Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Gaitskell Prize

A thought occurs to me that the Eurosceptic movement has missed a trick. Anyone in the game is familiar with the "International Charlemagne Prize", first proclaimed at Christmas 1949, which has grown in stature to become the most important and coveted award for services to European unification - amongst its more notorious winners being Ted Heath and Tony Blair.

Since the Europhiles get such mileage from their awards, the question is, where are the prizes for the Eurosceptics or, to be more specific, should we not have an annual prize for the person who has most contributed to the Eurosceptic cause?

Perhaps it should be the "Gaitskell Prize", named after the Labour Party leader who, in 1962, gave an electrifying speech to the Party conference warning of the perils of joining the then EEC, with the words, "We must be clear about this; it does mean, if this is the idea, the end of Britain as an independent European state… it means the end of a thousand years of history".

Such ruminations come to the fore, oddly, for the very reason that no good deed should go unpunished and it thus struck me that Peter Mandelson, in completely messing up on the China textile issue, has probably done more to advance the Eurosceptic cause throughout Europe than anyone since… er… is he unique?

Not of course, that Mandelson would see it that way, not according to the report in The Telegraph or even Reuters, where he is clearly in "damage limitation" mode.

For once I warm to Digby Jones, CBI director general, who says: "This is the new Commission's first real test of its free trade credentials and it has not covered itself in glory. Trying to jump through protectionist hoops to safeguard the interest of a minority of member states is ridiculous and will solve nothing in the long run. The Commission cannot act as King Canute against the rising tide of globalisation."

Wanna bet?

Anyhow, perhaps it would diminish the prize to award it to such a tawdry individual as Mandelson, and no one should be given an honour for simply being incompetent. So perhaps we can think of a better person for our prize, a start to building our own list of "heroes" and statesmen to counter the tranzies who so love covering each other with honours. And a high profile annual award ceremony would certainly give our cause some media coverage each year.

For Mr Mandelson, though, a wooden spoon should suffice, or perhaps a pair of (odd) Chinese socks?


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