Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All because the EU wants to be loved

There are some people, no doubt, who are looking enviously at Hungary, where its highly unpopular prime minister has resigned. He follows in the wake of the Lithuanian government, which was voted out last autumn, and Latvia's, which fell last month.

Iceland also has a new prime minister and it looks as if the Czech Republic could also be in trouble – to say nothing Greece, where the government is hanging on by its fingertips.

Given such a clear example, many would wish that Gordon Brown would follow suit and fall on his sword, unlikely though that is. He looks certain to hang on until the election next year.

Before that, of course, we have the euro elections in June, which is getting the EU parliament – if no one else – excited. It has just appointed the Berlin-based ad agency Lutz Meyer to manage a €28m advertising account in an attempt to convince people to vote. The EU parliament is worried that in the last euros, in 2004, the turnout was 48 percent, 18 percentage points lower than in the first parliamentary elections in 1979.

It really is rather ironic that we should have a German ad agency spending our money in an attempt to get us to vote for an EU construct that more than 50 percent of the nation does not want – and which attracts widespread hostility.

The bigger irony is the report of a private Labour poll, aired by the News of the World and picked up by Open Europe, which suggests that the BNP could win seven seats this June. That rather explains why Labour politicians were panicking about the BNP last month.

The party that should be panicking, however, is UKIP. The likelihood is that it will suffer most, but there is no room for complacency in the Tories, as they too could find themselves losing votes. But the EU has something to worry about as well. If its ad campaign is successful, one possibility is that the BNP vote could increase.

With Brown then hanging on for another year, this gives the BNP a firm base to build a general election campaign. It is not likely to pick up a Westminster seat, but a firm vote could damage Tory chances. Those with longer memories will recall the "UKIP effect" in the 2005 election, where the combination of UKIP, Veritas and BNP cost the Tories upwards of 30 seats.

It is not totally beyond the realms of possibility, therefore, that the EU could be spending its money in a way that eventually deprives the Tories of office and enables Brown to buck the trend. If European governments keep falling, his could end up the only one to remain in office past 2010. And all because the EU wants to be loved.