Federalism vs Nationalism

As I write, I note that Lord Feldman is stepping down as Chairman of the Conservative party at the same time David Cameron quits in October. Their successors will have quite a juggling act ahead, because whatever Britain does next, the mess in our own backyard across the channel shows no signs of going away. They are victims of something that has been going on for about 20 years now.

andrew-feldman

Today’s BREXIT news is just one example, albeit a dramatic one, of the collision between Federalism and Nationalism that has been building up for a few years now across the EU, and looks set to continue with the Spanish referendum, as well as calls in France for a referendum and a revival in Greece of GREXIT ambitions as a third bailout inches forward.

We could try some cod-psychology and say that the rise of Nationalism is a response to some wider global phenomenon, but the truth is that we have no way, at the moment, of judging where it comes from, except that across Europe and beyond, there is a genuine wave of far-right activism, seen most strikingly in the recent Presidential election in Austria, while Jobbik has had tremendous success in Hungary (where it organises a uniformed guard to police Roma areas), as has Poland’s “Law and Justice” Government which came to power in October, the Swiss People’s party, Marine Le Pen’s Front national, the “Freedom party”in the Netherlands, and the Danish People’s party scoring 21% in the last election- Then there are “The Finns”, the Sweden Democrats and down in Greece, the abominable Χρυσή Αυγή as well as our own UKIP here in the UK. I am not sure about how Nationalist is “Our Slovakia” but it did quite well in the last election, and, of course, Germany has its own Nationalist party called “Alternative for Germany” AfD, led by a fairly ferocious woman called Frauke Petry who thinks it is legitimate to shoot refugees (“the use of armed force is there as a last resort”) and that women (I assume she means German women) should have at least three children. there are less successful but equally vocal right wing movements in Italy (the Northern League), the IRL in Estonia, the LDPR in Russia, Slovak Nationalists, Attack, Svoboda, Serbian Radicals and the HČSP, otherwise known rather worryingly as the Croatian “Pure” Party founded by war criminal Ante Pavelic which currently says it is against “NATO, the EU and Gay Marriage”.

ivan HCSP

There has also, oddly, at about the same time, been a surge in committed socialism as seen in the rise of Tsipras and Corbyn, two people who I am sure mean well but who manage power with a spectacular mix of arrogance and incompetence. The arrogance comes from the size of the  popular vote that thrust them into office (we should be careful not to confuse legitimacy with popularity) and the incompetence- well, that is clearly a natural gift in each case. Both have a certain charm. I might enjoy having these men round for tea, and I am sure their conversation would be tremendous fun, but I would not trust either to run my country. Indeed, I think neither Tsipras nor Corbyn ever expected to be elected and so both could offer all manner of promises and absurdities to their respective electorate that they now have to make good and neither was fully prepared for the job. Today, both men seem mostly committed to dithering or forgetting to wear a proper tie.

Modern Europe has also seen a rise in political idealism, what I imagine Mrs Thatcher would have called “Federalism”, most notably in the personnas of Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and of Frau Merkel, all of whom, I think, are deeply mistaken in the way they see the European project and their own roles within it. Of course, with hindsight, I am sure they might have surrendered more to David Cameron in the months before the Referendum, but that is the problem with so many of these people- they are locked into a belief that their own ideology, and their own authority moreover, whether European, far Right or far left, is of paramount importance to their overall identity. People are bigger than these passing belief structures, and the only way to tackle such ideologues is to be big enough to bend slightly. The EU was defeated by BREXIT because it was perceived to be undemocratic and inflexible, which quite bluntly is a valid belief.

I think it does not automatically now fall to others within the EU to sort out its future. We still have a role to play in what happens, and we have an interest in the way our neighbours operate. It can no longer be “business as usual” and it is not just about our future!

Lèse-majesté

queen insult

The crime of injuring the monarch, whether physically (which would be treason), or verbally, is a serious one. I wonder whether caricatures fall into this sphere and indeed this very question was debated a deal in the 18th Century when George III and his son were routinely held up by the early political cartoonists as figures of fun.

Defacing banknotes even today I think is a crime based on the principle of Lèse-majesté.

Does this crime ever result in actions- well, yes, there was a Polish case where a man was fined about £6000 for insulting John Paul II during one of his last visits to Poland. The specific words used in the offensive article are these- that John Paul II was “an impotent old man offering a spectacle of horror to the public,” though the article itself was entitled “The Walking Sado-Masochist”. In the article similarities were drawn between the Pope and the dying Leonid Brezhnev. This, in turn, was heavily criticised by the international press and especially “Reporters sans frontières” which argued that freedom of expression was effectively denied to Jerzy Urban and that Poland had agreed to freedom of expression when it joined the EU in 2004. More recently, there was a case where a man farted to express concerns about the Prime Minister lech Kaczyński, one of the twins and the man who was killed on the way to commemorate the Katyn massacre in the plane crash in 2010.

Now, it is one thing to gag the press or to try to cork the wilder expressions of political discontent, but it is quite another when a senior politician is heard mouthing off about his monarch. School-boy gossip, gloating is not really something we should tolerate from a statesman. So in the UK,  there is a clear example of Lèse-majesté in the garrulous stupidity of our own Prime minister. I cannot see that an apology can really explain the smug contempt of the word “purred”. Alex Salmond spoke quite clearly about his shock at the way Cameron openly discussed what he had said to the Queen. Salmond is right and Cameron wrong. But it goes further. If Cameron cannot be trusted to respect the Queen, how can he be trusted to respect the Country?

Here is an earlier Cameron cartoon. I think this one is better actually:

cameron revised

Personally, I must confess that this leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: I had intended to stand for some form of Political office with a Conservative ticket in May and had gone through the struggle of selection. I am really not sure this would be right now. I have never liked Cameron – I remember being encouraged by one of his Eton contemporaries in Oxford to cross the street so that we might avoid meeting him – but now I am afraid I think he is a twit and a liability. If Boris were leading, it would be a different matter, but with Cameron there… well, I have to think very seriously! This is not just a gaff; it exposes the way the man thinks and it is not a pretty image I am afraid. Mrs Thatcher (she of the deepest curtsey ever) would be shocked, shocked, shocked.

 

finished maggie french lieutenant

government ministers 2

government ministers

No one seems to have noticed Mrs Pankhurst!!

pankhurst page

Bizarrely as David Cameron re-shuffles his cabinet and brings more women into positions of power, no one on the BBC  news has yet noted that today is the birthday of Mrs Pankhurst, she of the “Sister Suffragette” song at the beginning of “Mary Poppins”. This omission seems both rather odd and slightly sad but there we are! Andrea Leadsom is not on the list of women being elevated to high rank in the cabinet. She was being discussed a great deal today by someone from the TIMES: apparently, she has a reputation in the Party as “difficult” and a bit of a rebel. I have met her: one of the oddest things she claimed was that she would never put forward or speak in an early day motion because it was a waste of time and there was never any “resolution”. Sometimes, I think, issues nevertheless have to be aired. It can take years before a resolution is reached and I think I resent this cavalier attitude to the ordinary business of the house.  That said, I note that she has actually either changed her mind or my recollection of our conversation is wrong because she has signed an EDM for renaming the Parliament tower in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee after she signed an EDM proposed by Graham Evans which bemoaned the continued existence of EDM saying they “rarely have any influence on policy… and questions the value for money to the taxpayer”…Of course, she opposed the same sex marriage bill and made a great fuss in the press about her position- I don’t quite understand this bill as, other than nomenclature, it offers little that the civil partnership had not already established, but it seemed to cause so much more friction. I did a cartoon of Ms Leadsom where she stands among others who found the legislation- in her words “unacceptable” – she also added that her constituents found the idea of gay marriage to be “deeply wrong”. In the end, she lacked the guts to actually vote against the Government and simply ran into hiding during the vote. silly lady.

gay marriage

More interesting is Merton’s Elizabeth truss and St Hugh’s Nicky Morgan. Now Mrs Morgan also opposed the same sex legislation, but she managed to vote! I rather liked her comments in the Leicester Mercury and most specifically her “third reason” for voting against the bill. I think in time, this may be of significance –

“There were also three main reasons of my own that I voted against it.

“First, this is a very big social change. There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman.

“I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.

“I totally support civil partnerships and that same-sex relationships are recognised in law. But marriage, to me, is between a man and a woman.

“The second reason is that people have become a bit cynical about consultations about policy changes at national and local government level .

“And in this case, I felt the question was not whether the change should be made, but how it should be made and I think we forgot that step of asking if it should be made.

“And the third reason was legal aspects of the Bill. For instance, if we have gay marriage, should civil partnerships now also be opened up to heterosexual couples too? Or should we just get rid of civil partnerships altogether?

“Also, if same-sex marriages are to be dissolved, will that be different to heterosexual partnerships ending?

“I know there are a lot of worries for people like teachers and others in public sector roles and these are things I still feel need to be ironed out as the Bill goes through Parliament.

“I appreciate that there will be people in my constituency who will be unhappy with how I voted and I wish many of them had contacted me earlier and given me a clearer picture of what people thought.”