Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Restatement of ideals.

Well, we've been running this blog for a month now, so I thought I'd do a brief recap on what we're all about. The first post is here, and I stand by it. Threats to Britain:
  • The Nanny Staters in government, who wish to control our lives and proscribe our habits.
  • The Island Staters who want to abandone our heritage as a trading nation, shout stop the world, and get off.
  • The reactionaries, who want to set the constitution in aspic, and forget that the whole point of an evolving constitution is that it needs to evolve.

The biggest individual threat to the British heritage at the moment is the swathe of legislative proposals coming from this government. From ID cards through to smoking bans, they wish to proscribe our actions and remove our freedom of choice. They wish to control, catalogue and monitor, contain and placate. They will not persuade or defeat an opponent, merely legislate it under the carpet and hope it goes away. We reject this approach, we reject this government.

Britain has a proud tradition of internationalism, a founding member of the United Nations, Nato, the Council of Europe and, obviously, the Commonwealth. We were members of the European Community before I was born, and I'm in my 30s. Isn't it about time we accepted it, and looked to reform and update instead of pointing at its failures and shouting to get off the train? Do we really want to be cut adrift in a globalised world, a bit part player at the whim of the US and the corporations? I think not. Europe is flawed, undemocratic and out of touch. Name a Government institution that isn't. Reform, not rejection, is the answer.

An evolving constitution, that updates itself as and when needs present themselves, are a cornerstone of the British traditions. We are not a revolutionary nation, the lst English revolotion was in 1688, and Britain was created in 1707. But if the constitution is to evolve, these changes need to be discussed openly and their needs identified and understood. We no longer live in a two-party state, where all are either a little one way or the other. The current system of electing MPs has only really been in place since the 1948. Why weld yourself to it, when it so palpably doesn't work any more? The smaller nations of Britain felt the need for devolution, after 50 years of Whitehall centralisation, and have been granted it. That England is still ruled by the Whitehall elite and the nanny staters is a curse to us all, but to resort to one single Parliament is to abandone any hope that Britain can still exist in 50 years time. If you wish to break up the Union, go ahead, say it. But if you don't, recognise the reality and campaign for genuine reforms
England has a democratic deficit, but those campaigning to fix it with a Parliament of its own would destabilise the Union in a much more damaging manner than this Government could ever manage

Life, at times, throws things at you that get in the way of updating a website or running a blog. I've been quieter than I intended when we started this. I don't know when I can spend the time to enlarge on all of the above, I hope soon but, well, we'll see. In the meantime, I'll finish this post as I started this blog, and turn in for the night.
Great Britain was founded in 1707, nearly three hundred years ago. The anniversary approaches. Are we doing anything about it? Let's be proud to be British, and remember that we are also English, Welsh, Scottish or whatever. Let us look to the future and be proud of our heritage, not look to the past and try to bolt the doors.


Gareth said...

You've stated that you are against an English parliament before.

What you haven't told us is how you would fix the democratic deficit. We're all ears.

Anonymous said...

In general I would agree with your ideals, but would suggest that those who might be considered “Island Staters” or “anti European” do not want to abandon our heritage as a trading nation, rather they want to continue to have the freedom to trade anywhere with anyone for the benefit of this nation.

Trade is not the point our control of our own government is, when we joined the European Project in 1973 and then confirmed the peoples commitment to that union in 1975 it was as a trading union, in fact it was called the “Common Market” we actually voted to continue as a member of a trading union. We did not vote to move our government to the European level we did not vote to become citizens of the European Union, we did not vote to remove power from those we do elect to control the executive, who then decide our rules in a private conclave of other states ministers based on suggestions of an elite Commission who owe allegiance only to the European Union as a sort of state institution.

You argue for reform of the EU, yet that is exactly what has been argued by British politicians since we entered the Union, the only reform we have seen is more integration, more EU based laws more interference. In fact the very “Nanny Staters in government, who wish to control our lives and proscribe our habits” are only following those laws and dictates which emanate from the EU. You say you “reject this approach, and reject this government” yet that is the whole point you cannot! Elect another government and you will have the same problem, because that government will also have to follow the EU regulations or they will have to breach the EU Acquis break international agreements claim back power from the union.

What you are failing to face is the fact that the European project since its inception has been to form a United States of Europe, the impetus of the project is to create an overarching government of this and all other member countries. To do this they will have to take control and change of all the states constitutions. There is a difference between having an evolving constitution, which we have, and incorporating the constitution for the state into a constitution for the European Union. There is difference between setting a constitution for the state in aspic, and removing all the powers we the people have against an over powerful executive.

You could argue, as indeed the European federalist do, that the Nation-State is the wrong model for the future, the Nation-State is no longer a relevant paradigm, but you cannot, as you seem be doing argue for both internationalism and the Nation-State, either the Nation-State is sacrosanct or it is not. As an internationalist adgenda requires the destruction of the Nation-State and its constitution, to argue for such an adgenda is to argue against the Nation-State, yet somehow you seem to miss the point and ague for both.

PaulJ said...

Just to respond to the final point made by Ken - I think this is one of the places where myself and Mat might differ a little in opinion.

My personal interest with Europe is to do with citizenship, espeically a cross-borders citizenship which goes beyong the idea of nation-state. To that extent I think I go a little further than Mat in calling for the end of the nation-state and instead create a Europe based on common ideas of security, need for food and citizenship (amongst others - key point is basic needs). This, I suppose, is a kind of cosmopolitanism based not on states but on individuals, but then indivduals don't get so far on their own and need to form into some sort of organisation to do anything.

The best way to put it in my mind, is that Europe needs an understanding of itself at a 'thin' cosmopolitan level - that is to say the kind of vague ideas that get banded around like 'rights', 'equality' and such. They should underpin everything Europe does, but in order to get by day-to-day, Europe needs a 'thicker', more communitarian model, which likely still ends up being based around something looking like a state. It's borders are more blurry because we keep in mind those underlying principles, but in order to actually get anywhere, some things get done at state level.

The one thing that isn't in this model for me is nationalism. Well, the overt, flag-waving nationalism that currently leads to a lot of european politics devlving into politicans stamping their feet and putting on a show for each other. That gets us nowhere because the real issues are hidden behind this 'must not make my country look weak' facade that politicans must put on when in Europe.

This isn't to say we need to do away with nationalism though. Everyone has their nationality at some point in their identity and it's important to keep it. Europe is not about homogenizing anyway, it's about acceptance of ther cultures working together for the greater good.

I'll leave Mat to resond to some of the more ponited criticisms - I feel they're aimed more at him than me anyway.

MatGB said...

@Toque. I know, but as I said, I have been a little busy of late, and I want the post to be a good one. I may just put a summary one up and expand it later at this point.

Essentially, return power to boroughs, districts and counties, and possibly some form of powerful regional devolution, not the white elephants that Prescott was planning.

MatGB said...

@Ken, and apologies for a brief response rather than the full one yours really deserves.

As Paul says, we don't actually agree on everything, and I do believe in the existence of the nation as a concept, but I see no real conflict between the existence of a nation and its membership of a supranation confederal consociation.

Like I said, I wasn't old enough to have a voice in the referendum (I wasn't out of nappies), but I have studied it, and watched news footage. I've definately seen interviews and coverage of Heath in which the politcal aspects were stressed, and if the "Ever Closer Union" bit wasn't argued against closely at the time, then the then "No" campaign was truly incompetent. Given some of its members were incredibly competent (if, in my view, misguided) politicians, I don't see that as the case.

Yes, it was a trading union, it started as the ECSC, but its gradual evolution was always apparent and promoted.

I was, incidentally, in favour of a referendum on Maastricht, and really do feel that Major let the country, and the raison d'etre of Europe, down when he blocked it.

Blairs constant evasion on the issue also annoys. The Constitution was an attempt to sort out many of the problems in the EU, and took powers away from Brussels/Strasbourg, while streamlining the decision making and making it more democratic. Didn't go far enough, was badly presented and even more badly promoted, and was a little bit of a botched compromise, but it was an attempt.

I'd welcome a referendum on conitnued membership, and look forward to one. When it happens, I know which side I'll be campaigning on, and it pleases me in many ways to know that my oppnonents aren't just a bunch of ranters and misguided xenophobes. (Back handed complements, a specialty of my post-midnight mind).

As it happens though, much of the anti EU rhetoric about the excessive regulations is actually slightly pointed at the rong place. Regulations passed in Brussels have tot hen be interprted into British law at Westminster and is normally done in Whitehall. Regularly, we get a much more officious interpretation than was meant, and significantly moreso than, for example, the French implement.

Plus, as Alex points out in comments here, the actual proportion of laws made in Brussels is approximately 9%. Where UKIP got the 90% figure from is speculation, I've never seen any actual source for it.

The commision's allegiance to the Union is to ensure impartiality, not for some mysterious state building means. Yes, there are those who wish for a superstate, but that doesn't mean they're winning the argument. There are others arguing for complete dissolution, at lest they are consistently honest rather than nationalistic.

The United States of Europe ideal isn't actually a bad one. The phrase was coined by Winston Churchill after all. Can't argue witht he greatest Liberal Prime Minister of the 20th Century can you?

I'm not, exactly, a federalist, but I have no problem with the idea of a federation per se. However, looking to the future, I see an increasingly globalised world. I do not want to live in a corporate run dystopia where governments have little or no real power to affect our lives, and corporations make all the real decisions. I'd rather a democratic representative government is in control, and I'd like to have governments working together to maintain control. The Union is an attempt to acheive that control. Essentially, there will, eventually, be one, global currency. Inevitable. Might not happend for 50 years, but the internet and global commerce is pushing in that direction.

I'd rather that currency be at least partially controlled by the citizens acting in concert through their governments. The alternative of corporate control and corporate governance, which we can already see in a nascent stage in the US, is simply not a world I want to live in.

We have to look to the future. Europe, if reformed, decentralised, opened up and democratised, could be a good future. Better than the dystopia that is otherwise predicted.

MatGB said...

Brief? Maybe I got carried away a little there...

Anonymous said...

Paul, when you say “I see no real conflict between the existence of a nation and its membership of a supranation confederal consociation.”

To a certain extent I would agree with you, we can in fact be members of any organisation as a sovereign nation it is our choice, however my problem is that to be a member of the EU our sovereignty is becoming blurred. Are we citizens of Britain, which happens to be a member of the European Union, or are we citizens of the European Union. If you look at the EU arrest warrant it would appear to be the latter, in that case our own government has reneged on its duty of care to its own citizens.

The 1975 referendum was carried out under Wilson, Heath having taken the country into the Common Market in 1973, without a referendum subsequently lost the general election. The No campaign was conducted on a shoestring with no money available for promotion of it ideas the, Yes campaign outspent the little money available to the No campaign by a factor of 10, with money being made available from the EU, from the Government and even from the CIA. The general consensus was that there would be no loss of nation sovereignty Heath actually said there would be no loss of “essential” nation sovereignty. It was made clear in the pamphlet delivered to every house in the country by the government that that “Ministers representing Britian could veto any new laws or tax if the considered it no against Britian`s interest” the whole force of the government and media backed Yes campaign was that this was a trading block and that we would not loose sovereignty.

The point I am making is the gradual evolution has been conducted without the assent of the British people.

Accually gold plating is becoming less important as the EU is now making its directives in a fuller manner that leave little room for interpretations. However the point is that those regulations do not emanate from Westminster or from the members that we elect, thus they are removed from our control as an electorate.

I belive you will find that even this government admits to over 50% of our laws and regulations now emanate in the EU, the 9% figure is not correct by a very large margin, 90% is too high, it is around 65% at present. The 9% refers to new laws only, not those already within the power of the union. Where do not forget once a power is passed to the union it becomes part of the “acquis communautaire” which today consists of about 89,000 pages of EU based Laws and Regulations all of which are justifiable in the ECJ, that court sits outside this nation and is not within the power of either the government or the people of Britian. It is ludicrous that over 60 percent of the laws imposed upon the fourth largest economy in the world are created by people who have not been elected and cannot be removed in elections, and that is where my problem with the EU lies, and that is where I see your argument falling down, either you belive in the sovereignty of Britain or you belive in an internationalist adgenda and therefore the destruction of Britian as a nation state.

The problem I see with your hopes for the future of the EU, is that it would have reached that goal (if it is reachable) by nefarious means, over the heads of the people. If you have already passed control of government to the EU level, so that the EU becomes our country, and then it allows some form of democratisation and decentralisation from its centre, then you have a totally different situation than that of a group of sovereign independent nations, deciding to work together in their own interests, you then have a federal style government with subservient local government within each state, exactly as envisioned by the founding fathers of the European movement.

MatGB said...

And this has to be brief, lunchbreak...

You're mostly responding to me, not Paul, and 'twas me who you quote, but it matters not. Essentially, I see no problems with being both British and European Citizens, there is no conflict required, the freedom to travel and work is very useful and I, alongside my employers (and the economy), directly benefit from it.

"The point I am making is the gradual evolution has been conducted without the assent of the British people."

Agree. Completely. That is the problem. Like I said, I was in favour of Referenda on SEA and Maastricht, both made a significant change to the membership terms. We should have been consulted, and if that had been a requirement in all the new treatis, I'd hope that each would have been better negotiated in the first place.

I am in favour of completely reforming the EU, and ensuring that such a reform is then put to the citizens of every European country.

Blair's fudging over the Constitution (which was at least an attempt to go in the right direction), was an absolute failure for Britain and our understanding of the membership suffers because of it. Major and before him Thatcher also failed to explain and bring along people, and in my view none negotiated a treaty that was in the best interests of either the UK or the EU.

Incidentally, could you explain what you mean by a "federal" style government and why you seem specifically to object to the very word? A Federation can be formed by devolving away, it can also be formed by granting powers up, and I have no problems with the idea of a proper, democratic federation if it is done correctly and properly structured and explained.

I suspect, of course, that our politicians will never create such a structure. Have to go, time to get back to the office.

Anonymous said...

'Great Britain not Little England'
I agree it's actually 'Big England' 

Posted by Tommy

Anonymous said...

Early on in your post you write this:

"We were members of the European Community before I was born, and I'm in my 30s. Isn't it about time we accepted it...?"

Later, you write this:

"The current system of electing MPs has only really been in place since the 1948. Why weld yourself to it...?"

Is 1973 an earlier date than 1948? You seem to be a tad shifty when it comes to evoking chronological age to suit your arguments. 

Posted by James

Anonymous said...

Isn't everyone?

But, basically, I grew up British, English and European. I've no problem with that, it works well. Yes, the EU is flawed, but after 30+ years of it, people should be fairly used to it, it's not "new" anymore, and I'd rather we tried to reform a basically sound idea than simply carp on the sidelines as so many are prone to.

Regarding voting reform, a lot of people are wedded to the "constituency link" for single member constituencies because they're "traditional", but they're really not. Multi-member consituencies were much more prevalent for a long time. I like reforming and building on existing precedents, people tend to accept things if there's a precedent much easier, and in this case, it's an absolutely vital reform.

I get your point, but completely different issues; in both cases, it stands up though, as far as I'm concerned, we've been European for as long as I've been about, and a study of history shows we've always been European. Call to tradition in both cases... 

Posted by MatGB