Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A mature debate?

The Europe minister, Jim Murphy is tonight making a "keynote speech" at the London School of Economics when, according to The Guardian, he will call for a "mature" debate about the EU.

Obviously working from an advance copy of the speech, the paper goes on to tell us that Murphy will say that, "It would help if we considered the EU as it actually is, rather than some fear it might be," adding that it would also help:

If its detractors desist from bestowing it with apparently satanical powers - a "coup d'état" or a "papist conspiracy", as one letter I received this week described the EU - or likening it to the threat from Nazi Germany.
However, we plead guilty to describing EU's process of capturing powers from the members states as coup d'état, although the true genius is that it is carried out in slow motion. It has hollowed out institutions like Parliament, leaving the façades intact so that few notice what has been going on.

More to the point, we most often describe the European Union as a system of government, in which context it is our supreme government in the ever-increasing areas where it has been awarded "competences" – or power. This is something that Murphy avoids saying.

However, that he is able to denigrate the opposition by referring to Eurosceptic comparisons between the EU and Nazi Germany and to the "papist conspiracy" allegations (one is surprised he did not also refer to the comparisons made between the EU and the Soviet Union), points up one of the continuing weaknesses afflicting the Eurosceptic movement.

It is indeed the inability of so many to comes to terms with that the EU really is that dogs the debate, not least the continued attempts to define it by comparison to previous political constructs. What neither Murphy nor that Eurosceptic tendency seem to want to do, however, is accept that it is an entirely new and unique form of government, and thus begin to understand its nature and how it works.

When it comes to a "mature" debate, therefore, Murphy is as much lost in the fog as those he would seek to denigrate, especially as his idea of maturity is to round on David Cameron, whom he accuses of playing "fast and loose" with the national interest by suggesting a Conservative government might hold a referendum on the treaty after ratification.

In his speech tonight, he will go on to say: "As one of my predecessors put it, the UK would become a sort of 'Norway with nukes' … There are many anti-Europeans - or Tories for short - who think this is a good option for the UK."

It is this sort of facile, ad hominem jibe which actually makes mature – or even rational – debate impossible. But then, for all his words, Murphy does not want a debate at all. This is the man who continually trots out the mantra that "the constitutional concept has been abandoned" as his defence to the charge that the EU constitution has been reintroduced via the Lisbon treaty.

But then, none of the Europhiliacs really want an open debate, which is why they resort so quickly to the ad hominem ploy – or try to shut down debate by defining (and thus limiting) its terms. What they really want is acquiescence, and this they see as best achieved by denigrating their opponents and distorting the arguments.

Unfortunately, Murphy and his ilk are aided and abetted by so many of the Eurosceptic fraternity whose facile comparisons between the EU, Nazi Germany, the USSR and all the rest, give them so much easy material to work on. Meanwhile, the bulk of the population switches off. And are we at all surprised?


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