The EU is not fundamentally undemocratic; it simply needs to be judged by a different democratic standard than nation-states.

“The EU is not fundamentally undemocratic; it simply needs to be judged by a different democratic standard than nation-states.”

This is the title of a blog at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/09/10/democracy-nation-state/?utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=99b5e *

And I have rarely read anything so unintentionally funny.  It is not so much beyond satire but in another satirical galaxy. The authors have added yet another meaningless phrase to the ruination of the English Language to go with the likes of ‘subsidiarity’. This one is ‘demoicracy’. It is not – as I first thought – democracy pronounced by a New Yorker. It is the form of accountability required by the EU because we cannot judge it by the democratic standards we require for our governments. Or indeed our local Parish Council, which, therefore, must have far less influence on our lives than the EU. Although, in fact, local parish councils probably do far more good.

The blog consists of an enormous amount of academic gobbledygook. I can recognize this; I used to write a lot of it myself. The most entertaining paragraph though is this:

“We find that the EU heeds the core principles of demoicracy quite well. First, no statespeoples are forced into membership, exit is possible, and every state has a right to veto new treaty rules. In addition, the EU has established a comprehensive non-discrimination regime and a bicameral legislature representing both statespeoples  (in the Council) and citizens (in the European Parliament) and deciding predominantly by co-decision. Finally, the supremacy of supranational law is a fundamental principle of the EU but regarding the sovereignty of statespeoples, there is de facto constitutional co-jurisdiction exercised by the European Court of Justice and the constitutional courts of the member states.”

It was at this point I collapsed into hysterical laughter. Let’s just Fisk this. It is true that no ‘statespeople’ are forced into membership, but because of the nature of ‘functional integration’ the ratchet that continuously moves the Europe Union into the direction of a country called Europe, to suggest that we have a right of exit is untrue. That right is circumscribed in the extreme.

For instance, in an interview with the Telegraph on Saturday 8th December Owen Paterson who, I suspect, would get us out of the EU tomorrow if he could, stated that ‘we want our country back which means making our laws in our own parliament’ but, he noted that in his department alone there are 40,000 pages of environmental regulations that originate somehow (sic) in Europe. “You can’t just chainsaw them,” he says. You would still need laws to regulate the health of farms and the safety of abattoirs. This makes nonsense of the claim by the blog there is a right of exit. The whole European project is designed to make exit as difficult as possible. No one wants to get out of the EU more than I do. It is vital for the economic, social and political revitalization of our country. But no one should pretend breaking this particular ratchet would be easy.

Equally amusing is the idea that states have a veto. Yes well, tell the French, Dutch and Irish people who vetoed the European Constitution in a referendum that. The EU’s attitude to vetoes and democratic votes are; ‘we’ll make you vote again until we get the result we want. We don’t actually care what you think.‘ We are not so much talking European Demoicracy as European People’s Demoicracy or possibly the European Demoicratic Republic.

Finally, the blog talks about ‘de facto constitutional co-jurisdiction exercised by the European Court of Justice and the constitutional courts of the member states’. In no way can this be seen to be any form of democracy. The whole point of constitutions is that they should be difficult to change – unless you happen to be French – but when they are changed it invariably happens as a result of major political, cultural or ethical shifts within the country in question. At the moment, in Britain, I think we may well be undergoing just such a cultural shift, particularly in terms of attitudes to human rights legislation which is being viewed with increasing hostility by just about everyone, apart from Lib Dems, Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve. It is precisely the type of cultural shift which in the past would have led to establishment ructions, riots, political crises, the Duke of Wellington’s windows being put out and a King driving to parliament in a Hansom cab to threaten to create enough peers to pass the relevant government legislation (well maybe not the last two, but political crises were so much more fun in the 19th century).

Now, because of the ‘co-jurisdiction’ in Europe, that won’t happen, a political crisis also becomes a crisis in our relationship with the EU. It means as well as crisis in domestic politics, it is Europeanized and it becomes a threat to the ratchet of further European integration. Invariably, under pressure from their European peers, national politicians back down. There are two potential consequences of this, either pressure builds up to an eventual explosion, or apathy reigns and people become more and more disillusioned with, and divorced from, the democratic process. The current situation in Greece is a perfect example of this. In any event, it means that Europe is destructive to democracy in any meaningful sense of the word. To say, as the writers of the blog do, that we cannot judge Europe by the democratic standards by which we judge our own countries is factually correct. It is so because, since its inception, Europe has been designed to be fundamentally undemocratic. It has never been about the ‘demos’, the people. It has always been about elites – a term which, etymologically, is derived from the idea of a chosen person or persons. People who want the EU are those who see themselves as chosen to rule it. That is why Jean Monnet initiated the idea of functional integration to begin with, because it did not require the consent of the ‘demos’, the people, effectively you and me.

It is time to realize that and get behind the demand ‘we want our country, and indeed our democracy back’.

 

 

*Hat tip for this article goes to @charlescrawford who generously shared this on twitter

Support through Thick and Thin

Throughout my life I have supported both the Conservative Party and Sunderland Football Club through bad times and good times. No matter how bad things have been I have never wavered. As far as football is concerned I would regard someone who betrayed their support for a football club in much the same way as one who betrayed their spouse. In fact, I could easily justify someone leaving an abusive spouse. I could never justify someone dumping a football club. For me, politics is the same. There are times when I dearly wish I could walk out on the Conservative Party and join UKIP. But the Conservatives are home, their heroes, Disraeli, Thatcher, Pitt the Younger and, despite his apostasy with the Liberals, Churchill are my heroes. When I read Burke, Oakeshott or Scruton’s philosophy I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside and the critical faculties which I use on writers who I also admire like John Stuart Mill or Adam Smith almost go to sleep. It’s the kind of feeling I get when I read about Sunderland Legends like Len Shackleton and Raich Carter.

The problem for the Conservatives today and indeed Sunderland players today, is that they cannot compete with that glowing feeling of nostalgia that is present when I read The Clown Prince of Football (Shackleton’s autobiography) or Robert Blake’s biography of Disraeli.  This is a mistake. In one of his better poems, The King, Kipling satirised the type of attitude we all have at some time.

You can read the whole poem here:

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/king.html

But it is worth quoting one verse;

“Romance!” the season-tickets mourn,

He never ran to catch His train,

But passed with coach and guard and horn —

And left the local — late again!”

Confound Romance!…  And all unseen

Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

Kipling’s message is that by looking backwards we miss things today which can be seen as heroic and honourable. There was something of that in George Osborne’s mini-budget yesterday. Now, the fact I believe Conservative Party’s defence policy is lunacy, their international development policy profligate, neo-colonialist and practically racist, their ‘green’ agenda unscientific and anti-industrial and that their policy on Europe suffers from what might kindly be described as cognitive dissonance, or more unkindly as bearing no resemblance to reality, does not mean I am going to resign my membership and stop being active in my local branch.

Despite all that, they are worth sticking with because their policy on the deficit and with it George Osborne’s mini-budget is courageous and right. Real terms cuts in benefits are the right way to go. It does no one any good to rot on the dole. Equally, raising the tax threshold is the right thing to do. It is ridiculous to take money off people and give them it back in tax credits. Apart from the expense, it sends a message that we are all slaves of the state. Everything we have belongs to the state to be distributed as the state sees fit. Anything that moves us away from that understanding is a step in the right direction and Osborne deserves credit for taking it. Above all they are worth sticking with, because at least on the deficit, if not on Europe, they are part of the reality-based community. Ed Balls revealed in the Commons yesterday that Labour still have no conception the magnitude of the disastrous economic legacy they left this country. The tribal nature of British politics, the fact that so many are dependent on the state and that only 40% of us actually make a net contribution to it, means that, in all probability, the Conservatives will lose the next election. After yesterday, if they do, it will at least be an honourable failure, and there are many worse things in politics than that.

 

Christmas Book Recommendations 2:Tony Iveson, Lancaster: The Biography

Before we moved back north to civilisation we used to live in Farnborough. Despite it being in the south, Farnborough is great. You are surrounded by evocative aviation history and you’re not far from the rural bits of Hampshire such as the Test Valley with wonderful clear chalk streams. However, the best bit of Farnborough for us was the Air Show. We lived on the edge of Farnborough golf course so we often got a better view of the planes displaying than did the paying customers to the show itself. You also got to see the rehearsals in the run up to the show. As a result you could get pretty blasé about it all.

You never got blasé, though, when the BBMF in general, and the Lancaster in particular were displaying. There was one day I will never forget when for some reason the Lancaster displayed with open bomb doors right over our street. Everyone grabbed the nearest camera or mobile phone they could find, ran outside, with absolutely stupid grins on their faces, took photo after photo and spoke to their neighbours – actually, they shouted because of the roar from those wonderful Merlins. It was my only ever experience of the phenomenon of neighbours communicating in the south of England.

So, what is it about the Lancaster that can make adults act like school kids and southerners talk to their neighbours? This book is written by someone who actually flew Lancasters during the war – in 617 Squadron no less – so it gets as close as you can to explaining why it is such a flying legend. When Britain had shrunk to an island fortress during the darkest days of WW II, and the army was suffering defeat after defeat, the Lancaster and its crews were taking the fight to the enemy, delivering deadly payloads to targets deep in the heart of Germany. It was a tangible reminder to everyone suffering in Britain that we were still striking back and still fighting. Since the war, books by writers like Richard Overy have demonstrated the essential role the Lancaster and its crews played in shortening the war and ensuring ultimate victory.

The book itself follows the story of the Lancaster’s development from the disastrous Manchester very effectively. It shows how the plane was almost never built. After so long, there’s nothing especially new here for aviation anoraks, but it is well written and a fitting tribute to the aircraft and the amazing men who flew it.

Why Long term Austerity is Good For us

The implication of George Osborne’s interview on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning is that austerity, in terms of government expenditure will probably last well past the general election and at least until 2018. We only have to remember how we got into the mess we are currently in to see that this is not a bad thing.

We are up a financial shit creek because, collectively, we spent 13 years of New Labour government spending money we didn’t have like a drunken sailor in port. It was not just the government, most of us racked up credit card debt we couldn’t afford and took out unrealistic mortgages. Understandably, that will take a long time to work through the system.

I agree with the broad brush of government economic policy, but like many small state conservatives, I would like to see the deficit reduced faster by more cuts in public expenditure and tax cuts for the lower paid to stimulate demand. As an economic liberal, I believe that that is the best way to boost growth. However, I can see advantages to Osborne’s more incremental approach. The most significant of these is that in all probability we will face a long hard road back to the type of affluence we expected between 1997 and 2010, when Gordon Brown though he had abolished boom and bust forever. In fact, I would not be particularly sad if we never actually got there.

People need a decent standard of life. They need jobs, somewhere to live, heating and food. The Internet means they probably need a basic computer. Given the state of public transport in much of Britain, they probably also need a car. What they don’t need is his n hers iPads, half a dozen iPods, three or four mobile phones, a TV in each bedroom and three foreign holidays a year. If we are realistic we should be able to provide those basic needs for all our people, but many of the reasons why people can’t enjoy such lives – despite having access to the basics – are because of communal breakdown in the areas where they live. It means that many people are surrounded by noise, rudeness and violence. Monetary poverty is not the cause of such behaviour; the cause is a poverty of morals, manners and culture.

Restoring good manners and considerate behaviour throughout society would do far more to improve the quality of life for the poorest than a return to an affluence in which they never really participated.

If the future means that everyone must be thrifty and that we must all recognise the folly of encumbering future generations with debt, then the loss of affluence amongst those who already have a decent standard of life is no bad thing. It will mean we can appreciate things that are really important, like family and friends; and perhaps instead of being glued to electronic gizmos, we might actually begin participating in our communities again. If we do that we might realise that being helpful and considerate to our neighbours will do more for our quality of life than an extra iPad.

Books for Christmas 1 Roger Scruton On Hunting*

Everyone else is doing a list of book recommendations for Christmas so I thought I would too. It will fill up space of the blog when I can’t think of anything to write and it will be the perfect present list for all your country loving, right wing, monarchist, dog loving friends, who have a passion for military history, political philosophy, ghost stories, classic British aircraft and cooking.

So my first recommendation is a cawker, Roger Scruton On Hunting. At the university where I used to work I would lend my copies of Scruton’s books to enthusiastic students, illicitly, in brown envelopes as if they were dirty magazines. Books by conservatives were frowned upon by left-wing colleagues who felt I was corrupting the young, which of course in their eyes, I was.

Students often asked me what was Scruton’s best book. I usually said Conservative Thinkers or the Meaning of Conservatism, but actually they weren’t. They were too academic and what got the students through them was the feeling that they were reading something they shouldn’t. Roger Scruton really started to write superbly well when he stopped being an academic. There’s a lesson there for us all. On Hunting was early in that process and it was the first of his books I actually read for enjoyment rather than work.

One of the absolute pleasures of this book is that it cannot be pigeon holed. It is part a witty, self-deprecating autobiography, part an account of the manners and mores of hunting and part a meditation on patriotism and the decline of the English countryside. However, where the book takes flight is when Scruton describes the sense of belonging that comes from participation in the hunt, whether on horseback or as a foot or car follower; and describes in some telling vignettes the nature of the participants.

It is what makes his final chapter on the then prospective Hunt ban so ineffably sad. That chapter is also a particularly fine piece of conservative political philosophy, demonstrating as it does the emergence of a democratically endorsed tyranny of the majority, and the utter folly of politicians meddling just for the sake of it. It is a great read and at only 161 pages you can probably get through it during your Boxing Day hangover.

*Available second hand on Amazon