The opposite of courage….
Our policy on Europe is a bit of a mess; to put it mildly. As Mark Reckons chronicles Sir Menzies Campbell effectively ditched the policy saying there was ‘no public appetite for a vote’. Hours later his successor, Nick Clegg told the BBC’s Radio 5 Live and Simon Mayo that the ‘In/Out’ referendum was still party policy. Who knows what our policy actually is now? First correct answer in comments wins a Blue Peter badge.
Sadly, it is entirely true that this policy is bad because it was conceived by Clegg in a desperate bid to paper over the cracks on Lisbon. This should always set alarm bells ringing because policies designed to paper over cracks in party lines rarely translate well into good governmental policy. Labour, before it existed its current pro-European incarnation, had exactly these problems. It’s European policy was determined by political expediency and silencing it’s dissenters or the ‘bastards’ as they were known in John Major’s Conservatives. Seemingly the same self-absorbed neuroses inform our policies towards Europe as we try desperately to appear as far away from supporting it as possible while insisting we are ‘pro-European’.
Mark wants the policy to stay, he argues that the policy;
is genuinely brave for a pro-EU as there is a real risk of losing but it is also principled and won or lost would settle the question which has dogged our politics for many years.
It’s not brave; its foolhardy and reckless. It would not ‘settle the question for many years’ because so many of our interests are tied-in with Europe that the question would reappear every year until we were back in. It is a stunt and one that we really should not repeat too often; it is something that appears in the huge gap where our European policy should be arguing for a fundamentally different Europe and is the exact opposite of political courage.