Saturday, 14 June 2008

Saturday Commentary 14/6/08

Still a lot going on with the fallout from the week's dramatic political events so here goes:

Irish Referendum: The decisive rejection of the Lisbon Treaty has continued to reverberate through the blogsphere. On one side, the joy of the Euro-sceptics is tempered by the belief that the Irish will be forced to have a second referendum within a year. One blogger is of the view that the Irish will have to vote "yes" before the British General Election in June 2010 or the Lisbon Treaty will be lost.

As a Liberal Democrat, I welcome the Irish vote. It is a clear message (rather like the support for David Davis) that there is a strong anti-establishment mood in Europe. It isn't a question of re-writing or re-drafting the existing Treaty but of going back to the drawing board. The EU needs to re-define itself and re-present itself to Europeans as a positive force.

In theory, the EU remains a good thing but the institution is in dire need of reform (a point argued by Liberal Democrats for a generation) and needs to be more reflective, responsive and representative of the new Europe. The EU bureaucracy and the sense in which those politicians involved are there for self-serving ends rather than for the public duty need to be challenged and overturned.

This will take time - in my view, a decade or more. I still believe one day a Conservative Government will take us into a single currency and a European political union because it will be in Britain's best interests but that day isn't on the horizon yet.

Petrol - It's curious to read the different stories from across the nation regarding the impact of the Shell tanker drivers strike. Mrs Stodge and I got our petrol from the Tesco filling station at Gallions Reach last night without any queue or any problem. Today, some areas are still reporting no problems while others seem in dire straits.

The headlines in papers like the Mail and the Express this morning were wholly irrresponsible creating an unnecessary sense of panic. It seems to me that papers like the Mail and Express are driven by their hatred of the Government rather than by any sense of public probity these days.

David Davis - the events of last Thursday continue to divide the blogsphere. Early polling evidence is mixed - a poll in the Independent on Sunday suggests a 7% fall in Tory support after the announcement but YouGov in the Sunday Telegraph doesn't mirror that at all.

I remain unimpressed by Davis and his actions. The most partisan Tory spinners are frantically claiming the whole thing has the backing and support of the Conservative Party but that's incredibly hard to believe.

I'm still interested in seeing whether Davis admits the Thatcher/Major Governments also presided over an extension of State control or not. The reaction within politics to Davis is telling - it's easy to play the role of the maverick but don't expect to get anything from it. Davis reminds me of another Shadow Home Secretary, Enoch Powell, who spectacularly broke ranks in 1968.

Davis hasn't gone as far as Powell but the net effect will be the same. By making an issue of one thing, he has effectively ended his own political career. We may never know why he voluntarily stood aside in 2003 - perhaps Michael Howard made him an offer of some kind - but the fact remains he will now be a lost leader for the Conservatives.

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