Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The unwinnable quagmire

You might have difficulty making a link between Mark Steyn’s splendid article in this morning’s Telegraph, on the response to the Iraqi elections, and the article below it in the print edition headed, "Labour creates a nation of supplicants" by David Green director of Civitas.

You might have even more difficulty in then linking these articles with the one earlier in the "book", by David Rennie in Brussels, entitled: "New EU laws track food from 'farm to fork'."

And if one then throws in the response to the Conservative Party’s new fishing policy "green paper", about which nothing yet has been publicly written, I am sure readers will be doubting the sanity of this writer, when he claims that they are all very closely inter-related.

Bear with me.

First, the Steyn piece, in which he reports picking up the "tantalising snippet" from his car radio that, "In Madrid, demonstrators took to the streets to protest the Iraqi election."

"I'm fairly blasé about European decadence these days", he writes, noting as an aside that, "I barely raised an eyebrow at the news that an unemployed waitress in Berlin faces the loss of her welfare benefits because she's refused to take a job as a prostitute in a legalised brothel". He continues, writing: "but, even so, it surely couldn't be true that the Spaniards so objected to the Iraqi election that they were protesting about it." But it was true.

He then writes of the election being a "heroic moment" for the Iraqis, "defying the suicide bombers and head-hackers." Before the vote, he writes, the naysayers told us that the indelible purple dye on each voter's finger would mark them out for punishment by "insurgents". Instead, it became a defiant symbol of the country's freedom.

After some entertaining descriptive material, in which he charts the steady growth of the democracy movement in the Arab world, Steyn observes that, "in Europe and North America, the western Left have got on the wrong side of this movement."

"Shame on them," he writes. And, in contrast to the inspirational images from Quagmire Central this weekend, in Europe you can find a few Spaniards brave enough to go into the streets and sneer at Iraqi voters and the moronic Bush, but mustering the courage for anything else is harder.

"The Western media," he concludes, "might want to rethink their basic narrative. The Iraqi people just took a great leap forward. It's Europe that's looking more like an unwinnable quagmire."

But, if in Iraq, rippling through the entire Arab world, the "big idea" is democracy, what do we find in the UK? According to David Green, it is the dependency culture, brought on by over fifty years of welfare state, creating the "nation of supplicants".

But it is not just Labour, as Green asserts. This is the insidious disease that has been afflicting the nation ever since the Second World War. And how does that link with the EU’s new laws to "track food from 'farm to fork'".

Well, if there was any more preposterous a piece of nanny-like legislation, it is hard to imagine it.
The EU commission has unveiled "a mammoth new system of regulations", obliging the food and drink trade to track and record all food and food ingredients from "farm to fork", then keep those records for up to five years.

Since 1 January of this year, every business in the food and drink trade has been required to keep detailed records of every delivery from a supplier and every delivery out to a customer. Now, guidelines published yesterday spell out the meaning of that new requirement, technically known as Article 18 of the General Food Law.

According to the commission, those affected do not just include established companies but individuals, such as those running a private catering firm out of their kitchen, or a "gastro-pub" buying fresh game from a hunter at the back door.

What used to be the noble and useful task of producing food has now become a quagmire of bureaucracy, a massive and entirely unproductive exercise in record-keeping which will add a huge burden to the already difficult task of keeping the nation fed.

In a more robust society, the nation’s food producers would have risen up en masse and rejected this preposterous impost but, beaten down by a succession of food scares and the legions of self-interested lobbyists, the industry, whimpishly, has submitted quietly to this new madness and, in some cases, has even welcomes us.

And that brings us to the Conservative Party fishing green paper which was launched last month. In the document, we offered genuine devolution, with the establishment of local Fisheries Management Authorities, rune by local people with the knowledge of their own fisheries, who would take charge and devise rules appropriate to local conditions.

But the most strident and voluble response to the paper has been from two groups – who shall remain nameless – that are demanding a commitment from the Party to introduce national schemes, governed by regulations produced by central government. Offered the freedom to run their own affairs, these groups insist on "ministers in suits" telling them what to do.

I have likened it to a phenomenon we have seen when battery hens are released from their cages in to a paddock and freedom. They first thing they try to do is get back into the security of their cages.

That is the common theme. Compared to the robust response of the Iraqis to the challenge of democracy, we cannot even be bothered to vote. Instead we cravenly submit to the imposts of our rules, without protest, and run to the security of "nanny" whenever the prospect of freedom beckons.

In that environment, it is not surprising that the EU survives and prospers. It is the embodiment of the nanny state, even styling itself as "Mother Europe looking after its children".
Rightly, Steyn calls it an "unwinnable quagmire".

If we are to struggle free of this quagmire, we must learn to live outside the cages that the system has constructed around us.

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