Tuesday 17 June 2008

The underdog may need to learn some new tricks

Nearly everyone rejoices in a surprise victory by the underdog, whether in wars, elections, games or talent shows. So naturally I raised a feeble cheer when the Irish voted down the Lisbon Treaty, thereby consigning the European Constitution to the dustbin of history once and for all.

At least that’s what should have happened, according to the rules. Just as it should have done when the original text was rejected by the voters of France and the Netherlands in 2005. Yet the returning officer at Dublin Castle had hardly finished announcing the results before European Commission President Barroso was popping up on the telly to announce that the Treaty was still very much alive; the perennial EU cheerleaders on the BBC were citing some of the laughable misunderstandings which had led to our intellectually challenged neighbours placing their crosses in the wrong box; and David Miliband was affirming that the Government would press ahead with the important work of ratification.

We are being denied a vote on the spurious grounds that the Treaty is radically different from the Constitution, on which every major political party had pledged a referendum. But the real reason, of course, is that the Government and their Liberal Democrat allies are convinced that they would lose. The Irish experience, where electors rejected the advice of nearly every mainstream party, and of the whole business and media establishment, will only have reinforced that conviction.

It surprises me that the great British public is credited with such dangerous independence of mind, after almost 40 years of bombardment with mendacious propaganda about how “Europe” is essential for our jobs, prosperity and security. But then the Irish have had precisely the same treatment, and with rather more justification. Their economic miracle undoubtedly owes much to the billions in EU subsidies which have been poured into the country since 1973, with the British taxpayer ultimately picking up a large share of the bill.

I would like to think that we are sceptical because we have finally grasped that almost every maddening new law in this country is dictated by our masters in Brussels. Home information packs and fortnightly bin collections are among the baleful consequences, while my village shop lies under threat of closure as a direct result of the post office rationalisation decreed by Directive 97/67/EC of 1997.

But while opinion polls suggest that we may finally have got the measure of Europe, they reveal a sad indifference to other daily assaults on our ancient freedoms. Apparently we are overwhelmingly supportive of locking up potentially innocent people for six weeks, presumably on the grounds that it isn’t going to happen to us. Even though we have already seen the surveillance powers enacted for “the fight against terrorism” used by local authorities to snoop on residents to see whether they are putting their bins out on the right day, or living in the catchment area of the school they have selected for their children.

David Davis is 100% right about the importance of this issue, and it pained me to see the Government making political capital out of his resignation. This, closely following a European Parliament expenses scandal, reinforced the impression that the Conservative Party is doomed to be the Newcastle United of British politics, with the silverware perennially eluding its grasp.

Fighting an unnecessary by-election against no meaningful opposition may seem a strange way to advance an excellent cause, but perhaps there is no alternative to such dramatic gestures when crucial Parliamentary votes are lost to bullying and bribery. What other way forward is there for the peoples of Europe, either, when the inconvenient results of successive democratic referenda are overridden by their arrogant political elites?

Fathers for Justice may yet prove the role models for ignored underdogs everywhere. Does anyone know where I can hire a Superman costume?


Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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