Friday, 29 May 2009

The Times

Peter Hitchens writes:

The ancient, rust-streaked EU propaganda claim is that the EU has somehow prevented a European War since 1945. I've asked before, and I'll ask again, which potential armed conflict has been in any way prevented by the EU? The only European power-struggle during this era was that between the USSR and the Western European free countries. The EU played no part in preventing that developing into war. That task was achieved by NATO (in its first, genuine, incarnation).

There is a strong argument for suggesting that the EU (largely under German pressure) actively caused the various armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia by pushing forward with the recognition of Croatia as an independent state. It is widely believed, for instance, that Britain's opt-out from the Euro had to be 'paid for' by British recognition of Croatia. It is true that the Franco-German conflict has been institutionalised by the EU. But that was made possible by France's humiliating and permanent defeat at the hands of Germany in 1940. No new war was ever likely.

Vichy France (in which Francois Mitterrand was deeply involved) was in a way the prototype for the new Franco-German relationship. Germany had by then defeated France three times, (though initially it had not yet become a fully-fledged nation) playing a decisive part in the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig in 1813, and again in the Anglo-Prussian victory at Waterloo in 1815, the debacle of 1870 and the second debacle of 1940. The French elite realised in 1940 that they would never again be able to seek military supremacy over Germany, and thought deeply about what sort of new relationship they could have with their Eastern neighbour.

The original ECSC was based upon a French recognition that France could no longer contemplate war with Germany, and must come to a permanent accommodation (the Elysee Treaty of 1963, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, is the real political basis of the modern EU, codifying a Franco-German axis under which Germany is the unacknowledged European superpower, while France maintains its international prestige, nuclear weapons etc, has its agriculture lavishly subsidised, and that the two countries consult before any EU summit to ensure that they present a united face).

And:

One of the most destructive and cruel wars of modern history was fought in the United States from 1860 to 1865 because of Abraham Lincoln's belief that the ties which bound the original states were too loose.

Yes, yes, I know that the pretext for the war was slavery, and that the South fought to keep slavery, and shouldn't be allowed to claim it was just a matter of state's rights. Even so, the point that the underlying issue was the freedom of states to decide their own destiny is correct. Gore Vidal's superb historical novel Lincoln reminds us just how divided the North was on the abolition of slavery, and that Lincoln himself wanted Black Americans to leave the country, because he thought they could never be integrated.

It was the tightening of those ties that led to war. The moves towards ever-narrower union, which is stipulated as the EU's aim in the Treaty of Rome, might conceivably cause conflicts in Europe that could lead to war. They are at least as likely to do so as they are to prevent it. Those who seek to justify British membership of the EU will have to do better than this. In any case, secessionists like me do not want to break up the EU. We just want to leave it, and negotiate a civilised relationship with it as an independent nation. If other countries are happy with it, that's their affair. Most, I think are. The fundamental difficulty for Britain is twofold. One, its Common Law presumption of innocence tradition is incompatible with EU law and two, its outward-looking global trading engagement is unsuited to membership of a continental protectionist bloc. Adversarial government is also pretty much unknown in continental countries, and our strong, independent national press is pretty much unique as well.

And:

No, it hasn't occurred to me that the closeness between David Cameron and the Guardian is symptomatic of his appealing to a wider audience. Nor is the Guardian's schmoozing of Mr Cameron (or the BBC's) 'occasional'. It is virtually constant. Mr Cameron already had a wide audience. What he wanted was a different audience, and a different kind of voter and supporter. He also wanted to seek the endorsement and permission to stand, which he believes he needs, from the BBC - which long ago adopted the Guardian as its house newspaper.

He chose, quite deliberately and consciously, to appeal to Liberal Democrat voters, if necessary at the cost of losing some conservative ones. This lay behind his adoption of 'Green' policies, his husky moment, his 'hug a hoodie' moment, his endorsement of homosexual civil partnerships, his denunciation of those who 'bang on' about Europe and his dismissal of UKIP supporters as 'fruitcakes', along with his endorsement of comprehensive schools, his sending of his own child to a state primary (though of course a wholly untypical one) when he could easily have afforded independent school fees, and his official abandonment of grammars. I think he probably assumed that he would not lose many votes by doing this. In this, I think he was mistaken.

Of course the Guardian and the other left-wing papers have plenty of writers who loathe the Tories because they are Tories, and are not interested in getting close to Mr Cameron. But the central policy-making core of the paper is increasingly convinced that Mr Cameron is their man, and that Blairism is safe in his hands. Just look at the way in which they presented his 'constitutional reform' plans on Tuesday. Even The Times was more critical.

And:

It is perfectly reasonable to argue, as I do, for a hereditary chamber. A hereditary chamber is entirely independent of the executive, owes it no favours, and is not subject to its pressure or corruption. Likewise, it owes nothing to the party machines which dominate selection to the Commons. Its members, brought up from their earliest youth with the knowledge that they will inherit a great responsibility and a great tradition, seem to me to be at least as likely to be good legislators as babbling party hacks kicking their way up the greasy pole of professional politics. We should never have spat on our luck by abolishing it. It's not too late to bring it back, and a lot of people would be very glad to see it so.

But that isn't going to happen. The hereditaries did themselves no favours by taking party whips. The monarch, contrary to what is often assumed, is not required to be "neutral", and indeed the present Queen has not always been so. But the monarch is required to be above party. So should have been the hereditary peers. That way, they would probably still exist.

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