Here’s a Christmas puzzle for Solidarity readers. Who is most confused and disoriented by David Cameron’s refusal to sign up for EU fiscal unity — the Daily Express and Mail or the Morning Star?
The Express and Mail have been, as you might expect, fairly jubilant about Cameron’s willingness to isolate himself (or “stand up for Britain”, as they preferred to put it).
The Express ran a poll which, in true Albanian style, had 99% of their readers backing Cameron. They quoted the aptly named Tory MP Peter Bone declaring that is was “Better to be a British bulldog than a Brussels poodle”.
But beneath the joy of the right-wing press there was some confusion. The Express in particular worked itself up into a frenzy about the treacherous and anti-British behaviours of the leading EU states.
Within hours of the end of the summit EU leaders were, we were told, “plotting their revenge” on Britain. First there will be “more red tape and regulation” in fact “a deluge” of the stuff. But the second element of the revenge plot is even more sinister; European leaders are apparently threatening “to drive the UK out of the EU”. Devious bastards eh?
But just a minute, is that really such a terrible thing? The Express describes the 99% support for Cameron’s stance as an overwhelming endorsement of the paper’s own “crusade to get Britain out of the EU”. Faced with clear evidence that the EU leaders and the Express have a common goal, UK withdrawal, you might expect more harmony and co-operation between them.
For most of the British right-wing press the main enemy was not Merkel or Sarkozy or even “the Germans” or “the French”. As ever and as recommended by all good socialists, the main enemy was at home. It was Nick Clegg. When he finally tried to put some distance between himself and Cameron on the EU deal the full range of Tory insults was unleashed. He is Madame Fifi, his party are “waxwork dummies” and above all he had crossed a serious line when he described Britain as “a pygmy on the world stage” in what the Express described as “a live TV rant”.
It wasn’t Clegg’s racist language that was being attacked here but his alleged failure to be patriotic and puff up the influence of the declining power he represents.
All the right-wing press dismissed Lib Dem opposition as empty and safe. The consensus is that they face electoral oblivion outside the Coalition and are too frightened to pull it down.
Alongside Clegg, the Mail, Express and Sun also had a pop at Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine for similar patriotic shortcomings. These old Tories might claim to believe that the interests of UK bosses would be better served by strengthening their links with the EU, but their real agenda was euro-federalism and a lingering bitterness over how they had been treated by the unquestionably great Maggie Thatcher.
Strangely enough the most steely and hard-headed Euro-sceptic assessment of Cameron’s actions came from Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun. Cameron, he claimed, did not want to be in this position. “You could almost read the thought bubble over his head as he left ‘what the hell have I done’.”
Kavanagh clearly recognises that, in his own words, Britain seems friendless and the Coalition is splintering, but he registers these things not to suggest that the Tory leader made a mistake. On the contrary he urges him to take his stance to the logical, principled conclusion. Slash corporation tax on profits now, challenge the EU with your defiance, and then leave.
Kavanagh’s take on the Lib Dems is also more acerbic. They have “learned to enjoy ministerial power and chauffeured limos”. They are, he implies, going nowhere anytime soon.
And so to the Morning Star, whose leader writer on the day after the summit confesses to “a momentary twinge of fellow feeling with chief speculators stooge David Cameron”. Much is spent in the ensuing article underlining the difference between Cameron and the Morning Star but they hardly lessen the contradictions.
The CP line can be summed up as “Cameron did the right thing for wrong reasons”. One of the wrong reasons is, correctly, identified as defence of the City from regulation and the Tobin tax. Beyond that however the basic criticism is this: “Make no mistake about it, Cameron remains wedded to Britain’s place in Europe”. Well, let us make no mistake about it — the Morning Star’s central criticism of the Tory leader is that he is not anti-European enough.
When it comes to what is wrong with UK involvement in the EU the Star has two problems. The first is that “ever since Britain has been involved in the EU, the percentage of GDP generated by manufacturing has declined rapidly.”
This is a link of such monumental economic ignorance that the writer cannot even sustain it for a few paragraphs in a short article. Within a short time he admits that the decline of manufacturing industry “can be clearly identified as stemming from the policies of the Thatcher government in the early 1980s when it began its huge programme of privatisation in industry in tandem with a shift of policy emphasis from manufacturing to finance as the core of the British economy”.
And what was Cameron most objecting too in the EU deal other than the threat to regulate and tax the finance capitalists in the City?
The better reason given by the Morning Star for objecting to the EU deal is the lack of democracy. They do not, however suggest a remedy for that. They do not demand democratic control of EU powers and decisions nor democratic control of the banks, nor a levelling up of social rights. Instead they offer the alternative of national withdrawal and some way in the future “the socialist way”.
Given that this is a paper that spent the vast majority of its history championing and lying about the greatest prison house of nations in history, the totalitarian Eastern bloc, they are hardly well-placed to lecture anyone on the merits of democracy.