Kevin Maguire – one of Westminster’s most amiable lefties, even if he is a Mackem – never normally misses a chance to take a potshot at the ranks of the Right. Over the years, the Countryside Alliance has been a regular target, with a stream of hunting puns flowing from his pen.
So it was no surprise to see him join the Andrew Mitchell fray yesterday:
But wait a second, that cardboard copper looks rather familiar. Whose stand at the Lib Dem conference could that be?
Perhaps Kevin’s not such a city boy after all?
In a desperate defence of his party’s continuing and increasingly absurd support for Britain joining the Euro, this morning Nick Clegg told the Today Programme that:
“I don’t think any of us could have predicted…that the rules on which the Euro was created should have been so spectacularly flouted”
His claim was that the concept of the Euro has always been and still is a good idea both in principle and in practice. The Lib Dems’ latest line of defence on the Euro is that it has never been implemented properly – that the failure of some countries to abide by the Stability and Growth Pact which regulates Member States’ budgets had undermined what was actually a really good idea.
This is getting increasingly ridiculous.
The inherent and fundamental flaw of the Euro is that it sought to bind together utterly disparate economies without any democratic or market accountability. It takes the bloated civil service of Greece, the housing market of Spain, the manufacturers of Germany and tries to force them all into the same straghtjacket. It tries to buck the market, the laws of economics and public opinion all in one go. It was always going to fail and wreak economic havoc, and the Commission’s attempt to pretend that wasn’t so was the introduction of the Convergence Criteria in the Maastricht Treaty, which later became the Stability and Growth Pact.
As many people pointed out at the time, and as history has shown us since, it was a fantasy to imagine that the Southern European countries in particular would be able or willing to keep their deficits below 3% and their Government Debt to GDP ratio below 60%. As a politically-motivated project, it was always likely that the Commission would fail to enforce these rules in order to keep the Eurodream of “ever closer union” on track no matter how great the risks. (You can see the woeful track record of adherence to the Pact here)
To say it was never predicted that this would happen is simply untrue – it has always been a mainstay of the Eurosceptic case that many EU states flout regulations and rules while others like Britain try to abide by them at great cost. It has also always been part of our critique that the Commission will bend and break as many rules as it feels necessary to keep forging ahead blindly with their obsession for EU integration.
Nick Clegg is experienced enough to know that when you have sunk to defending an ideology by claiming that “it’s never been implemented properly” – an argument normally used by student Trots defending communism from the claim that it has always resulted in tyranny and slaughter – then reality has disproved your idea and the day is lost. In fact, I think you can hear a slightly depressed realisation of this in his voice a couple of times in the Today Programme interview.
Euro-enthusiasm is a totem for the Lib Dems. It’s been one of the few things that has kept Liberals and SDPers bound together despite their many private disagreements on other topics. But given the judgement of history on the Euro, and the clear judgement of the opinion polls on the EU as a whole, isn’t it time they abandoned it?
Now that would be a proper Clause 4 moment – facing up to reality, ditching what has become an albatross around their necks, moving closer to overwhelming public opinion and finally being able to move on from an issue that, as Nick Clegg found out this morning, will otherwise keep rearing its head to bite them.