Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Here's a good article from Andrew Stunell MP which shows how Lib Dems are actually doing stuff in government instead of picking petty fights with other countries. This article sets out how the Lib Dems are reducing the chronic problem of empty dwellings across the country after 13 years of Labour failure.

Monday, 12 December 2011


I'm pretty much decided on the whole Europe-Tories-Cock-Up-Debacle but there is a very interesting article from the BBC's Gavin Hewitt about the possibilities for the UK if it does disengage from the EU. It's a very good piece which offers a different perspective from the current arguments.

Crucially, this piece is about the possibilities for the UK of leading the agenda by offering a positive alternative to the French-dominated European 'vision' which is fundamentally anti-democratic.


[I have taken to writing a blog some hours before posting it so that I can review the language. This is a good discipline particularly when referring to our charming coalition 'partners'. You might say there's no 'f' in coalition...]

Ouch. The Independent today discusses whether the Lib Dems should stay in the coalition with the Tories or whether we should accept that we have nothing in common with their self-destructive approach to the world and pull out now, probably precipitating a new General Election. The answer is simple. We have to stick it out, however hard we must hold our noses.

We went into the coalition with the Tories because it was in the national interest. People attack Nick Clegg for changing his tune but he said this before, during and after the General Election campaign. He was absolutely, unequivocally clear that we would work with whichever party won the most votes. Thankfully, in this case it was the Tories for, let no one forget, Labour in 2010 was entirely washed up, with one of the most unpopular leaders ever, a Chancellor promising cuts pretty much along the lines of what we have now and absolutely no idea about what to do next. They were lost and they still are, as Ed Miliband demonstrated on Sunday when the best response he could come up with in response to the European debacle was to declare that he agreed with Nick. And this man has ambitions to be Prime Minister. Seriously.

By contrast, the Tories offered us a good deal. We have lost out in some areas like student fees and the referendum - call it political naivety - but in others we are doing well, such as cutting taxes for the lowest paid, investing in education for disadvantaged schoolchildren and wrestling with the nightmare of our energy policy. We are doing good Lib Dem stuff in government and that will all stop if we walk away. We are also working hard to deliver the stability which is so clearly lacking in much of Europe and which remains the touchstone of this government's success. It's hard, it is hurting but if it succeeds we will all benefit, even union leaders on £120,000 a year who seek to derail all these plans. [Note: the fiery anachronistic leader of UNISON gets this princely sum each year. I wonder how many of his poorly paid members know that...]

On a more inward-looking tack, if the Lib Dems do leave the coalition and an election is called, it's unlikely to be wine and roses for us. We have good arguments and a principled stance but Joe and Josephine Public haven't been sold on that yet. We need time to get the message across that we are holding the Tories in check and delivering on our promises. I don't know many people who dislike the Tories as much as I do and that is because I have seen close at hand how they operate. This government needs principles and clarity of purpose to survive and that isn't going to come from them. Lib Dems need to fight them all the way but do it from the inside.

So plaudits to Nick for what has become one of the best assaults of recent years on arrogance and ignorance in government and the abject failure of British diplomacy in Europe, for which David Cameron is 100% responsible. Forget the nuanced arguments of various pundits about why he did it - he failed to negotiate wisely for our interests in an international forum, he failed to engage with partners and he was comprehensively outflanked by the French - the French, goddamit!

I agree with Nick and I wish him well in what is going to be a Hell of a week for us and for our disastrously isolated country.

Friday, 9 December 2011


I struggle with Europe. I am a passionate European and I see only benefits in the European project. I have always supported Britain’s membership of the EU but that enthusiasm is tempered by my complete disdain for the EU as it is: a garbled, ill-thought out ‘camel’ of an institution with absurdities such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fish Abolition Policy and the farce of the European Parliament moving lock, stock and barrel from its headquarters in Brussels to Strasbourg once a month at a cost of millions of Euros to satisfy French egos.

Europe is a mess - a great idea but a terrible entity. It needs a counterweight to the French and their self-aggrandizing President. Angela Merkel is a star but her default setting, sadly, is to compromise, not to tell Sarko what's what. It needs a country like ours which, for all our myriad faults, is still relatively uncorrupt and which has been outward-facing for a good few centuries now. Sadly, we have mucked up our relationship with Europe for 70 years and it might just be the case that we can't 'do' Europe.

If you look back at the history of European integration it is obvious to even the most in-bred Tory that Britain has squandered what could have been a key role. When countries began talking about ‘Europe’ in London during the Second World War they were very keen for Britain to join. Britain was at the time important due to its wartime role. Reflect on that, Dave...Crucially, Britain was seen as an essential bulwark against French ambitions to use the European project to create a ‘greater France’.

Sadly, the Tory government of the time (1957) could not see the bigger picture and decided to let the foreign Johnnies get on with it while we declined politely on the sidelines. Thus France got its way from day one and all the current problems of Europe to this day emerged: the CAP, the abject lack of democracy, the corrupt Commission system, the deals behind closed doors. How much better could Europe – and Britain – have been if we had been mixing it from the start, insisting on representative and effective institutions and a free trade area which could have brought countries together while not diminishing states and their democratic checks to the detriment of the people who live in them?

When Britain realised its mistake the government had to go cap in hand to the French, who drove a hard bargain and finally let Britain join in 1973 – just as the global economy sank into one of its perennial crises. Since then we have been in a state of confusion over Europe, not sure whether to be committed or sceptical.

Well Dave has made the decision for us, now. By walking out of one of the most crucial meetings in European history he has taken Britain’s influence with him for a generation. And he let the French win again, which just smarts. We have the Olympics, they have the future of Europe. Well played, Dave.He may be defended by Eurosceptics but the crux of this whole story is that a better politician would not have let himself be put in this position.

Having now comprehensively lost all credibility in Europe, perhaps this is the time for everyone here to reflect. Frankly, we just don’t get it. Perhaps we should admit that Britain cannot be part of the EU, not because it is not in our interests – it is, and the moment we leave, London goes down the tubes as global finance moves to Frankfurt and Shanghai – but because we haven’t escaped the curse of empire, the notion that we are somehow different and better than others. We are not, we are Europeans and we have been ever since people first arrived here many thousands of years ago from Europe and continued to trade and work with their neighbours ever since.

Maybe Europe is better off without us. Maybe the spirit of closed door deals and compromise is what is needed. Maybe the new powers of Poland and Germany can stand up to France better than we have. For the first time in my life I find myself strangely sympathetic to the imbecilic voices calling for us to leave the EU. I don't agree with them but it may just be that we have shot our collective bolt and now is the time to call it a day.

As for Nick, my God he's a cool one. I can imagine what he's been saying to Dave behind the scenes but his sang froid before the cameras is a sight to behold. I'd have preferred him to have called Dave every version of fool in the English language but he is playing the long game and he deserves credit for that.