having the money, the think tanks, and the media outlets, does
it ever strike you what a pitiful 'case' the smack Iraq
lot make for it? And add to that the small, but useful thing they
have going for them the fact that these somewhat tuneless praise-singers
holler in support of American and British government policy. Really,
there should be few easier gigs than this, but nope. Where really
do you ever get to read a decent argument in favour of, and actually
justifying, an attack on Iraq? Well, in an act of intellectual
perversity I'm going to have a go next week in this space, if
only to see if, in the process, we can see why the folk on the
other side of the hill think as they do.
really is the sort of thing that bothers me most and so
too often I bore you with attempts to try and 'explain the explanations',
or, as I would say if I had done English Lit at a New England
college, to provide the meta-context. Over at ERO we've
tried recently to provide a Conservative examination of why
Britain found herself bombing Serbia in the mid to late 90s. For
me it was especially depressing that at the time the Tory response
to Britain's Balkan wars, outside of the maverick personality
of the late Alan
Clark, was so limp. I'm not saying that one webzine will turn
things around, but it's a start. Now, as we're going to wade into
deep waters next week, let's take a look at what is reasonably
bruited as Iain Duncan Smith's signal achievement to date as Tory
leader the end to the internecine party feuding over 'Europe'.
the closing months and weeks of the Second World War, Hitler and
Goebbels' rapidly diminishing future meant that they sought inspiration
and reassurance from the past. One 'lesson' appealed particularly:
'the miracle of the House of Brandenburg'. This was when Frederick
the Great, seemingly about to be destroyed by an irresistible
combination of enemies was saved at the very last moment by the
death of Czarina Elizabeth. Her successor, Peter III, promptly
took Russia out of the war against Prussia.
the last days of John Major's regime bear little comparison to
those of the Third Reich. But one thing they did have in common
was the conviction, hope, that the source of their pains might
just, at the very latest possible opportunity, be swept away by
some deus ex machina.
a few short years on it's difficult to recreate through words
alone how truly horrible for Tories the problem of 'Europe' had
become. And how certain, though for conflicting and poisonous
reasons, all Conservatives were that 'Europe' was about to bring
their 18 year epoch to an abysmal end.
way to bring back that feeling of intellectual toothache we suffered
without interruption from at least Black
Wednesday on is to try and conjure up the grotesques who daily
paraded before us. There's no need to name names, to do so would
take us far beyond Parliament, even to the pages of what Ken Clarke
likes to call 'the Canadian owned press'. What the Clarkes and
Heseltines never understood though, was that like any fight between
children, it didn't really matter who 'started it', a persistent
willingness to engage in combat made every participant seem equally
like in any failed marriage, the true test of how horrible it
had all become was, how did it affect the Children?
their grown up counterparts waged fratricidal war over Maastricht
at Westminster Tory students found equal excuse to do the same.
In the early 90s the undergraduate anti-Europe society claimed
to be the biggest political club in Oxford. Cambridge anti-Europeans,
making up in extremism what their organisational incompetence
lost in numbers, had no time for well attended speaker meetings
and lavishly produced magazines on the Oxford model. Instead of
mere talk they preferred to fight via the agency of 'the stunt'.
most successful was the eloquent forty foot "NO TO MAASTRICHT"
banner smuggled into the University Library and hung from a top
floor window. Unfortunately the picture destined for next day's
Telegraph wasn't developed in time . . . And, the consolation
prize of a front page on Varsity, the student newspaper,
was lost because of a more Dadaist political statement. Someone
rather more inspired had overnight put a pair of giant green fluorescent
hands on the Corpus Christi clock, relegating the sceptics to
er, they suffered from an unwillingness to take their stunts
to the ends their inexorable political logic demanded: even teenage
Powellites couldn't bare to ask hostile questions of genial grandee
Willie Whitelaw (the consensus was, it would have been like sticking
knives in Pandas' eyes). They didn't, despite having a personable
American lined up, go through with the plan to mark Commissioner
Brittan's visits by dressing her up as 'Britannia in chains' and
pushing the stricken symbol round Market Square in a college wheelbarrow
borrowed for the purpose. The point here is not the inability
of Cambridge graduates to come together in a small group and organise
anything successfully the last Tory cabinet demonstrated that
rather more fully but that 'Europe' from 1992 to defeat in May
1997 caused Tories to do, and think very silly things in relation
to one another.
diaries show how Hitler and his Propaganda Minister tried to cast
many of the final scenes of the Third Reich in the 'miracle of
the House of Brandenburg' mould: localised battlefield successes
were hailed as the turned tide; ever more fearsome super weapons
to succeed the V1 and V2 were just round the corner; and most
cruelly of all, Goebbels and Hitler celebrated Roosevelt's death,
thinking that it meant the US would now pull out of the war.
like the late Führer and pubescent Croatian schoolgirls,
had also acquired the habit of seeing miracles all around. Conservative
visions in the '92-'97 Parliament were of an (immediate) future
when 'Europe' had ceased to torment them. These faint, false glimmers
of hope took many forms. Forza Italia and the advent of
the sceptical (mk. 1) Silvio Berlusconi was heralded as a fundamental
change in the EU, and our way out of all difficulty. Jacques Delor's
departure from the Commission was celebrated in some papers much
as the news of the relief of Mafeking was. The ERM collapsed.
Mitterand died and in time stopped being President of France.
Helmut Kohl was supposed to be due to quit the stage at each relevant
German general election. All of it, even the Danish referendum
result and the fortuitous timing of the continental recession,
amounted to nothing. In government the Tory party was determined
to fight over Europe, Europe didn't go away, and the party retained
just enough strength to fight it too.
pain would never have ended for John Major's government if it
had lived. To kill the pain would have meant stopping the project
of European integration. But to derail that train required Britain
to appear to want to board. In other words the futility of Tory
Euroscepticism was total.
extreme claim? It is virtually impossible that, but for general
election defeat, Mr Major could finally have been on the
cusp of the destruction of the Franco-German axis, the engine
of the anti-British development of the Common Market. For the
development that has facilitated, almost forced serious
Franco-German divergence, has been the emergence of an apparently
'pro-European' Britain. This has removed the figleaf of unity
for Berlin and Paris, for no longer can they, whatever their
differences, define themselves as together in their common opposition
to the aims of the uncommuniatiare British.
for this seismic event is plentiful, indeed The Times'
excellent Roger Boyes makes a living out of chronicling it. The
mercurial personality of Chirac, in contrast to Mitterand, has
played its part in France recently lashing out and rediscovering
her independence. Much more significant is that post reunification
Germany has discovered that she has national interests
and that being a democracy does not preclude their pursuit. France,
slightly better practised at this last activity, has fallen out
with her axis partner to the extent that it is now the norm for
the two not to brief each other first on major policy developments.
Franco-German axis since 1990 had become a conjurers' trick, dependent
on the performers ensuring that the audiences attention was always
directed away from the central slight of hand. With the disappearance
of sceptical Britain we only had to look at Paris and Bonn for
the illusion of European construction to dissolve.
against the motor of integration has been gained by Britain being
moderately more Euro-friendly. This is not a trick the Tories
could have pulled off, they were, and are heading in the direction
of wanting a terminal crisis in our relationship with the rest
of the European Union. Mr. Blair has unwittingly saved us from
European Union, but if he wanted, and worked explicitly towards
it, could he dragoon the now divergent French and Germans into
it? The evidence of his and Mr. Straw's diplomatic ability to
date thankfully suggests "NO".