The Tory showdown in Europe continues

There is a terrifically entertaining showdown, known and acknowledged for some time now, but none the less being added to on a regular basis on the subject of the Tories in Europe.

It started with the Tories breaking with the pro-European conservatives that made up the European Peoples Party detailed here.

It joined ranks with some unsavoury characters, unsavoury to the extent that it figures out that the BNP have not acheived a grouping of their own in Europe.

As a result of unsettled relations in the new anti-federalist grouping to which the Tories are now joined to (the ECR European Conservatives and Reformists), Michel Kaminski, a controversial figure, of Polands Law and Justice Party leads the group, detailed here.

Kaminski’s character is of great interest. He is now unable to deny calls of anti-semitism against him despite the best efforts of right-wing Tories such as Dan Hannan who has also been known to stick up for other unpalatable types in Europe, such as the far-right Spanish group Alternativa Espanola. I’m sure he will not be too fussed over the charges that Kaminski was a fan of General Pinochet for, like Thatcher, Hannan’s free trade support and cosiness with “cranks” knows little in the way of bounds. But surely what is likely to get Hannan’s goat is that Kaminski has recently been won around on the benefits of the Lisbon Treaty. Hannan and William Hague will bend over backwards to show Kaminski as a reformer, but did they think he’d go full circle on the question of Europe?

Jewish groups have questioned Cameron’s future (more here) and Obama might not be too enthusiastic either about sharing an international platform with a leader engaged with such untrusting friends in Europe, despite the attempts to show otherwise.

What will happen next?

Ah ha! I, also, find out from LibCon that (“Straight Talking”) Roger Helmer MEP has denied the existence of homophobia in a blog entry, whilst pictured with Kaminski, inasmuch as nobody he has ever met has actually been physically afraid of homosexuals. That should help the Tories present their case that Kaminski is a moderniser who only opposed same-sex marriage because he is not scared of gay people. Carry on.

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Tony Blair and European Council Presidency

Europe and the United Kingdom has a relationship much like with the opposition in any democratic parliament; we cannot live without them, nor can we really live with them.

But in spite of this, the UK may well have produced the first permanent president for the European Council. Certainly Tony Blair is leading the race hands down, even if other representatives of European council are not entirely happy. He has strong support at home, not least from Lady Kinnock who declared that “he is our man”.

Hadleigh Roberts pointed out that “[i]t is undeniable that Tony Blair is a remarkable man with great qualities, including flexibility, rapidity and a feeling for how to communicate” but noted that “the role of EU president could conflict with the portfolio of advisory roles Blair seems keen to take up”.

If there is any concern about Blair’s ability to do the job owing to his busy schedule, these myths should be uncovered. The role of president of the European council is to liaise with the existing representatives of each council members, this is composed of chancellors, presidents or prime ministers of each country with EU membership. As head of this council Blair will reiterate agenda’s decided by this board and promote European integration. And for his efforts be paid £200,000 a year. It would hardly be taxing to juggle a position teaching faith to undergraduates in an American university on the side – at worst it would encourage sniggering at the back of his class wondering whether Blair’s loyalties lie with Anglo-Americanism rather than Anglo-Europeanism (you can decide who is doing the sniggering) and whether these two positions are in conflict.

But perhaps this sniggering would be unfounded? After all, hasn’t the Obama presidency shifted the plates on European-American relations?

As Roberts points out ‘[i]n his article, Balladur argued against Blair [for president], claiming that he fails to meet two criteria; “First, to come from a country that is completely in step with the EU’s forward march and that participates in all its different forms of co-operation; and, secondly, to be determined to build the independence of Europe, notably in the diplomatic and military fields.”’ His second point reminds us of that special Anglo-American relationship that will continue to tar his chances to win over Europe. The scorn with which European leaders have bestowed upon Blair is much to do with his allegiance to American foreign policy, and for many people the Blair legacy will never free itself of the shackles of Iraq invasion, and the WMD’s that never were, not to mention the unwinnable disaster in Afghanistan.

Maybe Blair’s reputation at home might be the thorn in the side of the presidency opportunity. But Sarkozy may have a point when he says of Blair he is ‘the most European of all Britons’. Blair in a sense has transgressed the limitations that usually come with being ex-prime minister, he is much more than that now given the extent to which he has networked after that period, his identity is rather beyond British politician, (in spite of some views) he is a world politician. If anything, would not this presidential position be a step down for him?

Given the sad state of affairs that the Tories in Europe find themselves in, to even suggest that they might have some political clout over Blair’s possible appointment is laughable. The newly composed group of anti-federalists in Europe, which the Conservatives abandoned the European Peoples Party (EPP) to join – despite the influence of the latter grouping composed of top European conservatives – is now to be led by Polish MEP Michal Kaminski of the Law and Justice Party. William Hague making his position clear on the new European friends of his party, dismissed “out-of-date and ill-informed” criticisms that Poland’s Law and Justice party was homophobic. He went on to say “The Law and Justice party is a party committed to be against discrimination, for equality under the law.”

Hague was talking about the same party that, in the run-up to 2005 elections, “accused gay and lesbian couples “of being a cultural and even biological threat to the Polish nation, lowering the birth-rate, and imperiling (sic) what ultra-conservatives lovingly call “natural law marriage and family.”

On the face of it, not many European leaders have come out in his support, as the Guardian points out;

José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish PM who takes over the EU presidency after Reinfeldt in January, is … an opponent. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is not believed to be keen. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, an early fan of Blair for the role, might calculate that it would be better to side with German and Spanish leaders than support the British.

And the opposition in the UK definitely do not want him there, but nobody is putting forward any alternatives, and the Tories are willingly pushing themselves further and further into the inertia of non-attached Euro-cranks and fascists. Perhaps the saving grace for Blair is that the job is little less than what he already does (networking, the overseeing of world policy, communicability). A definition of the position is charismatic individual with plenty of contacts, and to this Blair fits the bill perfectly, so who are we to argue.

This entry is in response to Hadleigh Robert’s article vive monsieur blair encore une fois as part of the Bloggers Circle experiment

Tories now embarrassingly led by bigots in Europe

The newly composed group of anti-federalists in Europe, which the Conservatives abandoned the European Peoples Party (EPP) to join – despite the influence of the latter grouping composed of top European conservatives – is now to be led by Polish MEP Michal Kaminski of the Law and Justice Party.

Edward McMillan-Scott, who rightly accused the party of being ‘racist and homophobic’, caused an embarrassing political row after standing against Kaminski for leadership, causing Timothy Kirkhope, the Tory leader in the chamber in Strasbourg, to surrender the leadership battle.

Recently there were great debates over who was more gay friendly, the Tories or Labour, and David Cameron apologised about section 28, but as Nick Clegg recently pondered (on LabourList: Where Labour Minded People [and the Liberal Democrat leader, clearly] Come Together) “while the Conservatives try to appear gay-friendly in the UK, they [are now led in Europe by] bigots who have banned gay marches and declared homosexuality a pathology.”

The new Speaker and the Poles: Another bad night for the Tories

Its been on the cards for a bit, but the Tories, and David Cameron, are going to lead a new right-wing fringe group known as the European Conservatives and Reformists, the Guardian reports.

The Tories have taken themselves out of the centre-right EPP on a anti-federalist ticket, while Cameron has told other conservatives not to listen to Ken Clarke – known for his Europhilia –  who told BBC1’s The Politics Show that: “If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened.”

As the article in the Telegraph explains “Mr Clarke’s comments confirms that there is a serious shadow cabinet split on Europe”.

But this Tory split will not be the major focus for the next couple of days, since Conservative candidate John Bercow has tonight been voted new Speaker of the House of Commons, beating his nearest opponent Sir George Young by 322 to 271 votes.

Tories have been hard-pushed not to express their disgust at the winner. Already rumours are circulating that “Tories have been muttering about running a candidate against him at the general election, or trying to vote him out of office at the next election.”

Further in the above Guardian election run-down by Andrew Sparrow, he notes that “My colleague Michael White, who was in the chamber, says it was striking how little applause Bercow had from the Tory benches.”

And Michael Crick for the BBC, re-told this story;

A Labour MP was standing in the House of Commons gents and found himself standing next to David Cameron.

“For the first time in my life,” admitted the Labour MP, “I voted for a Conservative today”.

David Cameron inquired which of the Speaker candidates he meant.

“John Bercow,” replied the MP.

“He doesn’t count,” said Mr Cameron.

Is this the anti-Tory vote, as Sparrow asks?

The New Statesman attests to the Bercow vote as being, against all odds, a vote for the “most progressive candidate …. [s]tate-educated, and someone who sends his own children to state schools, he is no longer regarded as “one of us” by his party colleagues”.

But in an Guardian editorial, also on the left, and also against all odds, seemed to back Young, saying “His background will put many off and he shared his party’s opposition to freedom of information when Labour brought it in. Against that he has a dry resilience that could make him a tougher and more radical Speaker than his grandee status suggests.”

As for me, I was with Bob Piper and the anybody but Young vote (I do believe he was being sarcastic).

I suppose part of me didn’t want to see London oust another member of the working class in a political role for an Etonian that has a history of saying twatish things (when Housing Minister Young once joked that ‘the homeless are the sort of people you step over when you come out of the opera’.)

But I suppose at the end of the day the right person won. His Monday Club history well behind him, his willingness to reform the commons, and especially, his ability to get co-Tories all worked up.

So while Cameron mourns the Tories defeat (too far?) to a moderate, William Hague makes his position clear on the new European friends of his party;

“Hague dismissed “out-of-date and ill-informed” criticisms that Poland’s Law and Justice party was homophobic. “The Law and Justice party is a party committed to be against discrimination, for equality under the law,” he told the BBC.”

The same party that, in the run-up to 2005 elections, “accused gay and lesbian couples “of being a cultural and even biological threat to the Polish nation, lowering the birth-rate, and imperiling (sic) what ultra-conservatives lovingly call “natural law marriage and family.”

It seems that in an odd reversal, the Tories are reinvigorating a cross-European Monday club.

An alternative manifesto

It was not too much of a surprise over the weekend to see the Tory undead wake from their slumber to criticise David Cameron on his decision to remove the Conservatives from the European People’s Party, and shift to the non-attached – that murky layer utilised by detached fascists and cretinous cro-magnon (the sophomoric, the asinine yada yada).

I was hardly surprised at the time because I knew there were mildly pro-European Tories, and that even the likes of Ken Clarke didn’t like the sound of those “neo-fascists” and “cranks”.

But Bob Piper’s slating of Jackie Ashley’s article on a centre left coalition made me think about the weekend reporting again. If, as Piper states against Ashley’s thinking, those “centre-right Cameroonies” look to be as congruent with any Lib-Lab centre, does this not mean that the government and the opposition have both moved into a political no man’s land?

For sure Cameron doesn’t belong in that strata of coalition for he doesn’t fit the criteria given by Ashley, that of “pro-welfare, mildly pro-European and support[ing] constitutional reform, including PR”. But certainly some Tories do fit this bill.

So how did this remind me of the weekend reports; there operates in Cameron’s Tories a sagging group of grump’s that don’t conform to his vision, those that I once thought occupied the right of the Tory party. But I’m having second thoughts. Perhaps it is Cameron who is on the traditional right of the Conservatives, and a wallowing group, maybe even unbeknownst to them, have shifted naturally to that point Piper identifies as being the space occupied by “Jackie Ashley, Martin Bright, Polly Toynbee and the rest of the chattering classes on their cocktail circuit.” The point where elections seem pointless since all major parties meet head on there.

To be sure, if Piper is correct – and I really rather suspect he is – that all party rebels are in the same shoes (dwindling in that so-called “centre”), the two main party leaders – Brown and Cameron – are to the right of them.

Which means that a space needs filling on both the left of those leaders, and of that political no mans land that occupies that so-called “centre” (but which I suspect is just a meeting of “unrelated solutions” as Piper has it), and since Nick Clegg is the political homo sacer, that left space can be filled by someone of the Labour Party willing to trump the wrongdoings of the last 20 or so years…