I have arrived back in the UK from Ghana, and catching up on an unforgivably tendentious series of articles on Europe and governance in the Guardian. They are predicated on a Eurobarometer poll that showed, according to the Guardian, that:
Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the union’s worst ever crisis, new data shows.
That is not an unfair characterisation. In the UK, for example, 69% of the population disagreed with the proposition that they trust the EU as am institution. What is totally and tendentiously unfair, given the construct the Guardian puts on this information in a whole series of articles. is that the same poll shows that in the UK, 77% of the population disagreed with the proposition that they trust the UK government as an institution.
So the Guardian would have been on even stronger ground to assert:
Public confidence in the Westminster government has fallen to historically low levels, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the coalition, new data shows.
But it didn’t assert that, because it seeks to reassure us that the answer to our woes is to bring in Ed Balls and the red neo-cons who bailed out the banks, introduced tuition fees in England and Wales and started privatising the NHS, rather than George Osborne and the blue neo-cons who continued the process. In fact Westminster is not the answer to any question, in the eyes of the public.
Simon Jenkins article on the subject appears directly to be channelling the spirit of Thatcher. I can’t see a phrase here which could not have been penned by Thatcher, especially where he gets all sonorous:
“Treaties are not for ever, but nation states are”
The modern concept of a nation state accepted as the worldwide standard unit of government is essentially a nineteenth century construct, and a great many states have fallen apart recently. Besides which, Mr Jenkins is not keen on Scotland, which arguably was the nation which first articulated many of the properties of the modern idea of a nation state in the Declaration of Arbroath. He doesn’t want Scotland to prove him right about nation states being forever and thus irrepressible. He actually doesn’t believe what he writes himself. But I divert.
Jenkins’ ultra-conservative view is best summed up by his assertion that a major problem of the European Parliament is that it has “no governing party discipline and reflects no identifiable interest”. In other words, it is not like Westminster.
But party discipline is precisely what is wrong with Westminster. MPs are “whipped” – a most appropriate word, into voting in favour of the commercial interests, which are overwhelmingly, in the UK, City of London financial interests with the only major competition being arms industry interests, which support their party structures and promote the leadership of their parties. It makes no difference at all which party gets elected. If a party leader emerges who might actually make any difference, Murdoch and the establishment can be relied on to destroy him, witness Michael Foot and Charlie Kennedy, the two most decent – and talented – men to lead parties in my lifetime.
Jenkins thinks the problem with the European Parliament is the lack of this systematic domination of darkness. In truth, the problem of the European Parliament is that it lacks the power to bring the European Union under democratic control, but that is a defect capable of remedy.
Here are some more details of the Eurobarometer poll the Guardian omitted in its total misrepresentation. 70% wish to see a stronger EU role in regulating the financial services industry (p.28) and on the same page, 76% want to see stronger EU coordination of economic policy.
Large majorities across Europe support:
the introduction of a tax on financial transactions (71%)
tighter rules for credit rating agencies (79%)
a tax on profits made by banks (83%)
tighter rules on tax avoidance and tax havens (61%)
These are all areas where the Tory government has been among those blocking effective EU action, against the will of the people of the EU.
85% agreed that the EU would have to work close together as a result of the economic crisis, and 53% agreed the EU would emerge from it stronger in the long run. (p. 40).
The European public are Keynesian. Tellingly only 39% of the population believe that reducing public deficits and debt are the answer to the economic crisis (p. 25). Which shows what kind of place a truly democratic Europe would be.
The final nail in the Rusbridger/Jenkins/Thatcher argument is that 23% believe the European Union is the most important body for dealing with the economic crisis, as opposed to 20% who thought their national government or 13% who thought the IMF (p.17).
Rusbridger and Jenkins each accepts a salary many times that of the Prime Minister from the Guardian Trust, at the same time the Guardian is making strong cuts in staff numbers to reduce costs and reorienting its online content to the preferences and prejudices of a US audience to try and improve its online revenue stream. I presume they produce this UKIP friendly bilge because its popular with the very right wing audience that, judging by their comments sections, they have succeeded in attracting to click and boost those advertising counters.
It was once a good newspaper. As Rusbridger, war criminal cheerleader Michael White, super-rich Simon Jenkins and the others all seem determined to go on as long as Mugabe, I expect soon very few will remember the days when the Guardian was a good newspaper.