Why are the Tories wasting their time over Europe? jpoc opinion

If the opinion polls are to be believed, of all of the things about which they ask, in the UK, the three most unpopular things right now are the Conservative Party, its leader William Hague and the European single currency, the Euro.

An observer from the planet Throgbomble might be expected to conclude that the unpopular party was supporting the unpopular currency and our observer might then suggest that opposition to the Euro would boost the popularity of the Conservative party.

All well and good except that the truth is that of course, the Tories already oppose the Euro. For many of their number, this is a matter of deep passion and yet it seems that the whole policy is failing to do them any good. Why?

The first possible explanation that can easily be dismissed is that old Tory party standby. "Failure to present policy." The whole of the UK knows the Tory party policy on the single currency. Hague and his cabinet all chant the Eurosceptic catechism at every opportunity. We all know what their policy is.

What is left then? What can explain the fact that, at the next election, millions of voters who oppose the Euro will vote for the Labour party?

Part of the reason must be that the Labour party has promised to hold a referendum and not to join the single currency without a popular vote in favour in a referendum. So, a vote for the Labour party is not a vote for the Euro. This very factor is an excellent illustration of the damage that the Conservative Party is doing to itself with its anti Euro campaign. We have all heard William Hague say "A vote for Labour is a vote to scrap the pound." We have heard this over and over again. The voters know that they have been promised a referendum on the subject and so, a vote for Labour in a general election is not the same as a vote to scrap the pound in a referendum. They can only reconcile these two if they accept that either William Hague or Tony Blair is telling lies. Many people then conclude that not only does William Hague tell lies but that, by telling a lie that is so clearly false, he is showing his contempt for the common sense of the electorate.

Another reason is that, while many British voters like the pound and distrust the Euro, their greater like for Tony Blair and their distrust of the Tories is a greater force.

The Euro is not the only European issue on which the Conservative party is wasting its efforts. The proposed European Rapid Reaction Force is another excellent example. When the ERRF was proposed and work started on planning it, the Tories brought out all of their heavy artillery to shoot it down. Sadly most of the shots missed the target in ways that made the arguments look foolish.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher condemned the ERRF and said that we must support only NATO. She fulminated that NATO is "the great alliance of the English speaking peoples." I think that almost everyone who heard her speak would have realised that, even before its recent expansion, the majority of NATO member states are not English speaking. More NATO member states have French as an official language than have English. Indeed, when you remember that a substantial minority of US citizens have Spanish as their first language you will understand that English is only just ahead of French, German and Spanish as the language of the citizens of NATO states.

Meanwhile, the Tory supporting sections of the UKtabloid press screamed out that soon "our boys" would be ordered into battle by the Spaniard Javier Solana who was in to be in charge of the new policy. Well, this as an irony indeed. A key part of the agreement was that participation in any action would be voluntary. So, under the ERRF, Solana would have no power to order British troops to do anything. However, before taking the job, Solana was the political head of NATO. Participation in NATO actions is mandatory if another NATO member state is attacked. So, when he was working for NATO, had (say) Turkey been attacked by Iraq, then British troops would have been ordered to fight by the very same Solana.

Lastly, ask most British people about the role of the US in the second world war and you will be told that they stayed at home and only agreed to join in right at the end. By and large, the British do not trust the US commitment unconditionally to support European nations. This is even more so in the light of US attitudes since the end of the Soviet Union.

By these and other actions, the Conservative party is investing the majority of its energy into a single area of policy which is not going to win them any more votes. What they need to do is ask why people who support their anti Euro policy will still vote Labour. The reason is that the public feel that there are many flaws in the modern Conservative party. The party needs to identify and fix those failings first.

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