Thursday, July 05, 2007

The House of Ussher

One of the most mysterious aspects of eurosceptic politics has been the assumption shared by an inexplicably large number of people that Gordon Brown, erstwhile Chancellor of the Exchequer and now Prime Minister was secretly, deep down a eurosceptic. It is true that he effectively kept us out of the euro but, by the same token, he effectively kept us away from a referendum on the euro and the reason for both of those was Brown’s implacable feud against Tony Blair.

Not at all, we were told. Just wait till Brown is Prime Minister. We shall see a turning in policies. And so we have. This is, if possible, an even more Europhile Cabinet than any of Blair’s was. Nor is Brown showing any signs of that deeply buried euroscepticism in his insistence that, no matter what comes out of the IGC, there will be no referendum, regardless of that election promise.

His appointments are not such as to inspire confidence in there being any straight talking on the part of the British ministers with the colleagues – not that there ever was in the past. This extends to the Junior Ministers as well.

The latest appointment is that of Kitty Ussher, class of 2005, to replace the highly influential Ed Balls as Treasury Secretary, commonly known as “City Minister”. To start with, as Londoner’s Diary pointed out in yesterday’s Evening Standard,
Business chiefs are … likely to be disappointed that their key link with the Government is a junior minister rather than the hugely influential Ed Balls.
A junior minister, furthermore, with next to no standing in the House. It is actually worse than that:
Ussher, who succeeds Ed Balls, only became an MP in 2005. Before that she was chief economist for Britain in Europe. There could be some concerns that she will not be as tough fighting Britain’s corner in Europe as Balls.
Whether Balls did fight Britain’s corner or whether the Times merely imagined that, Ms Ussher, she of an impressively political family and career background, is unlikely to do so. Not only has she worked for Britain in Europe and is a strong supporter of this country entering the eurozone, her other job was with the formerly perestroika europhile, now straightforwardly so, Centre for European Reform.

Alex Hawkes reports in Accountancy Age that Ms Ussher is a strong supporter of European tax harmonization and one can easily guess which way that would be up or down. She expressed these views in an article for CER where she also explained that the idea of tax harmonization was largely a eurosceptic myth, despite pronouncements by Oskar Lafontaine that might lead anyone believe it.

Mr Hawkes thinks that Ms Ussher will have to change her opinions as her boss, Gordon Brown is an opponent of tax harmonization. He may have been as Chancellor but he, as Prime Minister, he appointed Ms Ussher to a key position.

Incidentally, the Times article also quotes Richard Lambert, current Director of the CBI as being certain that Sir Digby Jones will not “let the bureaucrats roll him over” but also being “concerned about who would take responsibility for trade liberalisation”.

Ahem, Mr Lambert, that responsibility rests with the European Union. Is it not time you took note of that fact?


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