Standard bearers of democracy and the nation-state speak out
Hamlet Without The Prince:
The Anglosphere Minus One
It is always an honour to be on a platform alongside Lord Tebbitt, although I’m not sure which party he represents these days. It’s certainly not this exciting new ‘Not The Conservative Party’ led by David Cameron. So perhaps we should look on Norman as the unofficial leader of the unofficial Conservative Party. Anyway, he can count me in as a member, along I suspect with several million others.
Our political scene is nothing if not bewildering at the moment. Indeed I cannot remember a time when its horizons were more shrunken. So, in an effort to widen those horizons a little, I thought that tonight I would approach a familiar subject from an unfamiliar angle. I want to run through a series of historical snapshots, in a talk which might be entitled ‘Hamlet Without The Prince: The Anglosphere Minus One’.
For my first snapshot I go way back into the dim and distant past, to the days when Norman Tebbitt and I were young (and you can’t get much further back into history than that). The days of the late 1940s, just after the Second World War, when Winston Churchill, you will remember, made that historic series of speeches calling for the setting up of a ‘United States of Europe’.Churchill’s central proposal was that Europe should be politically united, as one of the four pillars of what he called ‘the Temple of World Peace’. One was the United States of America, a second the Soviet Union, a third his ‘United States of Europe’ – and the fourth, quite separate, was ‘the British Empire and Commonwealth’. I don’t need to remind you that Britain was then still a world power, with the world’s second largest economy, and that Churchill’s ‘empire and Commonwealth’ included one in four of the world’s population.
For our next snapshot we fast forward just over a decade to the early 1960s. Britain had been through the shock of the Suez fiasco, which brought home just how far she had now sunk from being a world power. Her empire was becoming an embarrassment, the legacy of a historical past she could no longer afford. Economically we were fast slipping down the international league table. Meanwhile, across the Channel, we saw our increasingly faltering industries being outpaced by the dynamic economies of Germany, France, Italy and the countries which had just joined together in the Common Market. Britain, in those cruelly accurate words of Dean Acheson, had ‘lost an empire and not yet found a role’. And it was this loss of self-confidence which in 1960 and 1961 led us into the most dramatic political U-turn of the post-war period.
When Harold Macmillan first thought the unthinkable by contemplating his decision to throw in our destiny with our newly prosperous and self-confident European neighbours, his hope was that this would somehow enable Britain to share in their economic success. But he had two chief fears. One was that this might endanger that ‘special relationship’ with our closest ally America. And on this he was reassured by the new young US President Kennedy that joining ‘Europe’ would cement the ‘special relationship’ rather than undermine it.
The other concern Macmillan did his best to keep out of view. This was that joining the Common Market must fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with the Commonwealth, who were by far our biggest trading partners. No less than 43 percent of all our exports at that time were still going to the Commonwealth, as compared with only 16.7 percent going to the six countries of the Common Market. For our Commonwealth partners, their trade with Britain was even more important. For many, such as New Zealand, Britain accounted for more than half their exports. Yet, if we were to join the protectionist customs union of the Common Market, an inevitable part of the deal was that we would have to shut out much of that trade, by accepting its high tariff barriers. We would have to turn our back on countries with which we shared a common language, common historical traditions, common legal systems, common democratic values. Countries which, only 20 years earlier, had sent more than 4 million men to fight alongside us for those values in World War Two.
When Edward Heath went off to Brussels to begin the negotiations, this was the central point at issue: his attempt to negotiate some kind of a deal which would allow us to continue importing enough goods from our Commonwealth partners for them not to face economic disaster. But to the Six, of course, the fate of the Commonwealth was not of the slightest concern. Indeed, our readiness to turn our backs on the English speaking world was the real test of whether we truly wanted to be ‘Europeans’.
When President de Gaulle twice vetoed those first British attempts to get into the Common Market in the 1960s. part of the reason was that he thought we were still too preoccupied with the outside world and with our special relationship with America. You remember that famous passage in his first veto speech:
England is insular. She is maritime. She is linked through her trade, her markets, her supply lines to the most distant countries … in short, England;s nature, England;s structure, England’s very situation differs profoundly from those of the Continentals’.
But lurking behind this, as Richard North and I were able to explain in our recent book The Great Deception, there was a deeper reason for de Gaulle’s reluctance to allow us in. De Gaulle knew that France faced a massive problem. She was pouring ever more subsidies into her huge farming sector, which still employed a quarter of her entire population. Unless some solution was found to this mess, the French state would soon be bankrupt. The system would collapse. Millions of French peasants would be driven off the land and into the cities, as potential recruits for Communism. De Gaulle’s answer to this was that the Common Market must have a Common Agricultural Policy: one carefully designed to get someone else to foot much of the subsidy bill for those French farmers and at the same time to buy all that surplus food his farmers were producing.
Heath’s policy was to ‘swallow the lot and swallow it now’
Britain fitted the bill perfectly. Because de Gaulle’s CAP would be financed from tariffs on goods imported from the outside world, and because Britain imported much more than the rest of the Six, she would soon become the biggest contributor to the Common Market budget. Because her farming sector, although the most efficient in Europe, was also relatively small, she would also receive less than other countries in farm subsidies. And because she therefore needed to import more of her food than other countries, once much of those Commonwealth food imports were shut out by tariffs this would leave a huge hole - to be filled by those French farmers. From a French point of view, it was a brilliantly clever plan. But until de Gaulle could get the rest of the Six to accept his CAP, he could not possibly allow Britain to join, for fear that she would sabotage a policy which would be so peculiarly damaging to her, hence his two vetoes. But hence also France’s need, as soon as the financial arrangements for the CAP were agreed in 1969, to get Britain in.
This was why in 1970, when Mr Heath again applied for entry, he was knocking at an open door. So desperate was he to be allowed in that he was ready to do so on virtually any terms. In the immortal words of his chief negotiator Con O’Neill, Heath’s policy was to ‘swallow the lot and swallow it now’. That was how he was lured into accepting a deal so one-sided that, within a dozen years, Britain faced the prospect of becoming the largest single contributor to the Common Market budget, 90 percent of which in those days was accounted for by the CAP.
By the late 1970s, when, thanks to Britain’s continued economic decline, she was virtually the poorest country in the EEC, this had become so transparently absurd that even the Labour Government was complaining. But it then took five years of handbag waving and quiet insistence from Mrs Thatcher to secure that controversial ‘budget rebate’, without which Britain would by 1985 have become the largest contributor, and which was only made necessary by the fact that we had turned our back on the Commonwealth and accepted instead a stitched-up deal which was ultimately designed to serve the interests of France.
Then came the next dramatic twist in the story when the British economy went through that radical restructuring which, in 10 years, lifted her from the bottom of Europe’s economic league to near the top. All that transformation of the 1980s, from the selling off of overmanned and oversubsidised state industries and Norman’s reform of our labour laws to the City’s Big Bang enabled us to rediscover our old role as a global trading power. And this had nothing whatever to do with our membership of what was now the European Community. Indeed it was at this very time, while Britain’s economy was bounding ahead, that the first signs were appearing on the continent that the economies of our European partners, increasingly stifled by the taxes and regulatory demands of the ‘social model’, were losing their dynamism and beginning to slow down.
…the UK economy, once it has recovered from the awful blip of the Lawson boom and our disastrous two year foray into the ERM, moving ahead of those of Italy and France to become the fourth largest in the world
Fast forward again to the mid-1990s. We see the UK economy, once it has recovered from the awful blip of the Lawson boom and our disastrous two year foray into the ERM, moving ahead of those of Italy and France to become the fourth largest in the world. Ever more striking now was the contrast between Britain’s economic record and the increasingly sclerotic performance of our main continental rivals, as their unemployment-rate soared to 10 percent and more, while their growth slowed almost to a halt.
Even more striking, however, was the contrast between the performance of the Europe as a regional bloc and that of other economies across the world. America was still way ahead of the rest, but among the countries now hard in pursuit were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and those ‘tigers’ of the east, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. In 1998 the Heritage Foundation, an American think-tank, produced its annual league table of the world’s most free economies. How interesting it was, as one of our American friends memorably put it, that, of the eight countries which headed the list in that year, ‘seven had once been colonies of the eighth’.
Such was the golden legacy which Mr Blair and Mr Brown inherited in 1997. But alas it was not the end of the story. Fast forward a final time to the world as it has developed since, and what do we see today? On the one hand we see Europe, having moved even further down the path to that ever-closer economic and political union, as the most sclerotic regional economic grouping in the world. On the other, the world’s most dynamic economies include much of the English-speaking world, those onetime British colonies, now joined by India – along of course with the growing power of China.
Politically we see new alliances forming, such as those between America, Australia and India. Few events in recent years were more revealing than the response of the different world groupings to the tsunami. Within hours the English-speaking nations of America, Australia and India had joined together to rush ships, helicopters and a mass of practical aid to the disaster area. Meanwhile the European Union made grandiose promises, held conferences, staged a three-minute silence for the victims – but otherwise, apart from the donations of millions of private individuals for aid which in many cases never even got where it was needed, it did virtually nothing.
And where in all this stands Britain? Laden with ever higher taxes, an ever more swollen public sector, an ever greater burden of regulations, we have been moving ever closer to that ‘social model’ which has so demonstrably failed on the continent. We are fast losing much of that competitive edge and that spirit of enterprise we won back in the 1980s. In all sorts of ways we are still being sucked down into the ever-increasing morass of spiritless European integration – not least in the truly remarkable extent to which we are selling out our armed forces and our defence industries to some nebulous dream of co-operation with our European allies. It is of course true that in the past seven years Mr Blair has three times taken us to war alongside the Americans, invariably to the dismay of many of our ‘European’ partners, and certainly in the most recent case to the dismay of many of our own people. But the significant steps now being taken by our government to integrate our defence efforts with Europe make it highly unlikely that this can ever happen again in the future. The irony is that it has been the Blair government which has at last made the moves behind the scenes which more than anything else will at last bring that ‘special relationship’ with the world’s leading English-speaking country to an end.
At the same time and in the same general cause of abandoning our past and our roots, we are seeing the division of the United Kingdom into meaningless regional governments, the merging of our police forces, the harmonising of our judicial system with the forms and procedures of the continent, the relentless undermining of our liberties and our democracy. And all to align ourselves with a system of government that is typified by the likes of Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi, Romano Prodi. Such are the men, along with assorted crooks and nonentities from eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries, who today, through Brussels and the European Council, make a large part of the laws which govern us and shape many of the policies which direct our country’s future.
Who would have thought 33 years ago, when Edward Heath handed over our fishing waters as a common European resource, that by the year 2006 a dim little unelected apparatchik from Malta would, as Fisheries Commissioner, have far more power to decide what happens in the seas around our coastline than any British minister?
More than ever before we see how we have become prisoners of those decisions so thoughtlessly agreed to 30 and 40 years ago. In a fit of national depression we recklessly tossed aside hundreds of years of history and all the hard-won values which had come with them. We turned our back on those English-speaking nations scattered across the globe, the countries which drawing on their British inheritance have given the world much of what it means by democracy, by liberty, by justice – to throw in our lot with a new and very uncertain destiny. Today, in the age of the internet, from the pre-eminent power of America to the awakening energies of Australia and India, from the prairies of Canada to the proudly unsubsidised farmers of New Zealand, the Anglosphere flourishes like no other tradition on this planet. But where is the country whose imagination and enterprise and courage and spirit of adventure set all this in motion?
Did we really back the winning horse 40 years ago? Are we not now even more lost than we were back in the early 1960s when we took this fearful gamble?
Ask the political class which has assumed virtually unchallengeable power over our nation in recent years, the Blairs, the Browns, the Prescotts, and now Mr Cameron and his friends, and so pitifully shrunken have their mental horizons become that they would scarcely even understand such questions. What is history to them, but something to be despised and disregarded?
Did we really back the winning horse 40 years ago? Are we not now even more lost than we were back in the early 1960s when we took this fearful gamble?
But are we really not worthy of something better?
Speech by Lord Tebbit
Politicians do not dictate all events. Some of us are taken wherever events carry us. Others navigate our countries skilfully through the choppy waters, the rapids or the stormy seas of change.
Change has ever been with us, but today its pace and power is greater than ever before.
Over the centuries technical, scientific and commercial change has driven much of the social and political change we have seen.
One need go no further back than the industrial revolution or the transport revolution to see that. Two hundred years ago, despite the canals and turnpikes, Britain was a host of very separate places with few travellers between them. The Church records show that almost all marriages were then between men and women of the same Parish. Despite that, we were one nation, united by Monarchy, growing democracy, language and – above all - religion. Even the onset of the railways changes that but slowly. Since then the move from country to cities and the coming of the motor car has made us migrants in our own land.
My Mother never left this country. My Father did so only to fight in the first World War. Like Willie Whitelaw he did not like ‘Abroad’.
Our Army was territorially based. You had to be born in a country to play for it. We were a homogenous society. I was at Grammar School before I saw a Black Man – an American Soldier in 1943. Our form of government had developed in tune with our society.
Europe’s Monarchs and Aristocrats of Medieval Times had more in common with each than with the Peoples they ruled, and the concept of commonality, of King and people creating the nation state was not well developed until the 16th century, but it has lasted until today. Now all is changing. This is not just a matter of the European Union seeking to establish not so much a new Holy Roman Empire (or an unholy Empire of Brussels). The forces are more powerful than the Founding Fathers of the Union. The economic benefits of free trade are too great to let any country stand out for long against the globalisation of Business. The free movement of capital is a reality throughout the fully developed world.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries transport costs fell year-by-year bringing cheap grain from North America and meat from South America and Australia in to Europe. The price of food fell. Economic growth accelerated. Now we are deluged with East African green beans and Peruvian asparagus, Chinese bras and alarm clocks and Korean cars. In the last 40 years we have not only the movement of food and manufactured goods on an unprecedented scale in the vast freight holds of wide bodied jets, but the movement of information between any two people or organisations with computers, and global TV programmes distributed by satellite.
What was happening to villages a century ago is happening to countries today. We are no longer marrying exclusively within the Parish, nor even within this Kingdom. We are threatened by the global village. Going fast in much of the world is the concept of a people’s “National Home”. Under increasing pressure is the concept of a sovereign state. In America there are demonstrations protesting against the idea that those who enter the USA without lawful permission from the Government should be regarded as “illegal immigrants”. Here our judiciary relentlessly sabotages any attempts to control immigration because “Human Rights” legislation fails to properly distinguish between British nationals and foreigners.
The unfortunate Home Secretary is not allowed to refuse admission to foreigners and send them back whence they came. It is adjudge that by being in an aircraft that has landed here passengers have entered the United Kingdom and are entitled to claim the protection of British Law. It seems that not being British is no barrier to arriving here at will and simply staying. In short, people are beginning o move as freely as goods, services, capital and information. Not only here but across Europe the concept of nationality carrying with it certain rights of residence and protection superior to those of foreigners is retreating faster than glaciers subject to global warming.
Mr Franco Fratlini is the EU Commission Vice-President for Justice, Freedom and Security (which sounds like a conflict of interests to me). He criticises those who regard illegal immigrants as criminals. “That is a wrong approach. They enter Europe illegally because they are desperate people”. Well, that is all right then. Breaking laws is not criminal if you are “desperate”. Here Mr McNulty the Minister responsible for such matters, declines to try to deport all illegal migrants, and has no idea how many there are. At the same time a web of internationalism or world law – much of it flying the banner of human rights is becoming established. Conventions are piled upon conventions. From the early Geneva Conventions relating to the conduct of war and treatment of refugees we have come to a veritable cats and cradle of limitations on the actions of sovereign states given the collective description of international law.
It is now held that such law is binding upon even those who are not party to the conventions and that those who have ratified such conventions cannot renounce them. Those who are working to that end are not a secretive, conspiratorial society. Nor are they an open group owing democratic responsibility to the people of the world. Many are surfers on the wave of change I have described and with a huge financial interest in it.
Amongst them are the global business community, global financiers, traders, manufacturers and, of course, the international and human rights lawyers, the global civil servants and bureaucratic organisers of conferences and freebie addicts who constitute a financial drag on all productive enterprises.
There are certainly those who, out of the lofty – even sanctimonious –desire to do good – not so much for , as to the benighted, ordinary, in adequate peoples of the world, work towards the ideal of World Government.
They constitute some scant cover for the real pushers – the armies of the self-interested. There are great careers and huge fortunes to be made in the business of the globalisation of government as well as through the globalisation of economic activity. Well then, it is not only all inevitable, but a good thing is it not?
Well, not necessarily. There is a problem. As we know, Enoch Powell was right when he observed that the European Community (As it was then) could not be made democratic since there was no European demos. And that is overwhelmingly, obviously, absolutely true of world government.
As we know, the Prime Minister alongside many others believes not in an EU of nations, but something much bigger. Over recent years there has been much agitation over the question of the legality of our involvement in the war in Iraq. Whilst whether or not it was wise to invade Iraq is a matter of controversy, there can in my view be no doubt about its legality since Parliament endorsed the action of the Government.
However, a substantial body of opinion based upon interpretation of the meaning of various resolutions put to the United Nations Security Council maintains that our action was not “Authorised” by that body and was therefore unlawful.
Indeed, the Government shrinks from saying “it was legal because Parliament sanctioned it and there is no higher authority over the United Kingdom than the people as represented by Parliament” and retreats into highly dubious interpretations of Security Council resolutions and dodgy dossiers of doubtful intelligence.
Not everyone thinks that this progressive dilution of the separateness of national peoples and of the sovereign rights and powers of their national states is a bad thing. As national states fade like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, so they cheer for the coming of the monster pan-continental states envisaged by George Orwell in 1984 but, of course, in the 21st century, required to subject themselves to the global authority of the United Nations.
One question we might ask is, what sort of government would world government be?
Clearly not a democratic one. The answer seems to lie in some kind of corporatism and here in Europe, and in Britain, we can see all too clearly the progress towards the corporate state. Membership of the House of Commons and the European Parliament alike is falling into the hands of a political salariat. The career prospects of Members of the Commons are more dependent upon the approval of party managers than on the approval of their constituents. Who gets elected to the European Parliament through a P.R. list system depends entirely on the party managers.
Of local government I need say nothing. Christopher Booker has in The Sunday Telegraph said it all.
The recent introduced Regulatory and Legislation Amendment Bill would provide Ministers with the means to simply amend, create or repeal legislation at will, with virtually no Parliamentary control. The Bill even provides powers to amend itself – bringing into its scope areas specifically excluded in its present form. In an hilariously Chinese Democracy style the Government now proposes that a Parliamentary Select Committee would oversee to some extent the use of the powers granted by the Bill.
And who – just who – would appoint the members of the select committee?
Almost every legislative or even administrative proposal by the Government is now announced outside Parliament. Parliamentary time to discuss legislation is extremely limited. Instead the Government consults “stakeholders”. That is corporate bodies and lobby groups with axes to grind. The representatives of the taxpayers are never consulted. They are not stakeholders.
The scale of corruption is now being uncovered. But sadly we have almost lost the power to be shocked.
Put aside the dubious funding practices by loans or donations from wealthy individuals. No one even seems to care that this government has paid about £11 million to trade unions to help them “modernise” and in return received £10 million in donations to Labour Party funds.
Naturally, taxpayers were not amongst the stakeholders consulted.
Nor is this style of government limited to sordid self-interest. The Chancellor announced an £8.6 – or was it £6.8 million programme to finance schools in Africa. Just when were the taxpayers or their representatives consulted about that?
It is not just that this wrong. It is part of a wave of events which are turning voters off from the democratic system.
When did the people vote for tighter integration with Europe?
When did they vote for uncontrolled immigration? Or for the multicultural society?
An abstention rate of almost 40% is not a sign that people do not care about politics. It is a sign that they do not believe their vote would change anything. We are seeing a multitude of changes leading to a breakdown of society.
The concept of marriage, or the conventional family, have been eroded. Halfway through the 20th century, 95% of births were in wedlock. Today only 60% are. Indebtedness is encouraged – as is the repudiation of debts by personal insolvency. Falling standards of education – particularly in the poorer sections of society – are leaving younger generations unskilled and ignorant – particularly about the society and the country in which they live.
The blurring of personal responsibility for personal conduct has encouraged crime. The resultant disorderly society gives government the opportunity to propose more and more illiberal measures. Although ineffective against crime they are the harbingers of punishment without trial.
More and more families are dependent on welfare and a combination of taxation and means tested benefits steadily erodes the incentive of those near the bottom of the stack to work at all – and the incentive for even modestly well off families to save.
The old building blocks of society and the cement which bound them together are being eroded away. The party of collectivism has weakened ties which bind individuals into families and families into societies and strengthened the power of the state over individuals.
In short, the self-disciplining structures of society are being broken. The population is being made more dependent upon the state for its income. The cohesion of society is being dissolved by multiculturalism, failure of the education and the welfare systems.
The lawlessness and violence so generated is used to increase the power of state agencies – not least by the imposition of an ID card system. In Enoch Powell’s terms we are becoming less and less of a demos – and less and less able to practice democracy.
We are a long way down the road to the corporate super state. The democratic means to reverse that process are being undermined.
How long can this be allowed to go on?