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Posted by Richard Sunday, June 13, 2004

Break silence or be broken, Mr Howard

From The Sunday Telegraph

The indications are that tonight we will be looking at one of the most remarkable political events of our lifetime: that the British people will have risen up in extraordinary numbers to say "no to the European Union" by voting for the UK Independence Party, putting it ahead of one or more established parties all over the country.

One of the greatest mistakes made by the political establishment in assessing this phenomenon is to imagine that this revulsion against the EU is due to "xenophobia". What the British people have instinctively most come to resent - as I know from thousands of letters I have received in recent years from readers who will have supported UKIP last Thursday - is the realisation that we are being taken over by a wholly new form of government.

They view this system as alien, not because it is "run by foreigners" - they are well aware that our own political class plays just as active a part in it as those of other countries - but because it is undemocratic, oppressive and because it does not work.

No one will the "UKIP rebellion" put more firmly on the spot than the Tory Party. For years it has tried to anaesthetise its supporters by limiting reference to "Europe" to just a few empty "Eurosceptic" slogans, otherwise seeking to suppress any proper discussion of just how far this new system of government now dictates how our country is run.

What this meant in practice is that the Tory Party has had to abdicate from its role as a proper opposition. Currently, as a result of handing over the control of our policymaking to the EU, we are faced with all sorts of problems - the huge looming crises over energy and waste being just two - to which, because these are "European competences", the Tories seem terrified of giving any proper response.

Almost the only issue on which the Tories have been doing their job as an informed, effective opposition is the crisis of our fishing industry, where Michael Howard last week reaffirmed his pledge that a Conservative government would take back national control, if necessary by exercising the sovereignty of Parliament.

As our main opposition party, the Tories get £4 million a year from the taxpayers. If, as the Government itself admits, half our laws are now made in Brussels, then for at least half that sum we are not getting value for money. To show themselves fit to govern, the Tories must first show themselves to be a proper opposition. That is the lesson they must learn from the disaster which, as will emerge tonight, the British people inflicted on them last Thursday.