Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A rather unhappy bunny

The piece on Redwood this morning has drawn an indignant retort from Dominic Cummings of the New Frontiers Foundation, who disputes that this is the first time the Tories have discussed changing the Single Market and that it signals a new leadership decision.

In support of his contention, Cummings cites "an almost entirely unreported speech" given by Michael Howard on 19 July to the European Democrat Students at their Summer University in London, "when he raised the idea of fundamental reform of the Single Market".

In our own defence, we feel we can be forgiven for missing the reference, as Mr Howard did not exactly launch an unequivocal crusade at that time. In the context of "allowing countries to pursue their own policies would force the European Union to become more competitive," what he said was:

Of course, there are some powers that all countries must sign up to – the single market being the most obvious. The single market was intended by Britain to be a vehicle for liberalization that would benefit business. It has brought real benefits to countries across Europe – but it has also been used to justify unnecessary rules and regulations. This is partly what has caused the recent
steep decline in support for the EU amongst British business.
Only then did he go on to add:

So we need to look closely at how the single market is working in practice. We need a simple set of rules that will facilitate and stimulate trade within the European Union. A reformed single market must be the bed rock of a transformed EU. It would deliver the great gains in productivity and growth that Europe so desperately needs. It would end the steady creep of bureaucratic power. And it would re-engage public support for the European Union.
However, we feel that there is a quantum difference between a rather vague call for “reform” – the mantra of successive politicians ever since we joined the EEC – and Redwood’s promise of an open-ended “renegotiation” of Britain’s terms of entry. Nevertheless, there is a continuity in the line that suggests a progressive development of thought, with Redwood picking up the loose ball and running with it.

Clearly, this is important and The Daily Telegraph today in its leader thinks that Redwood’s intervention is "a signal that the Conservatives intend to reopen Europe as an election issue". Cummings thinks otherwise: "Nobody looking intelligently at the polls would conclude that the answer to the Tory problems is to embark now on a Europe campaign when they have not yet developed an answer to the renegotiation dilemmas", he writes.

It would quickly fall apart and dismay a public yet to hear from the Tories on the issues that most concern them. Those expecting such a move are likely to be disappointed. It is far more likely that the Party will be pushing crime and immigration over the next few months than Europe.
This is worrying. We knew that the Tories were short of money, but none of us had realised that they were having to resort to "pushing crime" to make up the shortfall.

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