Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tragic, unwise: Conservative grandees turn on David Cameron over plans for European Union.

David Cameron is currently enjoying a very favorable position in British opinion polls simply by virtue of the fact that he not Gordon Brown. There are no policies around which he has asked people to rally from which his popularity has springboarded, indeed, he has almost no policies at all, other than the strange notion that he would have done nothing to combat the recession and would have simply allowed the chips to fall wherever they may have fallen. Millions of unemployed? He would have lived with that rather than to give up the Thatcherite policies which have been shown to be such an utter failure.

However, the issue that always pulls the Conservatives to pieces, and therefore the one area where he has had to be specific on policy, is Europe. And the position he has taken on Europe is an extremely right wing one. Indeed, it really does place him fair and square amongst the most dangerous loons in the European debate.

On the eve of the European elections, the Tory leader stands accused of adopting a "rigid commitment to impotence" after he pledged to withdraw from the main centre-right grouping in the European parliament.

Cameron, who will appear alongside highly conservative EU allies in Warsaw tomorrow, goes into the European elections next Thursday on the most hardline ­Eurosceptic ticket of any mainstream political leader since Britain entered the EEC in 1973.

Cameron also says that a future Conservative government would be prepared to break with convention by reopening the Lisbon treaty, which is designed to streamline the working of the EU after its recent expansion.

The fears of Britain's most senior serving diplomats, one of whom described the Tory plans as "bonkers", are only being voiced in private.

Well, now it's not only diplomats, but some senior Tories themselves who are speaking out against the position Cameron is adopting.

Lord Patten, the mastermind of the Tories' 1992 ­election victory, and former home secretary Lord Brittan both criticise Cameron's tactics, with Patten describing them as "unwise".

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a former head of the Foreign Office who was Britain's ambassador to the EU at the time of the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991, is also highly critical.

"I do not understand a rigid commitment to impotence," he said. "I do not understand why [the Czech and Polish parties who will form a new group with the Tories] are preferable to Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy, or why they think the route to influence lies that way."

Lord Wright of Richmond, head of the Foreign Office in Margaret Thatcher's final years as prime minister, questioned Cameron's decision to try to reopen the Lisbon treaty. "It will be a formidably difficult negotiation," he said. "There will be very few allies."

Lord Tugendhat, a European commissioner between 1977 and 1985, said it would be a "great tragedy" if the Tories tried to renegotiate a ratified Lisbon treaty once the party is in office.

Retired diplomats are careful about speaking in public. However, the strength of their language reflects Foreign Office concern that Cameron will trigger the worst crisis yet in Britain's relations with the EU.

This is one of the few issues on which Cameron has shown his cards and the bedfellows he has chosen are extremely worrisome.

He is lining up with Poland's deeply conservative Law and Justice party, whose leaders have banned gay rights marches. He's also in bed with the Czech ODS party, whose founder disputes whether or not global warming is man made.

He's also been taking to the Lavtian Fatherland and Freedom party, some of whose members attend ceremonies to commemorate a Latvian unit of the Waffen SS.

This is not the company one would expect Cameron to keep, especially as he is so keen to point out that the Conservatives are no longer the "nasty party" of the eighties.

On Europe he appears happy to keep company with a bunch of dangerous extremists, literally the maddest people on the block.

A future Conservative government will also offer a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it has not been ratified by all member states. In the more likely scenario that it has been ratified, Cameron says he "would not let matters rest". Kerr was scathing of this stance.

He said: "Everyone is fed up with institutional treaties. The Tories owe it to us to tell us what they mean, because they will have to tell the world at the end of the first European council they attend, when they discover there is no majority for calling the intergovernmental conference to change the treaty as they propose."

For now, Cameron has no intention of telling anyone what he means, as he is being so successful simply by basking in vagueness and not being Gordon Brown.

But the company he is keeping should give us some indication of where he lies politically. He is rejecting right wingers like Merkel and Sarkozy and, instead, prefers the company of the true lunatics of the European right.

That says a lot.

Related articles:

David Cameron’s new European allies set to include odd bedfellows.
David Cameron’s new allies in Europe are set to include a homophobic Polish party, Czechs who have just passed the Lisbon Treaty and Nazi-supporting Latvians. A senior MEP confirmed yesterday that the Conservatives had signed up pledges from the requisite seven countries to form a new group in the European Parliament after next month’s elections.
David Cameron's Euroscepticism 'destroying 30 years of Conservatism' claims Tory MEP.
Christopher Beazley, a Conservative MEP since 1984, has attacked his own party leader as campaigning for the European elections officially begins this week. "The leader of my party, Mr David Cameron, has made a serious mistake. He is in error: he thinks that by becoming anti-European in the House of Commons this will secure him the premiership of my country," he said.
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