Sunday, November 16, 2008

It has come to this

So low down on the news agenda is it that, even though The Sunday Telegraph offers a short, five paragraph piece on it in the print edition, even this newspaper does not seem concerned enough to post the story online. It will, therefore, be missed by commentators who surf the net for their news.

The story itself is headed, "Tories pledge to end fish dumping" – the obscene practice of "discards" which is a central feature of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, about which Christopher Booker has written so much and which had kept this blog continually exercised, most recently here.

So, if the Tories are pledging to end this obscenity, this must surely be good news, except for the fact that it should already be Tory policy. That it became so, briefly, was happily announced by Booker in his column on 8 January 2005. That was the day before Owen Paterson, then shadow fisheries minister, launched his consultation paper on fisheries, which included the unilateral repatriation of the CFP, an event which was also recorded by this blog.

This policy had in fact been adopted by Michael Howard, the former Tory leader who, after frenetic behind-the-scenes negotiations, affirmed it on 10 June 2004, after a clear statement at the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in Dundee on 14 June 2004, again recorded by this blog.

However, with the accession of David Cameron to the leadership of the Tory Party, after its earlier defeat in the general election, the policy was quietly ditched, without even a formal statement to that effect.

So, here we are, more than three years later and, once again, it looks as if the policy is back. But, as we all know to our cost, appearances can be deceptive. What we learn is that Bill Wiggin, now the shadow fisheries minister, has apparently discussed new proposals with Joe Borg, the EU fishing commissioner. From these discussions, what David Cameron's new "conservative" party now has in mind is – according to The Sunday Telegraph - as follows:

The party is seeking EU support for a pilot scheme that would require British fishermen to land and report all fish caught and killed in the catching process.
From a robust, principled stand, where the Tories would reassert control over a valuable national asset, and re-introduce a proper and effective management system, David Cameron now proposes that his fisheries minister in a new Tory government would do what Tory ministers have always done since the very first days when we joined the then Common Market.

He will go cap-in-hand to Brussels and there he will say "pretty please" to our real masters, and ask if they would, very kindly, allow us to stop doing something which, had we been a sovereign nation, we would never have actually done in the first place.

That is what it has come to. That is what we always suspected might happen and that gives us the revealing clue as to Mr Cameron's real policy towards the European Union … more of the same, as it has always been. What we can't say, however, is that we have been betrayed. We never expected any different from Mr Cameron.

The question is, on this basis, are we expected to vote for the Conservative Party? And, if so, how are they different from Labour?