Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Great Britain and Europe: The EU Referendum Opportunity

lundi, juin 20th, 2016

Following her hard-hitting political and historical review « Ship of Fools », BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt traces the relationship between Great Britain and Europe when addressing as an opportunity the currently hot topic of the EU Referendum vote on 23rd June, 2016.


?If a clod be washed away by the sea,?Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.

The verses of John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, seem particularly relevant at this time of uncertainty in the face of the forthcoming British referendum on the continued membership of Britain to the European community, the so called Brexit. The United Kingdom is indeed a promontory in Europe, a privileged look-out post from which to see further and higher on European issues.

Its membership was by no means an easy process. Historically Britain feared any continental alliance with possible imperial ambitions. Its own Empire was slowly disintegrating, but the bonds of loyalty to the Crown, and trade within the Commonwealth, remained as strong as ever. Britain, the first globalized nation, was opened to the world and did not share France and Germany?s heavy moral burden of the Second World War?s negative inheritance, although it had played a decisive role in the final Allied victory.

Churchill, was awarded in 1955 the International Prix Charlemagne of Aachen for his action toward the unification of Europe after the Grand Congress of Europe he had instigated in 1948 in The Hague, which led to the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the Rome Treaty in 1957 on the Common Market, effectively creating the European Community of the Six : France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ? ?to establish the foundations of a ceaselessly closer union between European people.? He had formulated his vision in a Speech to the academic youth given in 1946 at the University of Zurich ?There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important.. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.?

He was echoing a concept born after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon, exiled on St. Helena, had himself formulated the dream, which his megalomaniac thirst for personal glory had prevented him achieving : ?Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.? But Pax Napoleonica never shone over the world as had done Pax Romana. Yet in Europe, torn by recurring wars and revolutions, this pacifist and humanist ideal found ardent advocates throughout the 19th century. In 1831 Wojciech Jastrz?bowski, the Polish naturalist, pionneer of ergonomics, had exposed his vision of a European international organization in a pamphlet : About the everlasting peace between the nations.

This concept was also Giuseppe Mazzini?s, like Napoleon a Genoese born under French rule, a politician and journalist. He was a fervent advocate of patriotism in his political action for the creation of an Italian state, as much as a fervent believer in a unified Europe. In 1834 he founded in Switzerland the Giovine Europe ( Young Europe), a visionary international movement. Its fondamental precept of national liberty denounced and opposed the dictates of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, by which the dominion of a few great European powers, namely Russia, Britain, Prussia and Austria, oppressed smaller nations. In his hope and action for a freely associated Republican league of European nations, where common interests would be shared and be regulated by a central federal assembly, Mazzini the revolutionary was called the prophet of Europe.

This prophetic vision found a bard in Victor Hugo, the French politician, poet, novelist and artist, who declared in 1849 at the Paris International Peace Congress : ?A day shall come when all of you nations of the Continent : France, Russia, Italy, England, Germany, will fuse tightly together in a higher entity without losing your own intrisic qualities and your own glorious individuality, and you will form a European brotherhood? A day shall come when we shall see … the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas…A day shall come when they will not be any battle fields left other than markets opening to trade and minds opening to ideas?In the twentieth century it shall be called Europe, then transfigured it shall be called Mankind.? Hugo?s vision was one of universal peace : Europe, including Britain, the motherland of European democracy, where like Mazzini he had lived in exile, would be the leading example and guiding light.

Little could he foresee the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, which he lived in besieged Paris, and the ensuing 20th century Franco-German conflicts, the two devasting World Wars, which would set the whole world ablaze, radically altering it. After the defeat of Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire, in 1871 the French National Assembly had called for a United States of Europe, and in 1929, after the horrors of the First World War, Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1926, called for a European Federation at the League of Nations, a vision of Europe also shared by Trotsky before the Russian Revolution. In it the torch of universal peace still shone. Churchill, having foreseen early the danger of Hitler?s rise, and of Nazi Germany?s agressive expansionnist strategy seeking to impose its hegemony worldwide, became its main bearer. He declared at The Hague European Congress in 1948 : ?We must endeavour by patience and faithful service to prepare for the day when there will be an effective world government resting on the main groupings of mankind.?

Europe?s destiny was to show the way, and England was to play a major part in it. In 1948, at a Conservative Meeting at Llandudno, Churchill outlined Britain?s unique position at the hub of ? three majestic circles? the ?Empire and Commonwealth?, ?the English speaking world? and a ?United Europe?. These three circles were for him ?co-existent? and ? linked together? in a truly globalized vision : ?We are the only country which has a great part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together.? In May 1947 at a meeting in the Albert Hall of the United Europe Movement, which he had founded and chaired, he spoke of ?? the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part?? Britain and France would be ? ? founder-partners in this movement?, and ?? Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.?

His resolve over the matter was such that, after the German invasion of France in May 1940, supported by his Party and Cabinet, he had announced in June 1940 the Declaration of Union between Great Britain and France, ? The two governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union? Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.? An Anglo-French stamp featuring King George VI and French President Albert Lebrun was conceived to commemorate the union.
The rise of Marshall Pétain and the creation of the collaborationnist Vichy government in occupied France, brought this plan to an abrupt end. It is in this context of a France divided onto itself between Collaborateurs and Résistants, the latter themselves divided into Gaullists and Communists, that the much used, and misused, rebuff of Churchill to De Gaulle on the eve of the 1944 Normandy landings, must be understood : ? If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea. Every time I have to decide between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.?

De Gaulle did not share Churchill?s lofty vision of a unified Europe as a premise for universal world peace. He held a French traditonalist view of Germany, and for him the settlement of the centuries-old rivalry and conflict between, as he said : ?Les Gaulois et les Germains?, (The Gauls and the Teutons ), was the main motivation : ?Europe, it?s France and Germany?. In this he did not share either his French compatriots Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman?s opinions and active involvement in the realization of European unity. Jean Monnet had declared in 1950 : ? The prosperity of our European community is inextricably linked to the development of international exchange. Our Community shall thus contribute to the solving of the world?s free exchange problems.? He resumed his humanist ideal in stating : ?We do not form a coalition with the various States, but their people.? It was at the antipodes of De Gaulle?s beliefs who violently denounced Monnet and Schuman?s initiatives in the face of the rising Cold War towards a common Western European economic, political and military policy supported by the United Sates, with the creation in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a consultative assembly of 78 to neutralize any future return of the Franco-German rivalry, the signing of the Rome Treaty and the paving of the way for Britain?s entry. Schuman, then Prime Minister, had declared in 1949 : ?Wihout Britain there can be no Europe.?

De Gaulle expounded his views on the Common Market as directed by ? a common commission which would, of course, be composed not of people like Jean Monnet, a supranational stateless man, but with qualified civil servants.? Thus the European Parliament, which started as the consultative Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community with 78 appointed parliamentarians drawn from the member states national parliaments, with no legislative mandates, has now grown over the years into an overblown structure of byzantine complexity, where discordant voices are heard, powerfuls lobbies exercise pressions on commissions, where there is no vision for the future, no guiding master plan and true common policy. The splitting of the Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg, to comply with France?s unreasonable demands, is not only a gross waste of time, of ressources and energy, but constitutes an obvious impediment for the efficient functionning of the structure, which amounts to a near sabotage of the Founding Fathers of the European Union?s dream and ideals. France has a heavy responsibility in the floundering of the institution, having imposed upon it its ancestral nationalist interests without thought of the future common good, its cumbersome administration, and its fastidious bureaucracy which calls to mind Aesop?s fable of The Dog and its Reflection. La Fontaine took up its moral in his own fable:

We all are deceived in this world.
One can see so many madmen
Running after the shadow of a prey,
That one cannot count them all.

De Gaulle staunchly opposed Britain?s entry in the Common Market, and twice vetoed its membership in 1961 and 1967, on the same grounds which, one must say, had made Churchill doubt about the good of it for Britain, as he told the House of Commons in 1950 ie : Britain?s position, ?at the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth?, and, ? our fraternal association with the United States of America.? But he went on ? We are prepared to consider and, if convinced, to accept the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards? national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.? Britain?s former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who successfully negotiated the United Kingdom?s entry in the European Community on January 1st 1973, who had known and worked with Churchill, wrote in an article in the Guardian in 1996 : ?? I am sure Churchill would now favour a policy that enabled Britain to be at the heart of the European Union? Churchill would be the first to realise that in the world today, where an isolated Britain would be dwarfed by five great powers, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union, Britain?s full participation in the European Union is vital, both for Britain and the rest of the world.?

In his seminal speech at the Congress of Europe in 1948, Churchill had called for a European Charter and a Court of Human Rights. France, the European nation which had issued in 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, directly inspired by the 1776 American Declaration of Independance, ? All men are born equal?, with the right to ? Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?, conceived by President Jefferson of English ancestry, was not at the vanguard of this visionary humanist initiative. It had to face its own demons which have haunted the French for centuries. Without going back to the northern Crusade against the southern Cathars, the fight between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the Wars of religions, French history is the story of an endlessly violent internal fight beween conflicting values and factions, interspersed with intermittent periods of remission. It is a country forever divided onto itself, and the shadow of a national psychosis has grown heavy over the centuries, in particular since, in more recent times, for all its claims to rationalism in the ?Age of Enlightenment?, it has never adequately dealt with and exorcized the moral trauma of the 1789 Revolution : its regicide and the horrors of civil war perpetrated during the ensuing Terror. Bonaparte did manage to bring back some stability and prosperity for a while during the Consulate and First Empire, but at the price of endless wars which devastated Europe and did not create permanent political cohesion internally. Throughout the 19th century the pendulum swang between Monarchists and Republicans, between the radicalised socialist revolutionary urban society and the traditionally conservative Catholic large population of rural France. The situation exploded with the 1871 Paris socialist Commune, which ruled over the city for 3 months, its repression during the ? Bloody Week?, and the formation of the Third Republic by Thiers.

Usually united in the face of common ennemy, it was not the case in 1940, and after the Second World War, it was the noxious inheritance of the Vichy government and Collaboration that France had to face up to and deal with. It was by no means an easy task, even Alsatian-born Schuman, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe had at one time participated in the Vichy government, to be reinstated in political life by De Gaulle in 1945. It was of course a matter of degree of involvement and circumstances. Thus Maurice Papon, the former Bordeaux police prefect, who, under the Nazi occupation had sent French Jews to death camps, became a Gaullist after the war and held important official posts. He played a key role during the Algerian war, using torture against prisoners and ordering the 1961 Paris massacre of the FNL demonstrators whose bodies were thrown in the Seine in unknown number. De Gaulle, who had been called to the presidency to deal with the Algerian crisis in the hope of retaining this French colony, awarded him the Légion d?Honneur that same year. It was not until 1998 that Papon was caught up by his bloody past, he was then put on trial and condemned for crimes against humanity. Mitterand, who as President abolish the death penalty in France in 1981, had sentenced 45 Algerian members of the FNL to the guillotine in 1956-57 as Minister of Justice during the Algerian war. Mitterand also came under strong suspicions of collaboration in the 1980?s and 90?s for his involvement with the Vichy goverment and his close friendship with René Bousquet, the former Vichy chief of police who sent thousand of French Jews to their death. Among other misdeeds he was responsible, for the infamous 1942 Vel? d?Hiv? roundup. He was assassinated in 1993 before his trial for crimes against humanity had started.

Put into this context, it is easy to see that France?s involvement with the European Community has never been from the beginning an easy and straigtforward one, but tinged with ambivalence and overshadowed by the spectres of the past. It is also easy to understand Churchill?s sometime wavering and reservations about joining the European Union. Yet Britain?s membership can be seen, in some respects, as bringing an outer necessary balancing element in the European union between the two major protagonists, France and Germany. This precious independent voice must be preserved, even if it becomes at times dissonant. This is the case with the present referendum which emphasizes many of the deficiencies of a nearly 60 years?s old institution, which has grown in a fairly haphardly manner, assuming an overblown dimension, with redundant features. The whole structure of the European Community needs to be reassessed in the light of the realities of a changed world : globalization, immigration, financial crisis, the threat to the environment of an over-industrialized world, the threat to European and world peace of growing radicalized extremist groups whether terrorists or right-wing populists, the rise of Daesh in the Middle East. Britain?s call for a referendum can act as a gad-fly, a necessary evil, to trigger off a salutary reassessment of Europe?s state and status, and redefine its aims, its role and position, within its own frontiers and in the world at large.

It is time also to take stock of European?s policies on solidarity and humanitarian issues, as well as protection and defense of its frontiers. The richer Northern countries cannot expect the poorer ones such as Greece, Spain and Italy, to have to deal alone with the surge of migrants leaving their own countries spurred on either by wars, as in the Near and Middle East, or economic disasters, as in Africa. They are often the results of Western interventionnism in their inner politics, or over-exploitation of their natural ressourses to profit large international groups.

Since many voices are being heard speaking of ?European Christian roots and values?, these various people or groups would do well to remember that ?Caritas? is a cardinal Christian virtue. It is neither ?condescending?, as had said Margaret Thatcher when asked about compassion, nor is it gratuitous charity. It encompasses the concepts of fraternal brotherhood and solidarity, it is a basic value, which the Founding Fathers of Europe advocated, for all men, whatever their race, their creed, their religion. They were Christian Democrats and their vision was meant to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to all, in accordance with the recognition and respect of the dignity of man in his spiritual dimension, for all men and all religions, a religious pluralism as recognized by the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis. All men are equal is a basic Christian tenet. Man as a spritual being enjoys a fondamental right, and this right is unalienable. It depends in no way of the State and must be recognized and acknowledged. And all men are linked in the working for the common good of all.

This equality between men has little to do with the radical socialism which erupted in France in the 19th century. Whereas Karl Marx, who had lived in the Commune in Paris in 1871 and written a book about it, saw in it a source of inspiration as ?the dictatorship of the proletariat?, the withering away of the state?, the glorious harbinger of a new society? Mazzini, ?the prophet of Europe? condemned its excesses, denounced the Socialist and Communist materialism and ?class struggle?, advocating instead ?class collaboration?. He also denounced the evils of rationalism and atheism, rejecting the revolutionary concept of intrinsic ?Rights? owed to men as a source of individualism, for those of human ?Duties? whereas one earn one?s ?Rights? through virtuous living, contributing to society through hard work and self-sacrifice, which allows for man?s spiritual dimension to grow in tolerance, altruism and humanity, and thus brings peace and harmony between men and nations.

Mazzini?s Jansenist inspired ethics are similar to those of the Christian Democrats. They are also close to those of Thatcher?s own Methodist upbringing, with its emphasis on the importance of a virtuous life, education and hard work. However she may well have quoted Francis of Assisi when moving in at 10 Downing Street, but the Raegan type neo-liberalism she introduced to Britain, which Tony Blair, her ?best follower? in her own words, also pursued, is responsible for the worldwide grip of over- powerful financial international bodies, which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. Untold misery has resulted for millions all over the world. Its effects must be taken into account in some of Britain?s present ills, which do not all come from the inadequacies of the European Union. In an equitable society economy and capitalism should be put at the service of all men, for their benefit and well-being. The majority of men should not be slaves to the system for the greed and profit of the few. The respect of others would then go together with the respect of their environment, and nature would be preserved as a common inheritance to be protected and husbanded in the care and awareness of the natural ressources made available, to ensure a sustainable development. This is also a Christian Democrat notion. As is the decentralisation of the State?s administrative powers to percolate down to the various social groupings, allowing for a better respect of individual liberties, including religious ones, and the free teaching of the various religions, with obvious implications for Europe.

The present situation in Europe hardly reflects this earlier ideal, when in France, for example, under the pretext of laïcité, which should be tolerance of all religions, but is repression of all forms of religious symbols for the sake of secularisation and Socialist atheism, there is a constant vociferous debate over the wearing of the veil for Muslim women. Britain who can boast in London the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city, brings a pacifying note to the widespread European clamour of racial and religious discrimination. The United Kingdom in its ancestral institutions, the Common Law set by the Norman William the Conqueror, the Magna Carta, the Parliament, its monarch anointed according to the ancient French coronation ceremony, the traditions and people inherited from its former Empire and Commonwealth, enjoys a historic continuity, right to the survival of earlier Saxon?s features. It is the source of Britain?s inner sense of pride and security enabling the nation to face, and to survive, the vagaries of life and the passing of time. Is it necessary to recall that England?s mottoes are in French, Dieu et mon Droit, and Honni soit qui mal y pense ?

France, with England the oldest European nation, is sadly divorced from a large part of its historical past, and forever shaken by social commotions in an endlessly feverish search for the new, unable to build on foundations made shaky through its own self-destructive tendencies. The last two presidencies are a sad testimony to France?s decline at all levels, nationally and internationally. The governing of the country has just become an empty two-dimensional media show, exercised with neither true authority, nor vision and direction. The country is rapidly sinking into social chaos. Violence in conflicts between various groups and the police is on the rise. Democratic rights and basic liberties are eroded in the name of security by an authoritarian anti-demoncratic socialist government seeking to conceal its inherent incompetence and incoherence in assuming a would-be reassuring posture which is an imposture. The two international events held in Paris, the COP21 for the climate and the recent Palestine summit, are just a pathetic example of France?s incapacity of influencing international affairs through its own contradictions and idiosyncracies.

Once the largest and most important agricultural European country, France is also the Community?s highest consumer of chemical fertilizers polluting land, water and air. It is now selling vast expanses of prime agricultural land to the Chinese, who inundate the European market with its products, often filled with harmful chemicals, at vast production of CO2 during the journey. The Chinese are also colonizing the urban French landscape in buying all the small local cafés and brasseries, the French themselves cannot afford to run any longer for all the intricacies and pettiness of its bureaucracy. It is left to Angela Merkel to denounce the Chinese agressive commercial methods and the unfair dumping of steel on the European market. The French extensive waterways network remains largely unused for freight transport, the lorries?s fuel consumption continue to pollute the air with CO2, for fear of another strike and social unrest. If Sarkozy is once more elected, the mining for shale gas shall destroy an ancient land harmoniously fashioned by the hand of men over thousands of years, and pollute forever the ground water.

France?s position in the Middle East has been totally discredited by Sarkozy?s erratic governement and its perverse and corrupt relationship with Libya and Syria. Holland?s government held a summit on international policy over Palestine, yet it penalizes French people who stand for the economic boycott of Israeli products to stop the spread of Jewish settlements in Arab-owned land in Palestine. France?s guilt over the Jewish persecution during the Second World War still exercises a powerful hold on its home and foreign policy, and does not allow for any objectivity and constancy in its attitude towards the region?s political situation. Despite its former mandates and colonies in Arab-speaking countries, France has never had the equivalent of the British Middle East Centre of Arabic Studies, (MECAS), created after the war by Sir Bertram Thomas in Jerusalem to form an elite Arabist corps at the Foreign Office. The French Intelligence Services do not even have Arab-speaking agents to track and detect potential terrorists on their own territory, and have to employ outside bilingual translators for the job.

Mazzini had advocated the following of thought by action, denouncing intellectualism, and rationalizing for its own sake, a French fault to excess now reflected in the European Union?s management and administration. With the overmediatization of all human actions, it is rarely thought that is now concerned, but rather words. It seems that words are beeing issued without prior rational and reasonable thinking, under emotional impulse and on the spur of the moment, with no sincerity nor convictions. If not meant to deliberately confuse in the perverse disinformation game of political propaganda. With France?s sorry weakened state on home ground, in Europe and abroad, Britain must stand for steadfastness and determination, and give the Community a new direction. It must endeavour to reform the European Union for the better, on the strength of its unique position. It is to be hoped that it shall not relinquish its privileged status with the issue of the referendum, and let the opportunity pass by. Europe would be the poorer for it, and its future, and that of the world, made bleaker.

What more to add but to quote Shakespeare?s verses ? The words of the Plantagenet English king, Edward II, born in Bordeaux, depicted on the Wilton Dyptich kneeling at the Court of the Virgin in the company of the English royal saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr, bearing on this mantle his royal badge, a white hart. They come to me every time, when eschewing the speed and modernity of the Eurostar, I choose to see the white cliffs of Dover loom over the watery silver grey horizon, slowly coming nearer as the ferry sails across the Channel, my heart overwhelmed with emotion, my throat tightening and tears rising to my eyes. I learnt them as a teenager, when I studied Shakespeare. Aged 10 years old, I had the prescience while reading Sir Conan Doyle?s The Hound of the Baskerville and Dickens?s David Copperfield, that to live in the modern world I had to be an anglophile. Indeed, I have lived inside Churchill ?three majestic circles? the ?Empire and Commonwealth?, ?the English speaking world? and a ?United Europe? . My life has been, and still is, the richer, the fuller and the better for it.

?This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,?
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Paris, June 18th 2016

The Ship of Fools by Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

samedi, avril 16th, 2016

Towards the end of this hard-hitting political and historical review, BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt also accuses Europe in general of the Folly of creating a Union but refusing its Consequences.

500th anniversairy, Noordbrabants Museum, s?-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, February 13th ? May 8th 2016


The Ship of Fools c. 1500-5, Louvre, Paris


L?Homo viator, The Wayfarer, recto shutter
The Haywain c.1500-2, Prado, Madrid

No, Europe and France are not at war, Messrs Hollande, Valls and company. War is in Palestine where Israël, with American lobbies? financial support, encourages American settlers to create apartheid on the Palestianians? ancestral land in persecuting and eliminating the natives. War is in Syria where an organized genocide is taking place since 2011, with no attempt whatsoever from Europe and the international community to stop the systematic slaughter of the population. War is in Iraq with Daesh, thanks to the American attack in 2003, supported by Tony Blair, devastating and forever destabilizing the region. War is in Libya where Daesh rules also, thanks to the intervention of Nicolas Sarkozy, Blair?s clone. He wanted to hurry the disappearance of the benefactor who, although he had contributed to his election campaign in 2007 and was received in great pomp in Paris, had become an embarrassing witness to eliminate. War is in Turkey where the Kurds are being massacred without any reactions from Europe and NATO. This new ally is being handsomely rewarded to get rid of the cumbersome problem of the migrants.

Gone are the high-minded principles of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, or those of Human Rights. Hordes of refugees are driven to exile to flee the horrors of systematic political and ethnic cleansing, persecution of all kinds, squalor, famine and epidemics, bombs destroying their houses, their lives, their land, forever polluting it with noxious remains, poisonning earth, air and water. They are no longer welcomed as asylum seekers in dire circumstances, but as barbarians invading Europe to spread Islam.

Five hundred years ago Europe saw the migration of another Oriental people. The Gypsies, Bohemians or Tsiganes took their name from the various countries they had crossed during their migration from India. They looked strange and exotic in their vividly colourful costumes. They were heirs to ancient knowledge and wisdom, living in harmony with nature in their worship of the Mother Goddess, Kali the Dark One. The Sunnite Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni had deported them during seventeen ramsacking campaigns from 1001 to 1026. Mahmoud had vowed to plunder India once a year, and to recite a Sura from the Koran after each destruction of a temple. In 1018 he sacked the cities of Mathurà and Kannauj and deported the latter?s population. His private secretary, Abu Naser al?Ubti, wrote in the Kitab-I-Yamini manuscrit : 53 000 men, women and children, of clear and dark complexions, by entire families. The Sultan used them to rebuild and embellish his mountain stronghold at Ghazni, in modern Afghanistan, where he had built the largest mosque of the time. Professional soldiers entered his service and fought for him until his death in 1030, following which they roamed the Near and Middle East, hiring themselves to the local Persian and Turkish tribes as non-free soldiers, or ghulams. Some of them settled in Asia Minor, others entered the service of the Turkish Seldjoukids, and freed Jerusalem from the Egyptian Fatimids, starting the First Crusade in 1095. The Gypsy warriors, also called Al-Ghulamis, in latin Angulani, are mentioned in the Gesta Francorum as polytheistic Sarrasins. After the Turkish armies? defeat, they fought against the Crusaders on the Egyptians? side. The spread of the Ottoman Empire in Asia Minor in the 14th century forced a massive Gypsy exodus towards Western Europe. At the end of the 14th century their presence is mentioned in the Byzantine Empire, in Crete, in Serbia, in Romania. At the beginning of the 15th century, they are found in Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland. In Italy the first Zingari arrived in 1392, following the Kosovo battle between the Ottomans and the Christian Serbs, who were defeated..

In Europe the Gypsies? arrival aroused local curiosity wherever they went and settled. Their alluring exoticism in customs and costume, their freedom of movement, their divining gifts and magical powers, attracted all attention. They expressed their vital energy and joie-de-vivre through singing, music and above all in dancing. Dancing is for the Hindus the highest and noblest expression of divine worship, in emulation of Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, whose cult unites all in India. The Gypsies? participation in the First Crusade had created a bond with the European nobility. They shared with them the love of horses, the experience of the Orient, freedom of thought and movement and chivalric ideals. The Gypsies enjoyed aristocratic military patronage as mercenaries, despite the numerous decrees from absolutist States, in time denying them entry. Yet Gypsy culture has strongly influenced and revitalized European artistic creativity, not only in dance and music, but also in poetry, literature and painting. At the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, the ethos of the Bohemian is assimilated to the Oriental traditions of the minstrels? courtly love, the Fedeli d?amore?s exalted feminine figure in Dante and Petrarch?s poetry, and Neoplatonic theories, and elevated to an archetype. In Hieronymus Bosch?s triptych in the Prado, The Haywain, c.1501, the Bohemian women, with their caracteristic high conical hats stand for a way of life detached from wordly possessions. The roaming Bohemian becomes the symbol of mankind engaged in the spiritual quest for Truth and Knowledge, as indicated by the recto of the outside shutters entitled The Path of Life, the key to the triptych?s allegory. It is the Homo viator described in the two poems of the French 14th century Cistercian monk, Guillaume de Deguileville, prior of the Chaalis abbey : The Pilgrimage of Human Life and The Pilgrimage of the Soul, the latter being published in Flemish in1486.

The 22nd card of the Tarot – an initiatory game from the Middle East introduced to France via Italy – uses this image. It is the major trump card, its lucky number stands for the accomplished human being in time and space. This arcana is unnumbered as subjected to human freewill, it is the Fool, The Mat, an Arab word meaning death, or the self-denial inherent to spiritual illumination. The Fool wears minstrel?s clothes, he is a traveller on life?s path, walking to the fulfilment of his destiny. He always carries the pilgrim?s staff and is accompanied by a dog, symbol of loyalty and fidelity to his own chosen path. Thus he is shown on the Mat Tarot card and in Bosch?s depictions called erroneously The Beggar or The Peddler, a third version appears on a tondo in the Museum Boijmans – Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

This Homo viator, Traveller or Holy Beggar, in the Sufi sense of the word, is seeking spiritual illumination. He will be granted it in begging his way on life?s path to people less evolved than himself, who will themselves rise in stature according to the secret alchemy of human interactive bonds. He is also represented in grisaille on the recto of another Bosch?s triptych, The Ship of Fools, in the Louvre. Initially it formed one panel witht the Allegory of Lust and Debauchery in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, from which he has been cut off. It was the pendant to the Death of the Miser panel in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The other three Deadly sins : Wrath, Hubristic Pride and Sloth, or spiritual, moral and physical apathy, would have appeared in the now missing central panel.

The Ship of Fools ?s theme and iconography takes on the allegory of the Strasbourg humanist Sébastien Brandt ?s famous satirical poem, published in German in Basle in 1494. The volume is illustrated with woodcuts attributed to the youngAlbrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch?s ship is similar to the frontispiece. This sharp satire of human folly depicted through contemporary European Renaissance society enjoyed an immediate popular success. As a result is was first translated in latin, the lingua franca of the time, in 1497, then in all other European languages : in Flemish at s?-Hertogenbosch in 1500, in English by Robert Barclay in 1509. The trope, or allegory, describing a ship without pilot, taken over by maddened giddy passengers, without sense nor discrimination, thoughtless and irresponsible in their actions, leading the ship to be wrecked, was common at the time. It goes back to Plato?s Republic, chapter VI, a satire on the art of governing countries and men.

Five hundred years later human condition has remained the same. The same politico-religious conflicts inflame and destroy whole countries, scattering away populations on land and sea, creating the same hatred, the same misery, the same despair. Or should one say that human folly has worsened ? Nowadays no one ventures to publically denounce it any longer, yet it is not one country, one region, one continent, that are threatened, but the whole planet, in the blind suicidal race to the gratification of materialism and consumerism, power and greed?s selfish needs. The spirituality of the medieval and Renaissance humanists, poets and artists does not exist any longer, the cult of Mammon has replaced it. Like many notables of his time, Bosch belonged to a brotherhood, The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady, dedicated to the Virgin. It was altogether an honour and a civic duty. The members were bound to support financially the charitable actions they also had to perform, according to the Seven Acts of Mercy, as stated in St. Matthew?s gospel : To feed the Hungry, to give drink to the Thirsty, to clothe the Naked, to shelter the Homeless, to visit the Sick, to visit the Imprisoned, to bury the Dead. Bosch?s works, like Brandt?s Ship of Fools, is satirical and didactic, aiming to make men conscious of their own folly in ignoring the results of their spinelessness and weaknesses, their excesses, their vices and dishonourable behaviour. To see in them solely an expression of the fantastic and surrealism, in the modern materialistic atheist point of view, is to betray the serious intent of the artists and poets?message and mission. This intellectual appraisal bears no relation to the exalted ethos of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance, their gaiety and sense of mockery. These images draw their power of evocation from an exhilarating vital force, an irrepressible joie-de-vivre, encompassing the whole spectrum of human experience, even in its darker aspects, as can be seen in the art of the cathedrals and of miniatures. Popular festive events and Carnivals, when the Fool became King and ruled for one day, were iniatory moments of the exorcism of human folly, echoing the didactic role of psychic release of the antique Greek theatre. Modern man?s sick soul, bogged down in matter and possessions, self-obsessed, dismantled by psychoanalysis, without altruism and joie-de-vivre, could draw from it all some salutary lessons.

Most particularly the ex-French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who speaks of Christian values in interviews given on the Radio Notre Dame network or to the Catholic newspaper La Croix, after visiting the Pope with a delegation, his wife and his son at his heels. He wants to gain the French Catholics?s vote in his party?s primary elections to be able to stand for the Presidency, which he has so abused in the past, in the next 2017 elections. Among the Human Follies of Brandt?s Ship of Fools, in Robert Barclay?s translation, he would do well to meditate on Folio 111, Of the ende of worldly honour and power and of folys that trust therin. It shows donkeys tied up to a wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, which always ends up by turning. One teaches and rules by being an examplary model, but it seems that the so-called ruling elites care little about this duty of theirs. To be credible Sarkozy should have taken the opportunity of being in Rome for the Holy Week and go up the Scala Santa, not once, but several times, to expiate his numerous turpitudes and his government?s corruption, the destruction of Lybia and all the human misery he has altogether created. To show his real Christian values, he should have paid a visit to the refugees?camp on the island of Lampedusa. There he and his wife could have witnessed at first hand the distress of those who had to flee from the catastrophic results of Western political intervention in the Near and the Middle East, and the human suffering to which he has so greatly contributed by action and by omission. Having braved the seas, those refugees are parked in makeshift camps and survive on the locals? charity. He could then have made a gesture towards those he is morally responsible in their misfortune. It would have been a salutary lesson in Christian charity to his spoilt, arms-loving son, and vain, superficial and frivolous wife. Only concerned with appearances, at this first visit to the Vatican, she must certainly have exclaimed in forced astonishment, as she did at the official dinner in St. George?s Hall at Windsor Castle : WOW !

A contemporary Ship of Fools would be thus declined :

For the French President François Hollande, aping François Mitterand?s stiff, rigid, starchy and falsely dignified image in his duplicity, and Nicolas Sarkozy?s superficial and ineffective hyperactivity: Of the Folly of imitating one?s Predecessors and blindly repeating their Folly.

On his dithering, contradictory, incoherent government?s policy: Of the Folly of ruling a Country without Vision and Direction

For his reactive armed policy towards Daesh, thus endowing it with an official status and exposing France to reprisals, and with the Prime Minister Manuel Valls, for an abusive policy towards French citizens?s individual freedom in the repression of terrorism: Of the Folly of reacting vith Violence in Dangerous Situations in order to show-off one?s Power, and to make the Consequences worse.

For his triumphalism after Salah Abdeslam?s arrest in Belgique, who had participated in the attack at the Palais des Sports in Novembre 2016, provoking as a result the Brussels attack : Of the Folly of Boasting too Soon and too Loudly of precarious Victories, and to Sink as result.

For failing to have the French Constitution reviewed to include the loss of nationality for terrorists : Of the Folly of submitting unfair botched-up Laws in Emergency without prior Deliberation and Support..

For the French Finance Minister, Michel Sapin, critizing Belgium after the March 22nd Brussels attack « when one sees a district in danger of communitarianism one must act, one must act with a city policy, with an integration policy, with the schools and with the language » : Of the Folly of seeing the Mote in one?s Neighbour?s eye and not the Beam in one?s Own, and to gloat about it.

For the Éducation Nationale in general and its Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, in particular, for wasting her time in pointless debates on the circumflex accent instead of having civic morals taught in school, the discipline of the French language, the citizens? identity heritage. The loss of syntax and text analysis, which forms the structure of the French language and of its discursive power has resulted in its continued deterioration. It has now been replaced by an incomprehensible Franglais gibberish : Of the Folly of speaking in Tongues and not the Tongue, of lowering Excellence and building up Mediocrity.
For the Armed Forces General and Police Director, Bertrand Soubelet, who says : « Listen to the young, they respect nothing any longer » : Of the Folly of the Elders to complain about their Juniors to whom they have given a Bad Example.

Thus for the Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande?s bad manners and discourteous behaviour, that is a lack of respect towards others. For the former, the invective Casse toi pov?c?, for failing to reciprocate hospitality according to protocole and invite the Queen to the French Embassy, while on a State visit to London, to send SMS in the Pope?s presence, and for both to sit down before the Pope has done so, and for Hollande, to be the only one not to bow his head in respect during the Rev. Richard Spencer?s prayer for the American soldiers lost during the Second World War, on June 6th 2014, at the American Cemetery at Colleville, and to sit down first while receiving the Queen at the Élysée Palace : Of the Folly of the Frog who wants to be bigger than the Ox. Appearances can be deceiving, when one is born in one?s heart Villein, Villein one remains.

For Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner, in the dismantling of the French Foreign Office : Of the Folly of entrusting unworthy Men with a precious National Heritage.

For Nicolas Sarkozy?s mea culpa in his book : La France pour la vie : Of the Folly of Tartuffe beating his breast while preparing further Tartuffe duperies.
For France on the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan terrorist attacks: Of the Folly of kindling Hatred through Blasphemy and Arrogance.
For the failure of the various French Secret Services to trace presumed terrorists : Of the Folly of a cumbersome and rigid Administration with no efficient Power of Analysis and Dialogue.

For Europe in general : Of the Folly of creating a Union and refusing its Consequences.

For the outrageous media overexposure of private and public life: Of the Folly of propulsing into Light what should remain in the Shadow, that is the most Secret, the most Sacred, the most Precious and should remain so.

Those passengers of The Ship of Fools, blind and uneducated, ignorant of themselves, of others, of their heritage, mad men without a vision of the future, sailing to their own demise, should do well to meditate the first Lauda, Praise, of the 13th century Umbrian franciscan friar, poet and mystic, Jacopone Da Todi: La Prima Lauda del Libro di questa Morte : Armate, omo, che se passa l’ora.

The First Praise of the Book of this Death : To Arms, man, the Hour has come !

Copyright MONIQUE RICCARDI-CUBITT. Paris, March 31st 2016

Why Europe matters by Laura Sandys

jeudi, mars 12th, 2015

Laura Sandys who has written the article linked to below is Member of Parliament for South Thanet and Chair of European Movement, UK.

« In the lead up to one of the most important elections of recent decades and, potentially, one of the most important debates about the UK?s political arrangements we have ever seen, it is crucial that we are constantly talking and thinking about the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, two great entities that can do so much for each other when they work in tandem, cooperatively and positively. »

Why Europe matters

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.

Le Vieil Estrée
12 July 2013

2,604 words

PM Cameron’s Relations with Old Tories – by Michael Webster

mercredi, mai 29th, 2013

Bagehot, an editorialist of the Economist, paints a gloomy picture of Prime Minister Cameron’s relations with the Tory old guard.

The Conservative Associations around Britain are growing increasingly disgruntled with his policies on immigration, defence cuts, a too weak exit strategy from Europe and, above all, gay marriage. Their members? average age is approaching 60 and they cling to the old values of sound economic policies, Church, family and strong policing.

David Cameron, after three successive Tory electoral defeats, felt the need for change. Hence, his « modernising » campaign (which he sold as a reaffirmation of Conservative values), included favouring gay marriage and renewable energy. However, he failed to obtain an outright majority necessitating a coalition with the Liberals and the adoption of policies which further watered down Conservative ones.

The population is ageing and senior citizens are more likely to vote. Yet it seems to me that there is a great need to rejuvenate the Party and make it an important priority to increase our appeal to a younger generation, if we are to have a hope of winning the next election.