Unsurprisingly, the terrible Greek tragedy being played out is affecting the politics of its horrified audience. “Britain’s Left is turning against the European Union, and fast.” writes an over-excited Owen Jones in the Guardian. Turning around and around may be more accurate description, as hilariously the headline above his latest column changed from advocating outright withdrawal to merely putting the argument on the agenda within a matter of hours.
That just about sums up the tortuous writhing of the Left on this issue, which, as Brendan O’Neill brilliantly skewers in the Spectator, shows the hypocrisy and moral squalor of it’s position: it was perfectly OK that the EU was anti-democratic when it was useful to the comrades in implementing socialism by the back door, but anathema when it implements ‘right-wing’ austerity. Deliciously, some on the Left who remain loyal to the internationalist cause turned on Jones within the comments section, calling him among other things a ‘xenophobe’, ‘a proto-fascist’ and most insultingly of all – a ‘Kipper!
For that reason, I don’t put much store on the current flirtation of the Left with Euroscepticism: its disapproval can be easily bought off by some leftish EU initiative between now and the referendum, and it could be neatly exploited by Cameron by resisting its implementation as part of his negotiations, thereby pleasing his own Eurosceptic constituency.
What is potentially far more significant are the machinations announced by Nigel Farage to visit US politicians in order to make the case for UK withdrawal, or ‘Brexit’: could this be an attempt by the party to build widespread Anglosphere backing for the cause, and could such backing lead ultimately to the advocacy of a future Anglosphere club of nations?
If so, then this could electrify Euroscepticism with the “Conservative” Party. Always remember that the Tories’ Achilles heel (Greece, again) is a craving for social status, which of course means holding office at home and membership of all the right international clubs abroad. It doesn’t matter that the EU has shown itself to be corrupt, undemocratic, immoral and now catastrophically economically unsuccessful, or that Britain could be wealthier, freer – perhaps even more influential – outside it. The fact remains that this wretched organisation is one the world’s “top tables”: the Tories simply cannot imagine being excluded from it; confined to the second XI of world politics; a member (shudder) of the mere hoi polloi of nations.
As this blog has previously argued, what is needed to overcome Tory reluctance to ‘Brexit’ is the setting up of a rival “top table” to the European Union. It wouldn’t actually do very much, but it could do all the things international clubs tend to do: grand meetings attended by leaders every few months, congenial dinners with the usual back slapping speeches, pompous communiqués, and so on. Our political leaders get to strut on the world stage, while all the real heavy lifting in our relationships continues to be done at ambassadorial level.
To conduct a pretence of international relations via such frippery may sound rather pathetic, even juvenile, but no more so than all those other silly clubs like Davos which flatter the vanities of the rich and well-connected, and vanity, at the end of the day, is what it is all about: if an Anglosphere club really was on offer, then Tory Euroscepticism would rapidly mutate into something far more militant and threatening than the tepid thing it is today, and that could prove an insurmountable problem for Mr David Cameron.