Monday, June 27, 2005

Still waters run deep

It was entirely predictable – and predicted – that after the high drama of the European Council, the media would lose interest in the EU for a while, and move on to pastures new.

In that, it is fairly accurately reflecting the sentiment of the general public, the vast majority of whom, I suspect, regard the EU as a "done deal" with the collapse of the constitution. To my horror, more than a few people have said to me, "good thing we're not going into that Europe, now", or words to that effect. The whole EU issue – for the time being at least – is running out of steam.

Understandably, the loss of interest has also reflected in the readership of this Blog, the average hit-rate having halved over the past week, although the sunshine might have had something to do with that as well. Surprisingly – to us at any rate, the greater downturn has affected our domestic audience most, with international readership holding up to the extent that it makes up better than two-thirds of our "hits".

The expected calm is by no means unwelcome, as it gives me an opportunity to catch up on recent events, as Booker and I are still completing the second edition of The Great Deception. Making sense of June, with the aftermath of the referendums and the European Council, is by no means an easy task.

One thing that as emerged in the aftermath, however, is a scatter of stories on the CAP, two yesterday in The Observer, and one in The Sunday Telegraph, plus another "debate" piece in The Guardian today. I thought initially, I would tag an analysis of these pieces to this post, but it has run to such a length that I will make the subject of a separate post for later today.

Another issue that has not yet emerged into either public or media consciousness is the effect of Blair's recent theatricals on the Conservative Party. Although Blog readers will be aware that his speeches were remarkable devoid of content, the impression the prime minister has conveyed is one of new-found Euroscepticism, which presents a singular threat ot the tepid Euroscepticism of the Tories, to the extent that they now feel threatened by it.

Thinking Tories – if there is such a breed – are acutely aware that, in the the recent South Staffordshire by-election, while Sir Patrick Cormack retained his seat on a swing of 1.56 percent, polling 13,343 votes, UKIP increased its share of the vote to 10.43 percent, up 6.69 percent, polling 2,675 votes and chasing the Lib-Dims for third place.

Given that the next general election may well coincide with the Euro-elections, whence the EU issue cannot be so easily marginalised, UKIP therefore continues to present a serious threat to the chances of the Conservatives getting re-elected and, if Blair, or his successor, has stolen their "Eurosceptic" clothes, the task may be even more difficult.

Under the surface, therefore, things are beginning to stir. Blair cannot be allowed to keep the intiative on an issue which the Tories regard as one of their stronger points and we may well, as a result, see a realignment and strengthening of Tory policy on the EU over the coming months.

It is too early yet to say what precisely might emerge, but it is always as well to remember that still waters run deep. Just because it is calm on the surface, don't mean that nuttin's happening. As always, we will try to keep you informed.

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