Saturday, January 29, 2005

Boring us all to death

Responding to the analysis piece on the EU referendum question, written by George Jones for the Telegraph on Thursday, Denis MacShame sidles into the Telegraph letters today with a missive headed "support the treaty".

MacShame is pleased the newspaper acknowledges that the wording of the referendum question in the Government's EU Bill is neutral, but he takes exception to the paper claiming the constitutional treaty codifies a "permanent revolution" of everyday decisions being "bedevilled by European laws, regulations and directives".

Retorts MacShame, "It does no such thing." "In bringing together all the existing EU treaties into one document," he argues, "it would enshrine the British vision of a flexible, wider EU." He goes on:

It would allow the new Europe of 25 members to work more effectively, with a bigger role for national parliaments and national governments, simpler decision-making, more efficient and streamlined institutions and greater accountability. It would also shut the door on tax, welfare and economic harmonisation.
Once again, the same mantra dribbles out. What is fascinating is that he is able to aver, without even a blush, that the constitution will enable the "new Europe" (notice, he never uses the terms European Union) to work "more effectively". Since when, however, has his darling EU ever worked effectively?

As always, he runs the now standard line that it allows a bigger role for "national parliaments" when, as we have demonstrated in this Blog, it does not such thing. Strangely though, even the "Yes" campaign seems to object to this line, noting that, in the absence of ideology,

...the government has to fall back on the historical concepts of the nation and the state as a way to sell the Constitution. These are the only notions that they dare use when it comes to EU politics. The EU offering concrete advantages to the citizen, or the value of supranational democracy are not concepts that the government can get to grip with…
MacShame makes the same claim for "national governments" but again, as we have pointed out, it does not such thing. It extends the responsibilities of the Council – which involves mainly approving more powers for the commission – which is not the same thing as giving national governments a "bigger role".

As for "efficiency" and "streamlining", this is yet another – and constant evasion by MacShame. Not only does he seem incapable of pronouncing the words "European Union", he also seems to fight shy of using the term: "qualified majority voting" or "abandoning the veto". But that is what he means.

Once again, we call in aid Winston Churchill who said

No-one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst sort of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
The point here is that democracy is inefficient, in terms of decision-making. You have to discuss, argue and, eventually, gain consent to what you propose. How much more "streamlined" and "efficient" it is simply to over-ride objections and impose your will on objectors. And that is, in effect, what MacShame wants from his constitution – the ability to dispense with the veto in 63 additional policy areas.

Rejecting this, says MacShame, "could only weaken Britain's influence in Europe and squander our opportunity to be a leading nation in the new Europe."

So, we "weaken our influence" by giving yet more power to the EU, allowing ourselves to be outvoted on even more issues, and to have even more policy areas dictated by the commission? We have seen the effect of that in our immigration policy, in our fishing, and in countless other areas. And MacShame wants more?

So, he concludes, "this is why this Government believes that the British people, when provided with the facts about the constitutional treaty, will support it in the referendum ahead."

Nothing new here. We’ve read it all before, and heard it all before. But what is emerging is that the government is adopting a Goebells-like approach to the campaign, concentrating on a very limited number of slogans and repeating them endlessly in the hope that, if continually repeated, enough people will believe them to make the difference.

However, I suspect there is a greater risk of boring us all to death.

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