It’s a strange world. I used to regard Norman Tebbit (who was a prominent and outspoken figure in the Thatcher government) as something not far off the Devil Incarnate. But these days I just read his prominent and outspoken blog.
When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party, it was on a staunchly Eurosceptic platform. In 2007, for example, he offered an unconditional promise – the “cast-iron guarantee” – that he would give the British people a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. That unredeemed pledge haunts his leadership, a ghostly guarantee that would have been difficult enough to exorcise even without the catastrophic wounds now being inflicted on the European and world economy by the turmoil within the eurozone.
Yet the truth is that the current crisis should have come as no surprise, either to Mr Cameron or to the wider public. Indeed, it has been precisely forecast since before the euro came into being. The would-be masters of Europe knew, just as we critics did, that the euro would eventually fail unless it was supported by a single economic policy wielded by a single treasury within a single government.
The calculation in Brussels was – and is – that the damage threatened by the currency’s collapse would frighten both the leaders and the led into the ultimate stage of “ever closer union”: namely, another burning building without fire exits or windows, but with even stronger locks on the doors. That union could not be a democratic one, not only because of the circumstances of its conception and birth, but because, as Enoch Powell observed many years ago, there is no such thing as a European demos.
This is the outcome that I’ve recently been wondering about. The ‘ever closer union’ in this case is a European fiscal union, with centralised taxes and finances, all brought in as a double-or-quits solution to the current European crisis.
So I’m half expecting David Cameron and other EU leaders to announce that they have agreed that such a fiscal union is the only way out of the current crisis. Would there be a debate in parliament about it? Probably not. It’ll just be announced that this is what is going to happen. After all there isn’t going to be any real debate on Monday whether to hold a referendum on the EU.
And Tebbit’s point about the undemocratic nature of the EU maybe highlights the real attraction of it for professional politicians. Here we are in Britain – a country which struggled for centuries to slowly put together a parliamentary democracy in which political power could be held accountable -, and it can all be set to nought simply by merging Britain into a larger non-democratic state – and a state which, in this case, seems to have been consciously modelled on the old Soviet Union. Once Cameron and Hague and all the rest of them have been rewarded with plum jobs as apparatchiks within the new EU Kremlin, they can forget about the electorate, and get on with the business of implementing EU-wide smoking bans and carbon emission targets and wind farms to their hearts’ content. It’ll probably take another 500 years before the EU becomes sufficiently democratic for the trick to need to be repeated again.
Probably much the same happened during the unification of England when the Kingdom of Wessex was united with Mercia and Northumbria in 927 AD. It took another 600 years to get anything remotely democratic.
And the same also maybe with the Roman Republic as it expanded to become an empire ruled by – guess what? – a single unelected dictator, the emperor Augustus, in 27 BC. It had all been getting a bit too democratic, and it had to stop.
I suppose an analogy might be with a successful small firm that builds up its own vibrant internal democratic culture in which people are promoted solely on merit, and is then bought by and merged with a multinational corporation with an authoritarian command structure, where everyone has to leap out of bed at 6 am to sing the Red Flag, and in which the only way to get promoted is to marry one of the boss’s ugly daughters (e.g. someone like EU VP Catherine Ashton).
Or like a little democratic fish that’s eaten by a bigger undemocratic fish, and which in turn is eaten by an even bigger and even more undemocratic fish when it shows signs of becoming democratic, and so on, …if you see what I mean. The state of democracy may well simply be the front door of tyranny, and tyranny begins when elected politicians hand the keys of the city to the wolf at its gates. Just when you think you are master of your own affairs, a new tyrant steps onto the stage.
Or, in a further trying analogy, like a noble Etruscan family, descendants of Aeneas, marrying into a family of rat-catchers.
We tend to think of ‘progress’ as being a slope up which we steadily walk, slowly getting higher and higher (and richer and savvier). But perhaps it’s not like that at all (and this is the real error of the ‘Progressives’), and instead it’s more like walking step by slow step up a staircase, coming to a stop on each step, panting with breath, as if each were a mountain. Or as if each step was like a sand dune, up which we stumbled, only to find at the crest that ahead there lay another and then yet another dune.
It’s all cyclical. Time doesn’t go in a straight line from past to future. It goes round and round in circles, history repeating.
Or at least, it might do…
Maybe it’s just me, but I find cyclical explanations of events peculiarly alluring. There are no loose ends. You just have to look at the clock to know where you are. If you can read clocks, that is. It’s hard to keep up with clock technology these days. When I were a lad a clock had something called ‘hands’ on it. Two of them. They pointed in different directions. And some of them glowed in the dark. But now they’re all just numbers from 00:00 to 23:59. Whatever will they be next? Will people still wear wrist-watches like manacles, in illo tempore?
But I digress.
What are these politicians going to do next? I don’t trust ’em an inch.
New euro ’empire’ plot by Brussels
European Union chiefs are drawing up plans for a single “Treasury” to oversee tax and spending across the 17 eurozone nations.
The proposal, put forward by Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, would be the clearest sign yet of a new “United States of Europe” — with Britain left on the sidelines.
The single Treasury plan emerged in Brussels yesterday as Europe’s finance ministers tried to find a way out of the crisis engulfing the eurozone. A full-scale rescue plan could cost about £1.75 trillion.