Tuesday, May 26, 2009

David Cameron, Leadership, and the European Union

David Cameron today has been hailed for the "leadership" of speech on a new political deal. But he ducked the central crack in his party's internal politics - the European Union.

Who in the Tory Party is willing to Defend the EU? Ken Clarke seems willing, but the rest of leadership, including Cameron just waffle. Above all, I doubt they want an election now - an election in October after the Irish have approved the Lisbon Treaty would in all probability suit them fine.

I once had some sympathy with the left wing/Bennite critique of the EU - i.e. that it represents a supranational power that cannot properly be controlled withing the parameters of representative democracy because the "European-wide Electorate" does not exist given the language and historical divergences of the Continent.

But now I think a wider historical perspective is worthwhile. After an 1600 year history of more or less continuous warfare, Europe achieved a high degree of peace and stability after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. But that Concert of Europe" was unable to deal the rising power of Germany, which initiated three major wars in 1870, 1914, and 1939.

The European Union has improved on the Concert of Europe by tying the continent together economically, and by spreading and maintaining a human rights agenda which has indeed given minorities protections they lacked in the narrow ethnic Nation-States of the 19th century.

Indeed, it has become one of the major engines of peace, prosperity, and co-operation in world history.

I can quite understand why educated Tories such as Cameron support it, but I find it annoying that neither they nor most Labour politicians will openly praise the EU for what it has achieved. Here all the heavy lifting is done by the LibDems (plus SNP and PC I suppose.)

I am quite willing to have a straight up and down referendum on "staying in Europe/leaving Europe" with a six month serious campaign.

Cameron's refusal to defend an EU that he actually seems to agree with seems to me to indicate his basic weakness as a leader.

UPDATE: I originally wrote "Charles Clarke" when I meant "Ken Clarke." Oops.

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