The Pessimism of the Right

Labour Party

When my report on Early Years Learning recently went through the European Parliament it received 506 votes out of the 588 MEPs who were in attendance that day.  All the Tories there abstained. 

Nothing unusual there, but something that I didn’t write about at the time was Daniel Hannan’s ‘explanation of vote’.  Explanations of vote can either be submitted verbally in the chamber after the vote or in writing later.  Not everyone does them, and the people who do often reserve them for when it is particularly important that some explanation is offered for the way they voted.  I will reproduce in full what Mr. Hannan said that day, but if you would like to read it for yourself, then follow the link here:

Daniel Hannan (ECR).Madam President, last summer I had the pleasure of visiting your constituency, and one day I took my children to the beach. I remember watching my two little girls building a sand castle, oblivious to the incoming tide, so captivated were they with the shells and twigs with which they were decorating their work.

I had not the heart to point out to them that the tide was coming in, and today I felt rather the same way as I read through our voting list. We have these epochal events – this economic crisis on our border, this collapse in our share of world GDP – and here we are talking about early years learning, about our responsibilities to the International Labour Organization, and about whether Sarajevo should be a European city of culture.

Let me give you the raw and scary statistics: in 1974, the nations of Western Europe accounted for 36% of world GDP; today it is 26%; in 2020 it will be 15%. While we are worrying about early years learning, putting out all our propaganda about drawing Europe together, and producing The Raspberry Ice Cream War, and while our children are being encouraged to read the unintentionally hilarious ‘Captain Euro’, our part of the world is being overtaken by more virile countries that have learned the benefits of decentralisation and the dispersal of power.

Surely the time is coming when all our pomp of yesterday will be one with Nineveh and Tyre?

The Madam President he addressed was British Liberal-Democrat Diana Wallis who was presiding over the session that day. 

I’m beginning to worry about Mr. Hannan, I fear he may be a little melancholy.  The unbridled pessimism that he comes out with is frankly frightening.  I wrote a blog earlier this week in response to his comments on the Today programme on the sovereign debt crisis in Greece, which were in a similar vein.  If you didn’t read it, you can do so here

This pessimism is everywhere on the right.  It was discussed at length when Ed Miliband came to the European Parliament and addressed a full sitting the Socialists and Democrats group. The depressing and unavoidable fact was that most people in that room, and the S&D has at least one MEP from each member state, was from a party that was in opposition in the own country.  Indeed, the S&D is the opposition group in the European Parliament, with the centre right European People’s Party holding more seats, though not an overall majority.

As Ed said during his visit, Labour’s message and beliefs could not be more important than right now.  Across Europe there is a feeling of doom and pessimism from the centre right parties that hold government across most of the EU member states. They speak of the necessity of far-reaching cuts affecting the services that make a difference to people’s lives.  This is all being portrayed as the inevitable result of the financial crisis.  But people are beginning to feel that the cure is worse than the disease.

Mr. Hannan’s response to my report, which was simply making a number of practical suggestions how children can be given the best possible start in life, was to evoke images of his children’s sand castle being washed out to sea and the ancient cities of Nineveh and Tyre.  Perhaps he was a romantic poet in a past life.  The fact is though that you can’t get out of the crisis  if we don’t invest in things like our children’s future.  Mr. Hannan and his ilk want you to believe that the ‘tide is coming in’.  They want you to believe this because it serves their ideological interests.  If we look back to the 20th century we find moments of absolute desperation, such as the Great Depression, or the aftermath of the Second World War when leftist governments helped rebuild their countries economies and societies with policies like the New Deal or creating the NHS.

Personally I’m tired of the pessimism of the right.  I believe that Ed Miliband, the Labour party, and the rest of our colleagues in the S&D can show that there is another way.