Hague full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Labour Party

Wiliam Hague was most interesting at the Conservative Party Conference.  I have watched the Tories’ movements regarding Europe very closely since they formed the Coalition and as a result found his speech very enlightening.

As we all know, the Conservatives had to drop most of their Eurosceptic election promises so that Nick Clegg, who for all his faults is at least pro-European, would be able to justify forming a government with them.  Since then the coalition government, far from standing up to what some Tories might call the encroaching powers of the EU, has accepted many new laws from Brussels, including one which hands some powers over financial transactions to the European Commission.

It is, however, becoming increasingly evident that there are those in the Tory party who are very unhappy with the way things are going with Europe.  And it was such a promising start for the Europsceptics. David Cameron took the Tories out of the EPP, the centre right political grouping in the European Parliament. (Tory MEPs then  formed an alliance with far right elements whom Nick Clegg described as a “bunch of nutters”). Cameron also promised to repatriate various powers to do with employment law.

In an attempt to assuage the Eurosceptics’ doubts, William Hague made an impassioned speech to the Conservative party conference that outlined plans to introduce a sovereignty clause on to the statute books in the United Kingdom asserting that EU law only has primacy in the UK because the government allows it to be that way.  He also made some forceful comments about governments being able to “undo” the things they have done. 

All well and good for playing to the Eurosceptic core in the Tories you might think, but unfortunately, if we believe what the Daily Mail has reported, many of them aren’t buying this entirely superficial gesture.  The Mail has a quotation from a Tory MP, Douglas Carswell, saying ‘This is politicians using clever words to appear to be preventing further European integration when they are not.’ 

Attention has so far focused on the internal strife within the Lib-Dems as a result of their involvment in the Coalition.  William Hague has now shown that Europe is proving, as predicted, a difficult issue for the Tories.  In the not too distant past, European issues almost undid John Major’s government leaving him significantly weakened.  If David Cameron has any political antennae left, he will be desperate not to have Europe anywhere near any agenda. However, the decision doesn’t seem to be down to him but rather his restless grass roots.

Seemingly, Wiliam Hague’s attempts to placate the Eurosceptic wing of their party aren’t working quite as well as they might have hoped, as they can see it for what it is, sound and fury, signifying nothing.

3 thoughts on “Hague full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

  1. There is no such thing as a Eurosceptic Tory. You might as well talk about a Protestant Pope or a Gay Republican. The Conservatives are absolutely the party of the EU. They took us into it and they signed up to just about everything except during their time in opposition when they made anti-EU noises while leaving the Labour Party to accede to ever greater union.

    Sensible criminals do not brag to all and sundry about their activities and Conservatives do not, for similar reasons, present themselves as the lap dogs of Brussels.

    Their nonsense about ‘being in Europe but not run by Europe’ was particularly deceitful. They know the imperialistic nature of the EU and that it is all about former nation states being run by ‘Europe’. The fantasy that it can be just a cosy forum where nations iron out their differences and co-ordinate plans for trade, green issues, etc., is absurd.

    The term Eurosceptic is widely used but it is not (together with the often used ‘anti-European’) very helpful. It is possible to be pro-European while at the same time despising the federal institutions of the EU, which in any case only rule 27 of 47 countries in Europe.

    It is perfectly possible, for example, to be pro-North Korea in that one respects its people, its culture and its traditions, without respecting its disgraceful government.

    A more useful expression would, in my view, be EUsceptical as it indicates scepticism of the federal powers rather than the nations whose power it absorbs.

  2. Daniel,

    Quite agree – I don’t think significant numbers of politicians have been openly anti EU since the referendum in 1975. That was probably the last time when there was any form of open debate about membership. Heath turned out to be as duplicitous as Brown.

    What I find particularly depressing is the way in which we wave through any number of EU diktats without considering whether they are in our national interest & then enforce them against ourselves. The French, Italians, Spanish just shrug & ignore anything that doesn’t appeal to them.

    Also ironic when we are in such financial straits that all government spending is to be cut except our EU levy which is to increase. Why can’t we freeze it until things improve? Or spread the burden across some of the net non-contributors?


  3. Geoff,

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is depressing that the EU levy is to be increased and there is no sign that the bucket loads of money we send to the EU will be spent with any more care.

    You might be aware that four hundred MEPs and their assistants are taking a three-day study break in Madeira. They will be accommodated in two five-star hotels and the bill for their ‘jolly’, likely to be up to £350,000, will of course be met by the beleaguered taxpayers of the UK and Germany.

    Last month the EU released the figure for the UK’s EU contributions during 2009. It came to £6.7 billion (up £226 million on the previous year). It is difficult to see how this can possibly be justified at time when the NHS has to ration drugs for the treatment of cancer.


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