Sunday, October 01, 2006

We can't all be wrong

With the Conservative Party Conference starting today, The Sunday Times "Focus" piece homes in on the question: "Which way for David Cameron?"

Whichever way "Dave" might chose, one thing is very clear – the European Union is not on the agenda. This can only add to the general dissatisfaction with a man who seems to be having difficulty maintaining a gap between his party and a terminally weakened NewLabour, something Dave's groupies seem rather anxious to dismiss.

But, it is not just us "Europhobes" – as Peter Riddell so charmingly calls us – that are beginning to notice the vacuum. No less than Riddell himself devoted his column last week to the subject, under the heading, "Whatever you do, don't mention the E-word", writing: "The three main parties all have something in common on Europe; their leaders prefer not to talk about it".

Riddell may have been stating the blindingly obvious but he was not the only Europhile so to do. A few days earlier, Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, had been writing in The Independent about, "Europe: the issue that dare not speak its name". MacShane was worried that, in our determination not to discuss the European Union, we risked being left behind, reacting to the ideas shaped in other EU capitals.

And Riddell himself was followed by none other than the EU's communications commissioner Margot Wallström, who noted that Gordon Brown's speech at the Labour party congress did not touch upon the fact that the UK is a member of the European Union and there was very little (any?) mention of ambitions for how to influence the political agenda of the EU.

She was then supported on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme by Labour MEP Richard Corbett who also complained at the lack of "Europe" in the speech.

Thus does it come full circle. The very programme which Booker singles out for its failure to mention "Europe" has been running a programme featuring the EU communication commissioner complaining about British politicians failing to mention "Europe".

And if we all have in common a desire to see the European Union debated more openly, we can't all be wrong.


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