’ (according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen). This is why the country has periodically held national referendums. These referendums have a terrible history. Under the two Napoleons the referendums were used to enfeeble parliamentary regimes. They are essentially a Bonapartist tool. That is why the distinguished political historian, René Rémond, considered the Gaullists to be part of the French Bonapartist tradition. The Third and Fourth Republics were parliamentary regimes and they never had referendums. The Fifth Republic is a presidential regime with something of a Bonapartist allure to it. Charles de Gaulle, its inventor, deliberately included the national referendum in its constitution. Ironically, de Gaulle was destroyed by the referendum; one could even say it killed him. Since the disappearance of Mitterrand the Fifth Republic has increasingly taken on the airs of a parliamentary regime owing to the appearance of ‘cohabitation’ where the President belongs to one political family whilst the Prime Minister and Government belongs to another. Under de Gaulle this was not supposed to happen. But now it is almost a regular feature. Parliamentary regimes don’t live well under referendums, so in France one can expect them to be gradually abandoned. This is especially true since the catastrophic 2005 referendum under Jacques Chirac when the extreme left combined with the extreme right to get a ‘No’ vote on the European constitution. Governments and Parliaments do not have to accept the verdict of a popular referendum. The ‘No’ vote was overturned by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. So here the European political factor was used by Nicholas Sarkozy to keep the European project on track. The Eurosceptics in Britain of course screamed foul. But if Lisbon had not have been agreed, there would have been chaos, which could only have delighted the nationalists. The 2005 referendum, which had the same negative result in the Netherlands, but not in Spain, contains some important lessons for those approaching a referendum in Britain. Yes, it is a democracy of sorts, a Bonapartist democracy which enfeebles parliamentary regimes.
Germany has a parliamentary regime. Because of her Nazi past, when the country was overrun by nationalist forces, referendums are forbidden by the country’s wise constitution.
Britain is said to have an unwritten constitution although, as a matter of fact, if one were to staple together Westminster’s statutory laws, dating from the Bill of Rights of 1688 and through the Acts of Union, one would effectively have Britain’s written constitution. A number of constitutional textbooks have done just that.
Nowhere in this ‘written constitution’ is any mention made to national referendums. Local referendums have occurred, such as on the opening hours of pubs. The only national British referendum to occur in history was Harold Wilson’s referendum of 1975, called because the Labour Party could not make up its mind about Europe. Now it is the Conservative Party which is divided.
Britain has a parliamentary regime. Since Bagehot and Dicey British constitutionalists have emphasized that sovereignty lies not in the nation, like in revolutionary France, but in Parliament. A distinct distrust has traditionally been felt by the British for referendums, expressed sscinctly in Clement Atlee’s line, since picked up by Margaret Thatcher, that ‘referendums are the tool of dictators and demagogues.’ Referendums weaken the sovereignty of Parliament.
Margaret Thatcher’s ghost haunted the Chamber last week. In particular, Preti Patel for Witham cited her as a model for Eurosceptics to follow. Now Patel is somebody to watch; she has great poise and speaks with considerable gusto and conviction — rather like Margaret Thatcher. She could well become a major leader. The trouble is, she is wrong. She began politics campaigning for Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party — and this passion for referendums could throw her of the rails. Her father, a Ugandan Asian immigrant, stood last April — in a very muddled campaign — for UKIP in a Hertfordshire by-election. Unfortunately, Thatcher is the model behind this; it cannot be denied. Margaret Thatcher, though she signed the Single Act of 1986, the most radical of all European treaties, did not have a good legacy on Europe. When UKIP claims to be the only true Thatcherite party in Britain they are, on the European issue, telling the sorry truth. On Europe, Thatcher in the end relied on private consultation (that of Professor Alan Walters). She went behind Parliament’s back, and that is why she had to go.
The new breed of English nationalist, with Thatcherism as its source, preaches ‘direct democracy’ based on referendums. They are not scrupulous parliamentarians. That is, they are not fully convinced that Parliament is sovereign. They would probably say the nation is sovereign, like French revolutionaries. They have a distinct distrust of parliamentarians, as they showed during the Expense Scandal. This distrust was evident in last week’s speeches ¬— as in the repeated phrase, ‘of course, Parliament may well overthrow this democratic bill.’ And they will not stop with this one referendum, if they get it. If they had their way they would destroy the Euro and the European Union. They would ally, as they already have, with other nationalist, extra-parliamentary parties in Europe. Their policies are identical to Marine Le Pen’s Front National.
Both the FN and the British Eurosceptics believe in ‘direct democracy’ as opposed to parliamentary democracy. Eurosceptics, like all European nationalist parties, are against most international institutions. It has been pointed out that Britain, if she were to quit the European Union, would in all likelihood lose her permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. These English nationalists couldn’t give a hoot: they don’t like the United Nations.
It is English nationalism that has brought Scotland to the brink of independence. As the Conservative Party lurched towards English nationalism, so support for the Party dwindled in Scotland. Significantly, the Scottish Conservative Party merged in 1960 with the Unionist Party which stood for a united UK — now it only has one MP in Westminster! Scottish Conservatives, once the strength of Scotland, have been replaced by Scot Nats. So there is a direct correlation between the rise of Euroscepticism in England, the demise of the Scottish Conservative Party and the rise of the independence movement in Scotland. So it should be no surprise that Scottish independence and the threatened British exit from the European Union are simultaneous. They are different aspects of the same nationalist phenomenon. The nuclear question we are now facing is: would an independent Scotland, like independent Ireland, adopt the Euro. If Scotland seeks genuine financial independence from England the answer is an inescapable ‘Yes’.
I think this is a catastrophic scenario. Scottish independence could come next year, in 2014. Then a rump Britain could exit from the EU. That combination would cause havoc with our parliamentary system, which has done us so well for 500 years. Contrary to what the Eurosceptics argue, the EU strengthens British sovereignty and the union of the UK because it strengthens the country. Go down the road of UK breakup and rump British exit and you face fragmentation, poverty and chaos. That is not what we want.
Nationalism works like a steamroller: it flattens all before it; it flattens out all wrinkle crevices and variants and leaves us with the flat plain of the orthodox national ideology. That has happened in the past in Germany, in Italy and, indeed, large swathes of Europe where the nationalist enthusiasms spread their poison. That is why the European Union was created. It is the danger that all Europe still faces. Its promise is one that always ends up in violence (witness the Balkans). It is the European Union which prevents it and offers continental wide stablility.
Nationalism works against Parliaments, it is extra-parliamentary and it creates terrible silences; it stifles debate. And I am afraid that is just what we were witnessing last week in Parliament, but with more than half of Parliament absent.
About thirty or forty years ago I remember writing an article arguing that the traditional political divide in Britain between left and right was gradually giving way to a divide between Nationalists and Europeans, Little Englanders and Federalists. The Guardian, I think that was the paper, did not publish it. But I still think that this is what is happening. At the time — I was still a student ¬— I was rather pleased at the prospect. Today it worries me. I see it as a sign of parliamentary decline, and that should please no one.
Consider what really happened last week. The debate took place and then the division was taken and the members retired to the lobbies. On television all you could see was an empty House for about fifteen minutes. Finally the two tellers came before the Speaker and announced the vote: 304 votes to zero. So a unanimous vote for the referendum! But there are 650 seats in Parliament. So this unanimous vote was made up of well under half of Parliament because the majority boycotted the session.
One half of the House was not talking to the other half. Debate is what parliamentary democracy is all about. On the question of the European referendum there has been no decent parliamentary debate. Instead, there is silence. Historically, we know that that is what nationalism does to the political body: it creates a flaccid inertness.
In the past decade or so I thought this was a Conservative Party disease. Conservatives have been silent on Europe because it divides the party. European Conservatives have been so silent and thus ineffective because of a fear of dividing the party. That concern to maintain silence has even crossed frontiers. In 2006 Nicholas Sarkozy was invited to the Conservative Party Conference ‘provided,’ stipulated David Cameron, ‘he did not speak about Europe’; Sarkozy didn’t come.
But now one sees that this disease of silence has spread across the parties. It could become a national disease ¬— as occurred in Germany and in Italy in the interwar years. The pro-Europeans chose boycott rather than debate, that is, they chose silence. The European issue and the referendum has paralysed Parliament in the same way that the European Conservatives were paralysed by the emergence of nationalist Eurosceptics.
Is it possible that the United Kingdom will break up and what is left of the UK will leave the EU ¬— under a pall of parliamentary silence? The nationalist Eurosceptic arguments for a pure free trade area, British economic superiority, the need to ‘claw back’ legislation to protect national sovereignty and their apparent misunderstanding of Britain’s constitution never receive an answer or a retort in Parliament. Never a word of opposition is spoken. Debate has been silenced. The prospect is sinister.

GD
Le Vieil Estrée
12 July 2013

2,604 words

Promising Future of Tea Party - Evelyne Joslain

Jeudi, juillet 11th, 2013

“L’Avenir Prometteur Du Tea Party” by BCiP member Evelyne Joslain, a specialist on US politics and the American Conservative movement, was published in - Politique Internationale – La Revue n°139 - and a link to this article is given below.

http://www.politiqueinternationale.com/revue/read2.php?id_revue=139&id=1172&search=&content=texte

In summary, the article considers a more promising “New Conservatives” future for the Republican Party following its defeat in the last two US presidential elections, beaten again by Barack Obama despite the impasse on his budget, 8% unemployment, a sharp increase in American poverty levels, chaos in the Middle East and, above all, a public debt exceeding $16 trillion (including $5 trillion of deficit contributed over the past four years of his term in office).

Defeat of the compromise tandem of Romney (Establishment) - Ryan (Not Quite Tea Party) left a party divided between moderates and minority Conservatives (Tea Party or traditional) each unwilling to take responsibility for the result, although the Tea Party blamed the Right for imposing a weak candidate in Romney.

According to the media and in Europe, the Republicans had lost because the ethnic minority votes gathered together by Barack Obama had, for the first time, submerged the White vote. The GOP had also become dangerously rightist under the influence of the Tea Party, a party from the past and approved by no more than 8% of the population. This was summed up in Newsweek by the headline “You’re Old. You’re White. You’re History”!

The majority of the electorate had found Barack Obama’s progressive “tax the rich” message more attractive than the detailed, austerity programme of the Republicans. Perhaps due to excessive courtesy and a fear of the racial factor in a politically-correct America, itself a prisoner of positive discrimination, Romney (and McCain in 2008) never dared point out Barack Obama’s weaknesses on the economy, ill-defined foreign policies and other scandals. This allowed Romney to be painted as an out-of-touch businessman insensitive to the problems of ordinary people. The Democrats were able to build a coalition of minority voters whose personal concerns came before national needs. Even though the electorate still remains majority white at 60%, 41% of the latter voted for Barack Obama, along with 93% of African-Americans and 71% of Hispanic/Asian origin. Romney also compounded his problems by openly stating that 47% of the electorate would never vote Republican.

Yet the Republican Party owes a debt to the Tea Party for revitalizing it after its defeat in 2008. An injection of fighting spirit enabled an improved showing in local elections and a majority to be gained in the House of Representatives (for the first time since 2006). The Tea Party was less prominent during the presidential elections although all the Conservative candidates (Tea Party or not) performed well, all Tea Party Senators getting elected and with just one loss in the House of Representatives.

The question is posed, therefore, whether there is a middle way between Republicans who want to collaborate with President Obama and those who don’t, the latter where the supposed “extremists” of the Tea Party reside. Barack Obama relies on a Democratic Party which is nothing like the party of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy, dominated as it is by a majority of “Far Left” (who label Tea Party Conservatives “Far Right”). The answer then to this cultural problem or split within the Republican Party can be found in what are termed “New Conservatives”.

New Conservatives should find little difference between “Fiscal Conservatives” and “Social Conservatives”. The Tea Party can bring together its majority, fiscally conservative members with those more socially traditional but not so rigid in the Republican Party. A common aim would be to win back through “New Conservatism” that part of the WASP electorate charmed by Barack Obama’s socialism but likely to find its current lifestyle progressively undermined by increasing taxes on the rich.

Administrator’s comment

Within the context of UK politics, this “New Conservatives” reinvention of the Republican Party has a certain resonance with Tony Blair’s “New Labour” and David Cameron’s development of a more socially responsible Conservative brand.