Monday, November 13, 2006

A Eurosceptic Speaks!

My apologies for the rather long gap between posts - unforgivable, apparently, in the really committed blogging community! However, the day on which we have a bona fide eurosceptic personality (google him if you don't believe me - he has some modest fame!) visit and speak to us seems a good opportunity to update.

Lord Pearson gave a perfectly sound eurosceptic case. Europe binds us with plentiful, not always necessary, laws and takes loads of our money. It's been the mantra of the euroscpetic for years. Sadly, though, it was ultimately communicated with too little dynamism and a voice projection that desperately needed a microphone. I was a little surprised, since at lunch (the good lord himself, HM, GG, Stembridge, Manville and me) he had proved to be quite enthusiastic, and certainly argumentative when I suggested one or two challenges to his position. Ultimately, though, his case was unexciting and mundane, and unlikely to enthuse L6th formers to become prophets for euroscepticism, or even to think greatly about it.

The questions asked were good ones, and I fear his responses were a little inadequate. His case on Europe is essentially the self-interested one that says there is no easily quantifiable benefit to Britain in being a member. The case for Europe - implicit in some of the questions - is that in the global community Britain operates better as part of a larger unit than as the political and economic minnow she would otherwise be. Many of the European laws Pearson decries would have been passed by British governments anyway, whilst the redistribution of national income that he so hates is justified partly on the same pragmatic grounds that the Americans pursued the Marshall Plan - we need a healthy southern and eastern Europe to maintain our trading buoyancy.

I am not convinced, either, that 'no jobs depend on our membership of the EU', which was his response to Sam Young's question. It is inconceivable that our economy would be unaffected by something as significant as our withdrawal from one of the world's largest trading blocs. And the EU offers a much stronger regulatory defence against capitalist predators like Rupert Murdoch than Britain on her own ever could - especially given the craven attitude of successive British leaders to the Murdoch empire. However, Pearson was a fluent, informed and well practised protagonist for the eurosceptic cause, and it was certainly useful and interesting to hear him.

Ultimately then, a controversial but ultimately unsatisfying speech I think, rescued for me by intelligent sixth form questioning and the look of utter distaste that registered on Conor's face throughout the entire proceedings. Oh, and a thankyou to Tom Marshall for his irreverent, satirical last question - "How much did you pay for your peerage" indeed!


Lestaki said...

I was actually mildly impressed by the speech, managing to maintain attention for most of the duration. You could say I've always subliminally believed that anyone who wanted independance from Europe was probably a racist loony, and yesterday I was convinced that it is perfectly possible to have a coherent argument while maintaining such a position. That said, I don't discont the possibility that he might be a racist loony with a coherent argument to hand, nor do I fully agree with his position. To say that Britain can stand alone in the modern world and have any significant political, military and economic clout is, I think, nothing less than delusion. Saying we only have 8% of the parliment is redudant entirely for missing the point of the EU- as an international parliment, of course we're only going to control a minority of it. And ultimately, I think odd pieces of legislation is a small price to pay to foster relations and unity between the disperate European powers.

That said, I'm not convinced that the EU has ever been hugely significant for peace in Europe. Most of the post-WW2 period was spent locked in the cold war, in which much of the west spent its time unified in staring rather nervously at the Soviet Union, and western and eastern Europe did not invade each other as they might have done due to the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse. This period of tense peace only really ended in the 90's, by which point all the European powers were used to being more or less on the same side. As the world stands now, watching and judging every war, it is unlikely the same territorial disputes will reserge again; they're no longer efficent, especially with so many stronger powers around and also the presence of the nuclear deterrant still firmly placed in the hands of Britain and France. In short, I posit that more than any international body it was the Cold War itself that prevented western Europe from breaking out in conflict, until long after the old grudges have faded.

My rambling thoughts, anyway. After being a pest (no pun intended), I can only say it's glad to see this blog is back in action with an intelligent and thought-provoking take on yesterday's speech, albeit covered in our Politics lesson too.

-M Pester

sod said...

just because he didn't do any cartwheels
doesn't mean he wasn't a very interesting speaker...
but i wouldn't know as most of the time i couldn't hear him.

Basically for all the resources we are plugging in to europe we are getting remarkably little out; unless you count erosion of democracy and national identity. The negatives far out way the few positives.

Matthew H-S said...

Au contraire, Simon, according to GM it is exactly that kind of thing that makes you a good speaker. Just think back to the House Comedy...i mean Public Speaking competition.

That said, he was a fairly awful public speaker. He did seem to almost completely dismiss the existance of MEP's, focusing only on the unelected body "dictating" the European Community. I think most people in the room either had forgotten (due to not hearing or boredom) or did not realise what it meant that he himself was a member of the House of Lords, and i almost asked the question he in fact answered in response to Tom Marshall's remark (which, by the way, was my personal highlight of the period). Another question i decided not to ask at the last minute was, 'Instead of completely removing ourselves from the EU because of the problems, why not work with the several other countries who also see the flaws and try to make a compromise?' But he probably would have answered another question anyway.

In my opinion, Lord Pearson is trying to save his own neck. If 80% of all British laws are made in the EU, then is there really much need for a House of Lords any more? Can't everything go straight from the Commons to them? It probably could, so enter the facists with their backs against the wall.

C H Daly said...

That will be something for the debate to decide eh?

I didn’t like Lord Pearson as a person from what we were ‘treated to’. The very fact alone from his typical Conservative upbringing that he was pro-UKIP should confirm everyone’s preconceptions of him. I mean the man was backing dirty, racist work done by people like Kilroy Silk for crying out loud.

I cannot agree more with Mark’s argument concerning out 8% share of power within the EU: the number actually sounds quite large to me! Furthermore it is my belief that in an increasingly competitive and desperate world, as fossil fuels begin to run out, a state as small as the UK cannot possibly hope to maintain its strong international position by itself.

I don’t want to give too much away with the debate scheduled, but I am disappointed that Noble’s lapdog came on to back Lord Pearson on his speech and dismiss the positive features of the EU so quickly.