Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yesterday's Men and today's BIG, BIG issue

In the General Election campaign of 1970, Alan Aldridge designed a controversial poster showing plasticine models of the Conservative Cabinet and encouraging the electorate to write them off.

It didn't work. Heath won:

Edition of 20th June, 1970

- and the country lost. But it didn't know it. Ten years earlier, Lord Kilmuir had advised the future Prime Minister:

"I must emphasise that in my view the surrenders of sovereignty involved are serious ones and I think that, as a matter of practical politics, it will not be easy to persuade Parliament or the public to accept them. I am sure that it would be a great mistake to under-estimate the force of the objections to them. But those objections ought to be brought out into the open now because, if we attempt to gloss over them at this stage, those who are opposed to the whole idea of our joining the Community will certainly seize on them with more damaging effect later on."

RESEARCH PAPER 10/79 - Appendix 2 Letter to Edward Heath from Lord Kilmuir, December 1960 []

From 1973 on we were in what we thought - what we had been told and assured - was nothing more than a trading arrangement, and Heath had long known to be a glass slope down to European Union.

Edition of 30th December, 1972

So in the Labour manifesto of February 1974, the Leader of the Opposition Harold Wilson said (my highlights):

"The Government called this election in panic. They are unable to govern, and dare not tell the people the truth.

"Our people face a series of interlocking crises. Prices are rocketing. The Tories have brought the country to the edge of bankruptcy and breakdown. More and more people are losing their jobs. Firms are going out of business. Housing costs are out of reach for so many families. The Common Market now threatens us with still higher food prices and with a further loss of Britain's control of its own affairs. We shall restore to the British people the right to decide the final issue of British membership of the Common Market.  

"The British people were never consulted about the Market. Even more, the country was deceived in 1970 about the Government's intentions on jobs and prices. They will not be deceived again."

Hence the 1975 Referendum, by which time Wilson was Prime Minister and was recommending a Yes vote:


"The better terms which Britain will enjoy if we stay in the Common Market were secured only after long and tough negotiations.

"These started in April 1974 and did not end until March of this year.

"On March 10 and 11 the Heads of Government met in Dublin and clinched the bargain. On March 18 the Prime Minister was able to make this announcements:

"'I believe that our renegotiation objectives have been substantially though not completely achieved.'

"What were the main objectives to which Mr. Wilson referred? The most important were FOOD and MONEY and JOBS."

Who doesn't want these things? Who can manage without them? Who would have continued reading the pamphlet after this point, if they had read it at all? How many who did, would have teased out the timebomb issues further on in this document, or understood how to weigh them against the bribe-threats of "FOOD and MONEY and JOBS"?

Wilson continued:

Another anxiety expressed about Britain's membership of the Common Market is that Parliament could lose its supremacy, and we would have to obey laws passed by unelected 'faceless bureaucrats' sitting in their headquarters in Brussels.

What are the facts?

Fact No. 1 is that in the modern world even the Super Powers like America and Russia do not have complete freedom of action. Medium-sized nations like Britain are more and more subject to economic and political forces we cannot control on our own.

A striking recent example of the impact of such forces is the way the Arab oil-producing nations brought about an energy and financial crisis not only in Britain but throughout a great part of the world.

Since we cannot go it alone in the modern world, Britain has for years been a member of international groupings like the United Nations, NATO and the International Monetary Fund.

Membership of such groupings imposes both rights and duties, but has not deprived us of our national identity, or changed our way of life.

Membership of the Common Market also imposes new rights and duties on Britain, but does not deprive us of our national identity. To say that membership could force Britain to eat Euro-bread or drink Euro-beer is nonsense.

Fact No. 2. No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament.

The top decision-making body in the Market is the Council of Ministers, which is composed of senior Ministers representing each of the nine member governments.

It is the Council of Ministers, and not the market's officials, who take the important decisions. These decisions can be taken only if all the members of the Council agree. The Minister representing Britain can veto any proposal for a new law or a new tax if he considers it to be against British interests. Ministers from the other Governments have the same right to veto.

All the nine member countries also agree that any changes or additions to the Market Treaties must be acceptable to their own Governments and Parliaments.

Remember: All the other countries in the Market today enjoy, like us, democratically elected Governments answerable to their own Parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their Parliaments any more than we would."

Fact No. 3. The British Parliament in Westminster retains the final right to repeal the Act which took us into the Market on January 1, 1973. Thus our continued membership will depend on the continuing assent of Parliament.

The White Paper on the new Market terms recently presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister declares that through membership of the Market we are better able to advance and protect our national interests. This is the essence of sovereignty.

Fact No. 4. On April 9, 1975, the House of Commons voted by 396 to 170 in favour of staying in on the new terms.

Note the ultimate reassurance in "Fact No. 3".

And so:

Edition of 7th June, 1975

Forty years on, the 2015 Conservative Manifesto says (contextualising it in a discussion of economic migration to the UK):

We will negotiate new rules with the EU, so that people will have to be earning here for a number of years before they can claim benefits, including the tax credits that top up low wages. Instead of something-fornothing, we will build a system based on the principle of something-for-something. We will then put these changes to the British people in a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.

Once again, fundamental democratic issues are blended with economics. And there is some question about the circumstances in which this pledge would be binding. In his speech of 23rd January 2013, Cameron said (my highlight):

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament.

At present we do not have a Conservative government, but a coalition, and this seems likely to be the situation after next month. And even it there is indeed an in-out referendum, will the people be fully informed of the implications? Will they be bribed and threatened? What will the Press and TV do?

Now here's the big, big issue: we're past the point at which national freedom simply means freedom from the EU. Wilson told us forty years ago:

Fact No. 1 is that in the modern world even the Super Powers like America and Russia do not have complete freedom of action. Medium-sized nations like Britain are more and more subject to economic and political forces we cannot control on our own.

We are now slithering further down the glass mountain, into an era of global governance. International trade agreements and regulation will more and more take precedence over national governments and their courts - and a secretive system of arbitration in trade disputes is bypassing open fora of international justice, so that a handful of firms in London (now taking one side, now the other, case by case) can impose multimillion-pound settlements on the UK and other sovereign nations, to suit the ambition and avarice of multinational enterprises.

To think we are still fighting the EU issue, when an even bigger threat to democracy is at our backs. David Malone ("Golem XIV") makes this clear.

But democracy can be used against itself, now as before: prejudice, misunderstanding, lack of understanding, misinformation, bribes and threats, the jokes of ignorant and partisan comedians, the slurs in the unthinking social media.

Fight, or flight? Are we "yesterday's men"(and women)?


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A K Haart said...

A fine post - we need to keep reminding ourselves about this crucial political journey and how it came about.

These seem to be key issues - where are we now, where are we headed and do we have a worthwhile democracy?

I think the EU and the AV referendum show us how accurate you are with this :-

"But democracy can be used against itself, now as before: prejudice, misunderstanding, lack of understanding, misinformation, bribes and threats, the jokes of ignorant and partisan comedians, the slurs in the unthinking social media."

Sackerson said...

Thank you for the encouragement, AK, sometimes it feels as though one is talking into a void.

Paddington said...

If anyone remembers the backstory to 'Rollerball', it was that the nations had collapsed, and been replaced by corporate control. I fear that we are far along that path.

Sackerson said...

Funny that, I was thinking of Rollerball, too.

James Higham said...

Yes, Heath was indeed a global socialist. Even more worrying today is this Grand Coalition.

Sackerson said...

JD responds:

Here are some (undiplomatic thoughts) -

I have said it over and over again at James's blog but nobody takes any notice: Parliament effectively abolished itself when it passed the European Communities Act of 1972. The supremacy of European Law over English Law was confirmed and explicitly stated by Lord Justice Laws in 2001 when he amended the Constitution and declared the 1972 Act to be a "Constitutional Statute":

"Such statutes are, because of their constitutional importance, to be protected from implied repeal and, whilst not entrenched in English law, can only be repealed by the express intervention of Parliament."


You also hint at the problems which will arise from international trade agreements but everyone is very quiet about that one when it should be the biggest headline in every single nespaper every single day.

Plato wrote of the five forms of government which progressively degenerate starting with Aristocracy at the top and Tyranny at the bottom.

We are about to enter the fifth stage of that degeneracy not as Plato had envisaged it with an identifiable individual as the 'Tyrant' but with a tyranny best decribed as Corporatocracy, government by transnational corporations.

Some people understand what is happening. Read very carefully and inwardly digest-