Thursday, May 13, 2010

European leaders give wary welcome to David Cameron.

Europe has given a wary welcome to David Cameron, knowing that, from all that he has previously said, he is likely to be hostile.

Angela Merkel of Germany and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission in Brussels, got on the phone to Downing Street as the courtesy congratulations poured in.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, whose relations with Merkel are prickly and who cultivated Gordon Brown, seemed to believe he would be able to charm Cameron into europhilia, perhaps starting in June when he becomes the first foreign leader to visit the new PM.

"He'll start out eurosceptic and finish up pro-European. It's the rule," Sarkozy told his MPs, according to Le Figaro today. "He'll be like all the others."

Barroso, a centre-right free market liberal, thinks he has much in common with Cameron. "I've met David Cameron many times. I'm sure we'll have a good working relationship."

They are kidding themselves on of they think they can have any kind of working relationship with the British Tories. Since the days of Edward Heath and into the days of Thatcher and Major the Tory party pull themselves to pieces on the subject of Europe.

Cameron, before he was even elected Prime Minister, aligned himself with the most extremist far right wing nutcases in Europe in order to calm down the right wing of his own party.

Apparently, the Europeans are excited by the fact that Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister and they imagine that this will quench the Little Englander qualities of this administration. They are in fantasy land.

Europe has torn apart every single Conservative government in my lifetime, and this coalition will be no exception.

There have always been pro-Europeans like Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, just as today there is Nick Clegg, but nothing they have ever said has had any effect in curbing the fervent anti-European tendencies of the Tory extreme right.

That's not the way some MEP's are seeing this though.

"It's the best day of my life since I was elected in 1984," said Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice-president of the European parliament whose recent political history straddles the new UK coalition.

A Tory MEP for a quarter century, McMillan-Scott joined the Lib Dems two months ago in disgust at Conservative European policy. "This coalition will constrain the eurosceptic tendencies in the Tory party," he said.

That was the positive spin nearly everyone was using today.

"I'm not worried that a cold north-western wind will blow over Europe now," said one diplomat. "For the British, only interests are eternal. Whether Labour, Tory or coalition, the British will be pragmatic and defend their national interests."

"The europhobic fox has been shot," added Chris Davies, a Lib Dem MEP. "Everyone's really cheerful."

Nothing has EVER constrained the Euroscepticism of the Tory party. It has been the cancer which has eaten every single Tory administration in my lifetime.

The notion that Nick Clegg can change this is simply fanciful.

Thatcher was eaten by it. Major was eaten by it. Cameron thinks, as Thatcher did, that he can survive by playing to their worst excesses. He will find, in time, that the more rational wing of the party will not stand idly by whilst he dismisses an entire continent. A continent which, whether the Tories like it or not, we are a part of.

Clegg was right when he said that, in Europe, Cameron had aligned himself with "nutters, anti-Semites, and homophobes".

Europe will always play in the background of this coalition; but, in the end, it will prove to be the fault-line which brings this whole edifice crashing down.

And I say that because, when you look at every previous Conservative administration, that has simply always been the case. Thatcher's "No, no, no" inspired Geoffrey Howe to resign and call for her leadership to be challenged.

John Major had to resign over the Maastricht Treaty and dare his own party to "put up or shut up". He was re-elected, but his authority was not enhanced. The nutters did not go away because he had defeated them. Rather, those nutcases are part of the DNA of the Conservative party.

They are simply always there. And poor old Nick Clegg's sensible views on Europe will have no more effect on them than the sensible views of everyone else who came before him.

On this subject the Tory party are insane, and it is always the fault-line which destroys them.

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