Thursday, June 02, 2005

We shall overcome

You've had your fun but it's all over now. The excitement is done and it's time to get back to work. Don't bother your pretty little heads about "Europe" any more – leave it to us grown-ups. In due course, we'll tell you what to think and then you can have another vote to tell us you agree.

That is, in effect, the underlying message conveyed by the leader in this morning’s Daily Telegraph, which starts with:

A curious consensus is emerging among the British political classes. It is said both by Government ministers and Europhile Conservatives that following the French - and now the Dutch - rejection of the European constitution, "Europe" is no longer an important domestic political topic.
The rest is incontinent drivel which need not detain you, but the message is otherwise crystal clear: "We don't want to talk about Europe" or, more to the point, "we don't want you to talk about Europe".

Anatole Kaletsky, in The Times, gets closest to this, writing: "…don't expect to hear much serious debate about the significance of this popular revolt against 'the idea of Europe' for many months. The first reaction will be to pretend, or even to believe sincerely, that nothing much has happened."

For the rest of The Times, there is only drivel especially from Bronwen Maddox, whose piece: "The constitution may be dead, but Europe will survive," amply illustrates the destitution of what passes for her thought processes.

The leader, with the somewhat predictable headline, "Dutch courage" isn’t much better – in fact, it isn't any better at all, opining as it does that the Dutch "no" is a rejection of the direction in which the constitution pointed the European Union. "It must be respected," says The Times.

By contrast, Barroso, on BBC Television, was wearing a smirk even more irritating that than he donned last night. Exuding confidence, he consigned the pious hopes of The Times onto the pile of tomorrow's fish and chip wrappers (EU directives permitting), stating that, "We have always overcome these difficulties in the past and will continue to overcome them in the future". As Churchill would have said, "Business as usual".

Nevertheless, The Guardian also joins the throngs of wannabe undertakers, with a leader headed: "Dead and buried". It has decided that Europe's leaders have to find ways to reconnect with disgruntled citizens – as if they had ever been "connected" in the first place. "If France's vote dealt the treaty a critical blow," it says, "the Dutch have now delivered the coup de grace." See Barroso, passim.

As for The Independent – well, who cares what it thinks, certainly not enough to pay for its leader that proclaims: "Mr Blair has the chance to forge a new consensus". At least we know where it is coming from. Anyhow, like the Europhile Guardian, it thinks – although one must use the word advisedly – that the constitution is "now dead and gone". If the slightest doubt remained after the French vote on Sunday, it was dispelled by the voters of the Netherlands, the paper says.

Oddly enough, it is a small piece in The Telegraph that gives the game away. Headed: "Blair holds back from burying the treaty," it then goes on to say:

Downing Street and the Foreign Office refused last night to declare the European Union constitution dead, despite the unanimous view among ministers that the Dutch "no" had killed it off.
Of course Blair is holding off. That is because the constitution is far from dead. But, as long as the great unwashed think it is, they can go back to sleep, the media alongside them, while the "colleagues" can get back to the serious work of bringing it into force. As the great man Barroso (nearly) said: "We shall overcome".

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