Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Britain must stand up to the bullies in Brussels and in Washington

We are quite accustomed in this country to the idea of Americans not really knowing what they're talking about, reducing all things down to their simplest forms and generally being a little slow on the uptake. This caricature of the ignorant American may be somewhat unfair to the American people themselves, but I do not believe it is a wholly unfair assessment of the American media.

Case in point is a recent and rather depressing article by Roger Cohen of the New York Times highlighted by ConservativeHome yesterday. Sadly, Cohen's complete ignorance on European affairs and the nature of the European Union serves well to disguise his Oxford education (then again, Nick Griffin went to Cambridge...), while his entirely genuine and shameless assumption that all western nations exist to serve the United States marks him out very clearly as the archetypal American.

In fact it really is quite difficult to decide where to start with this spectacularly bad piece of journalism. Perhaps the part where he asserts that, in forming the European Conservatives & Reformists Group (ECR), Cameron was "bowing to his party's Euroskeptics [sic]" rather than pushing to its logical conclusion the established Conservative desire to reform the European Union (hence the name!) into something more accountable and democratic. This is something that the European People's Party has thus far lacked the political will - some might say intent - to tackle, making the establishment of the ECR something akin to common sense.

Or perhaps I should have started with Cohen's clear lack of primary research. This is very sloppy journalism indeed. He is, for example, quite happy to paint Poland's Law & Justice and Latvia's For Fatherland & Freedom as "right-wing fringe parties" and "Cameron's loopy European Parliament allies". He seems unaware however, that one of these 'loopy fringe parties' currently provides Poland with its sitting President, while the other participates in Latvia's present governing coalition. The idea that these two nations are governed the extremists on the lunatic fringe is something that must be wholly offensive and contemptible to the good people who elected them.

Indeed, Cohen's knowledge of the facts seems so sparse that apparently the mere mention of the name For Fatherland & Freedom is enough to make his case! ("These include a Polish politician who thinks apologizing to Jews for World War II massacres is a bad idea and a Latvian party called For Fatherland and Freedom"). This is clearly designed to evoke western images of Nazi Germany and Robert Harris' novel, despite the term 'fatherland' being very common and entirely acceptable in eastern Europe.

Then of course there is Michał Kamiński. Cohen astutely observes that, on David Miliband's desk there "lay highlighted articles from the Jewish Chronicle about Michal Kaminski of Poland’s Law and Justice Party", and that Kamiński "claims Poland should not have apologized for massacring hundreds of Jews at Jedwabne in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941". Jews ought to be pretty mad about this, right?

Let me direct you to some quotations from an article by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard. Funnily enough, it's titled 'David Miliband's insult to Michal Kaminski is contemptible'. I would not normally quote at such length in an article, but these lies have been blown so out of proportion I believe it is necessary that I do so;

Mr Kaminski is a mainstream centre-right politician who would, were he British, fit naturally into the Atlanticist, free-market wing of the Conservative Party.
...there is simply no evidence that Mr Kaminski is an antisemite, only a series of politically motivated assertions. It is not Kaminski who is odious; it is those using antisemitism as a tool for their own political ends who deserve contempt.
Mr Kaminsk’s argument was that apologising for the collective guilt of Poles let the individual murderers off the hook. Far from trying to cover up the massacre, Mr Kaminski was using the president’s apology to make a wider point.
The massacre was not committed by “the Poles” against “the Jews”, but was a vile crime committed by specific individuals. The victims were not “Jews”, as if they were the stateless people declared by the Nazis, but fellow Poles.
A further accusation is that, in an interview, he said that he would apologise only if someone "from the Jewish side" apologises for what "the Jews" did during the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland from 1939 to 1941. Mr Kaminski flatly denies this, and no one has yet produced a shred of serious evidence to contradict him.
David Miliband owes him a grovelling apology.

He most certainly does. But the lies and mud-slinging do not end there. Both Cohen and Miliband flatly deny that there is any chance of a federal European state emerging any time in the future.

Now, I am not entirely against the idea of a a federal European Union in itself - indeed, Winston Churchill was an early advocate - but what really gets me are the constant bare-faced lies, denials and deceptions by our politicians. These began with Edward Heath in 1970 ("There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty") and have continued to this day.

In Cohen's article, Miliband claims that the Conservatives are chasing "the phantom ghost of federalism", while Cohen bleats in agreement that "Tory little-Englandism has become a strange anachronism since the end of the Cold War dictated a broad Europe rather than a deep one, a loose bloc rather than a United States of Europe" (dictated by whom? How?). Miliband is either very innocent to the facts or just blatantly lying, but many of his European counterparts do not feel the need to keep up such a pretence.

Helmut Kohl for example - the former Christian Democrat chancellor of Germany - declared in 1997 that "We want the political unification of Europe." His Social Democratic successor Gerhard Schröder followed this in 1999 by stating that the introduction of the euro was "in no way just an economic decision. Monetary union is demanding that we Europeans press ahead resolutely with political integration."

These two politicians belong to the European Union's two largest political parties - the centre-right European People's Party and centre-left Party of European Socialists. This illustrates with extreme clarity the need for the ECR in the European Parliament if those opposed to federalism (and I assume this includes Miliband?) are to have their voices heard and their influence felt.

Not of course that this matters to the Americans. Cohen points out that "Under George W. Bush, friends were privileged. Under Obama, friends have ceded to American interests coldly assessed. And on issues from Afghanistan to climate change, Obama wants Europe to step forward." An article by the news weekly New Europe (featuring a disgustingly-used photograph of William Hague in mid-wave) goes on to ask "Could it be that the Americans best friends will not be the British, but the Germans? How will that affect Anglo-US relations?" before seemingly demolishing this concern by observing that "The ‘special relationship’ between Blair and Bush turned out to be more akin to the relationship between a dog and a lamppost."

This is, however what Anglo-American relations have always been since 1945. Any 'special relationship' has always been a personal one, not a political one. From Churchill & Truman to Thatcher & Reagan to Blair & Bush, it has only ever flourished between politicians, not states.

In reality the United States does not care about Britain and never has. Make no mistake, the fallacy of a 'special relationship' serves only two functions - to delude Britons into feeling they are important on the world stage and to serve the American national interest. Right now that national interest is Europe (though if the Americans believe that a strong EU will ever be strung along they are sadly mistaken), which means that both the 'special relationship' and our sovereign right to make our own decisions can go to hell. Obama wants us to fall into line so we'd better listen.

Now, perhaps paradoxically, I believe we ought to throw in our lot with Europe over America for this very reason, and so that we may strive to create the kind of union that as Conservatives we can whole-heartedly support. Only in doing so will we finally put to rest the lie of a special relationship between the United States and Britain. For let us not forget that this is a country that has consistently supported Irish republicanism in Northern Ireland and even at times the IRA. It is a nation that during the Suez crisis of 1956 sided with the dictatorial Abdul Nasser over her own British, French and Israeli allies - only for the Egyptian nationalist to repay the favour by aligning his country with the USSR!

It is true that we are not and never will be in a position to go it alone in the world isolated from Europe and America. Our imperial past and national character also prevent us from taking the road of nations such as Canada or Japan - quietly sitting a few rows back in politics while while still possessing financial clout. We need to be part of something greater.

I say to you that we do not have a stake in the United States - that ended in 1783. So let's stop pretending and forget about it. We do however have a stake in Europe. This means that we have a duty to fight for the kind of union that we believe in - one that we can be an enthusiastic part of - and to stand up to the bullies who would deny us this, whether they come from Brussels or from Washington.