Monday, September 12, 2005

The measure of the beast

Christopher Patten, that completely independent EU pensioner, is airing his views in the The Guardian today, telling us that the Tories have "lost the plot" and only Ken Clarke can find it again.

He argues of the Conservative Party that what has "helped to wreck its prospects, delivering Britain into the hands of a Labour government" is the reversal of "the international posture it had first warmly embraced 30 years before when it had become a pro-European party."

He claims that Conservative "anti-Europeans" have been indulging in a ruinous fantasy have no idea what to put in place of the arrangements against which they rail. Theirs is a programme, he says, whose main achievement has been to exclude from all hope of the party leadership the man - Kenneth Clarke - most able to exercise it in a way likely to restore the party's fortunes.

He believes that Clarke is the man to drag the Conservative party back into a more sensible and comprehensible European posture. Others with similar views to his are driven to the outer fringes of Conservatism, to watch with dismay the continued infatuation of the party they love.

What is especially interesting, I suppose, is not the content, but the fact that the EU pensioner feels the need to make it – so keenly that he will even, as a supposed Conservative, open up his heart to the distinctly un-Conservative Grauniad. In that, he is really showing the obsession with "Europe" of which he accuses us "anti-Europeans".

Outside the ranks of the constituency party, however – amongst "normal" people, I fear that it is considerably less of an issue. Today, for instance, I met my new (lady) bank manager – by definition middle-class, and reasonably well off. We got to talking about my job, as one does, whereupon she asked me: "Do you think we will eventually join this European Union?"

Hearing this, I was reminded of the anarchic cartoon strip South Park, an episode of which I watched yesterday called "Quest for ratings".

South Park Elementary has a closed circuit television network. Jimmy and "Rick" Cartman are the anchors for "Super School News", but the school is cancelling their programme since it only gained 4 viewers in the week. Cartman wants to make the show more populist, but Jimmy does not want to jeopardise their integrity by "dumbing down." Cartman offers the immortal words: "Look, the school is already dumb. We're just giving them what they want."

Cartman, rather than Patten, may have the measure of the beast.

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