You always know the "other side" is rattled, when they start making personal attacks. That is true in the courtroom where, as an expert witness I was always heartened when the opposing brief started having a go at me personally, and it is just as true in politics.
The wisdom of this, however, has not reached Gary Titley MEP, who gave the address to the Labour Party conference on the European Union, taking as the title for his speech "Only Labour values can take us forward in Europe". The full speech can be read on the Labour Party website, if you can be bothered.
It is worth dissecting the speech, however, not least for its structure, which first offered the ritual thanks for those who worked in the Euro-election campaign, and then expressed regrets that the party did not do better.
Titley than attacked first the Conservatives, who "lost because the electorate got fed up with Michael Howard's opportunism, fed up with his flip-flops, fed up with all the contradictions in his policies", then the "Liberals" – note, not the Lib-Dems - and then, for considerably longer, UKIP – "the BNP with suits and posh accents". And this is what I mean by ad hominem.
They were led into battle by the perma-tanned fallen TV idol Robert Kilroy Silk venturing out from his villa in Spain. They were supported by great has-beens like Geoffrey Boycott and Joan Collins, playing a game of "I used to be a celebrity get me in there". Their message was as much anti-immigration as anti-EU. UKIP is a collection of the paranoid, the obsessive, the little Englanders, the backwoodsmen. Yes, men. All 12 MEPs they elected are middle-aged or elderly men. Gone are the days of the angry young man. Now we just have grumpy old men.In the "mainstream", though, is Titley – or, at least, that is where he wants to position himself. He is a member of a parliament "that is vibrant and exciting" – coo!
They certainly have made a good start in the new parliament. First they dropped one of their MEPs for alleged benefit fraud before he even took his seat. Then another of their members, Godfrey Bloom, came up with a novel solution to all of Europe's problems - women should clean behind the fridge! Now they are showing their great British patriotism by backing Paris for the 2012 Olympics. Frankly, UKIP are simply a sideshow in the Parliament.
Of course, all the members of his party are "determined to work at the heart of this Parliament, - leading the way in finding solutions to the many problems that confront us." and there is no end to the miracles Mr Titley and his colleagues have to perform.
They have to "Create new and better jobs while protecting workers; make Europe's economy more dynamic while safeguarding the environment; have a coherent European response to World crises; reform world trade rules so that they are fair for all; meet the Millennium Development goals; make better European laws, which are easier to understand; and take more effective European action against crime and terrorism.
Wow! And what are they doing after breakfast?
All of this, however, looks a little bit ambitious when you compare it against the record of Titley and his colleagues over the past twelve months, which he proudly cites.
They have: ensured that new city buses are designed with disability access; secured EU investment into key UK infrastructure projects; backed EU funding to fight domestic violence, against Tory opposition; won new rights for air travellers; backed new measures to stop counterfeiting; taken action against rogue traders; given the go ahead for the EU Pakistan association agreement; opened up new opportunities for the British financial services industry; and extended the use of dolphin friendly fishing nets.
This last one is interesting – the so-called "dolphin friendly" fishing nets do not work, which is why Bradshaw sought to ban pair trawling. But never mind, Titley & Co are on the job, and they are proud of it.
On the substantive stuff, however, Titley gets serious, telling the conference that half the people who voted backed "one of the anti-European parties." "Talking to voters during the campaign", he says, "it became clear to me that a new divide has opened up in British politics".
There are those who believe that the best response to the insecurities of globalisation is to hide away in our houses, lock our windows and doors, turn out the lights and hope the rest of the world goes away. And then there are those like us who believe we have to grasp the opportunities of globalisation and counter its threats by building an outward looking agenda based on international cooperation. This is not just about Europe. It is about all our politics and values. It is the battle that we shall be fighting in the general election and in the referendum on the European Constitution. It is a battle we must win.There we have it – the "anti-Europeans" are "little Englander" isolationists, while the brave "Europeans" are reaching out to meet the challenge of globalisation. And how does he propose to meet it? Firstly, "Only by embracing constant reform…". Oh, dear God.
Secondly, "our success will be measured by our ability to deliver jobs for all our citizens and security for their families. That requires a strong and growing economy. To achieve that, Europe must embrace economic reform. But we cannot build prosperity by driving down workers rights or cutting public services as the political right demand. We must invest in the knowledge, initiative and energy of hard working people."
Er… that’s reform as well.
That leads to "our third principle" - social justice. Ah, yes, social justice. "All our citizens must get the chance to fully utilise their talents…". All of them? Whatever their talents? Mmmm.
I can’t stand much more, because the next is "an active state", although he doesn’t state which state, if you take my point. But one guesses it’s "Europe", because he goes on to say that Europe should follow the recommendations of the former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who has called for more incentives to make work pay and for more direct help for people to find work.
And finally… "We must guarantee an open society." "The anti-foreigner, the anti-immigration, the blatant racism that we saw from some parties in the European Elections was not only a national disgrace it is the recipe for destroying our country."
Mercifully, he is all but finished, closing with this stirring peroration:
Yes, Mr Titley. Next please.
Conference, the next two years will see a fierce battle over the sort of Britain and the sort of Europe we want in the future. It is a battle we must win because only Labour values will give us the prosperity, freedom and opportunity we all cherish.