Hollande is right about Britain….
It’s nice to see François Hollande starting off as he hopefully means to go on, being bold, brash and speaking his mind. If he continues in this vein, he will soon make France the envy of the world when it comes to the quality of its political leadership. I doubt, however, many people in Britain will instinctively appreciate his comments regarding Britain being ‘indifferent’ to the fate of the Euro and only concerned with the welfare of the City of London. Certainly, they have already attracted the ire of the far-right and fascist, Le-Pen supporting Daily Mail. What Mr Hollande has to say about Britain maybe uncomfortable to hear but it is also necessary because we need, in this country, to start having adult and grown-up conversations about our relationship with Europe. This must necessarily dovetail with a realistic assessment of where we are as a nation. We are not the imperial superpower we once were and to think Britain can survive and prosper in this world by play-acting at sitting astride the globe and directing as we will is nonsensical. Both UKIP and the Conservative right would have you believe I am wrong and even some on the left would agree, however, they are not living in the real world.
In the real world, the European Union is imperfect and deeply flawed, however, Britain is stronger as a key player in the EU than it is standing alone, proud but ultimately foolish in its stubborn insistence on maintaining a policy of splendid isolation. Britain’s attitude to Europe is not just, sadly, defined by nonchalant indifference but it is also scarred by ignorance and arrogance. Current government policy merely reflects that more accurately than normal. I think the second complaint by Mr Hollande is in fact more relevant to the policy of the British government than the sentiment of the British people. It is telling that of all the things that could animate Mr Cameron into life enough, it was the ‘plight’ of the City that led him to famously wield his veto.
Sadly, Labour isn’t really doing its bit for the pro-European cause; Mr Miliband pontificates on this issue and is indecisive, as he illustrated with his equivocal response to Mr Cameron’s veto. He is desperate to appear not being too pro-European and his stance is determined not by principle but perceived electoral expediency. This is the wrong stance to take because not only does it not make him personally look weak and leave the electorate unsure about him as a person but it is likely to end up pleasing nobody. Voters inclined to euroscepticism will simply opt for the real deal in UKIP and/or the Conservative Party while europhiles will be demoralised by Ed’s vagueness and offer him little enthusiastic support. What we need is a strong, principled case to be made for our involvement in Europe coupled with a narrative demanding that Europe must change, somewhat along the lines Mr Hollande would no doubt advocate. I don’t think that this will be the first time I will write this, but on Europe, and changing Britain’s view of Europe, Mr Miliband has, as he does on other issues, a fair bit to learn from Mr Hollande. Britain deserves much better than to be led down a blind alley by the demagogues on the anti-European wing of British politics. It is time Mr Miliband stepped-up to the plate and took them on.