Amongst the wealthy diners at Tuesday’s "Vote No" bash at the Savoy Hotel, sharing a table with Neil O’Brien, the campaign director, was the unlikely figure of Graham Copp – a man of extreme socialist views. He is a Labour activist, anti-war campaigner, opponent of free-trade, supporter of George Galloway and enthusiastic Europhile.
Why such a person should be rubbing shoulders with the Eurosceptic glitterati and such right-wing figures as Ruth Lea, CPS director, to say nothing of Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, is something a mystery until one realises that the said Copp is is Head of Research at the Centre for a Social Europe, "a new left-of-centre think tank which promotes alternatives for the left on European politics."
Highlighted in one of our previous postings, the Centre for a Social Europe is a front organisation, financed by the backers of the "Vote No" campaign, aimed at influencing left-wingers and converting them to anti-EU constitution cause.
Copp was used as a parliamentary co-ordinator for the Vote 2004 campaign and his great utility in the current campaign, it seems, is his unbounded enthusiasm for the European project, expressed volubly at every opportunity, recently extolling its virtues to the far-left Chartists.
His opposition to the constitution is based on his perception that "the agenda is driven by European institutions which panders to the right rather than securing the social democratic advances that the British left would like to see", whence he informs us that "as pro-Europeans of the left, we should ask ourselves whether it is really in our interest to support everything that is agreed by our governments in Brussels, or whether we should apply the same political criteria to European politics that we apply to our domestic politics."
Cue the "European Constitution", whence Copp likens it to "a list of missed opportunities to do what the EU already does better."
"Where are the measures that reform the Common Agricultural Policy that rewards agribusiness for over production while small farmers go out of business every day?", he asks. "Where is the policy that conserves our precious depleted fish stocks while protecting hard-pressed costal (sic) communities?
"If we are really committed to the European Union," he writes, "then it is our duty to point out where new policies are taking the EU in the wrong direction. In the case of the Constitution, with an agenda of increasing militarisation and defence spending, of privatisation and even of undermining the parliamentary process, we should go beyond the pathetic "yes to Europe" versus "no to Europe" sloganeering that often passes for debate on the left. That means saying that the left can support a constitution that lays out the EU’s political system in an understandable way but accepting that constitution isn’t acceptable."
In another paper, for the Activists Network, a site with anarchist links, Copp supports the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which forms part of the Constitution, which, if fully implemented, be believes "could be a boost to workers’ rights." His objection, merely, is that "it creates no new rights under national law, so as not to upset the balance of Britain's industrial relations policy."
Yet Copp, it seems, it the secret weapon of the grey, faceless men who are funding the "Vote No" campaign, hence his presence as an honoured guest at the Savoy Hotel. Whether his loyalty has been bought by the inclusion of the "yes to Europe" mantra in the campaign remains to be seen. But, undoubtedly, it is an addition of which he would heartily approve.
Either way, he is indeed a strange bedfellow.