LibLink: Where would you rather live – Great Britain or little England?

clegg farage lbcNick Clegg asked this question in The Guardian yesterday, and robustly attacked Ukip’s position:

The isolationists have been allowed to peddle their myths unchallenged for decades. Of all Nigel Farage’s far-fetched claims – and there are many – the most outlandish is the idea that Ukip’s call for an exit is the insurgents’ battle cry. European withdrawal is presented as a great revolutionary promise, held in stark contrast to the status quo upheld by a homogeneous political elite.

What poppycock. For a start, Farage is every bit the professional politician he enthusiastically reviles. He and I were elected to the European parliament on the same day in 1999. I left after five years. The Ukip leader is still there. More important, there is nothing remotely new about his party’s ambitions. Ukip is simply the fresh face of a long-standing Eurosceptic establishment, supported by many in the Tory party and significant parts of the press.

He explains why he decided to take on Farage in the media debates.

If we end up stumbling out of the EU our police will be denied the cross-border co-operation they enjoy at present – in effect asking them to keep us safe with one hand tied behind their back. At every international summit and on each of the great dilemmas thrown up by globalisation, climate change, trade, global finance, terrorism and organised crime, Britain will be increasingly isolated, its influence diminished in the world.

With such a bleak future now plausible, my party has decided to take on the Eurosceptic establishment directly.

He concludes with this challenge:

What we need is more volume. The Lib Dems have started this debate – but we cannot win it alone. We want to work with others to deliver the firepower needed to challenge the Eurosceptic establishment. If Labour is still a pro-European party, it needs to come off the fence. Tory modernisers must risk the wrath of their backbenchers and speak out. Anyone who agrees that we are better off in – whether that’s businesses, the crime-fighting agencies, progressive voters or people who care about the environment – make yourselves heard. If you are holding back, ask yourself: what are you waiting for? The fight is on. The threat is real. It’s time to pick a side.

You can read the full article here.

 

 

 

 

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24 Comments

  • Without being royalist or uncritical, I’d like to live where I live now – the UK. GB vs LE is quite a good debating point but I resist it because too many people are sloppy about national definitions – Team GB is actually Team UK, an Anglo-Irish agreement is actually an Irish-British agreement, etc.

  • Modified question : Where would you rather live?
    A country where you are allowed a democratic determination over your relationship with the EU, or a country whose three main parties have formed a ‘cynical cabal’, designed to mock you as a voter, and deny your voice over your relationship with the EU?
    There,… fixed it for you.

  • Give some thought to the use of words in this and consider what it tells us about Clegg’s inability to connect to ordinary voters.

    “– the most outlandish is the idea that Ukip’s call for an exit is the insurgents’ battle cry. European withdrawal is presented as a great revolutionary promise, held in stark contrast to the status quo upheld by a homogeneous political elite.
    What poppycock. ”

    Now I know this was written for The Guardian, and in reality may not have actually been written by Clegg himself, but these are not the sort of words that I hear when I am sitting at the back of the bus.
    I agree with what Clegg is trying to say but why does he have to sound so much like the “homogeneous elite” he tells us he is not part of.
    Maybe next time he has a plumber round his house in Putney, or next time he is listening to something his bodyguard or chauffeur is saying , can I suggest Clegg counts the number of times they use words like “Poppycock”.

  • This link will work though.

    I am uneasy with the GB v LE point. Little Englander does identify a particular attitude, but a stress on Great Britain oddly can also draw from the little Englander pre colonial mentality. Perhaps we just have to see how well it is received; certainly the not so easy message to get across is that the UK can best influence the direction of the EU by engaging from the centre rather than sniping from the periphery.

    Concurrent with Nick Clegg’s article is UKIP’s latest advertising atrocity that carries a stark implication that 26 million people from across the EU are threatening to make UK workers jobless.

    When challenged about this inflammatory xenophobia this morning, UKIP’s spokesman protested that they did not actually say that all 26 million are trying to displace workers in the UK, just that they implied it was so. This will remind us of Farage’s feigned incredulity in the second debate with Clegg, that anyone could ever have taken UKIP’s claim that the country opening its borders to 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians was a prediction of a flood of migration from these countries.

    UKIP knows what it is doing; immigration and unemployment are not really their prime concerns, though people speaking other languages in train carriages apparently does concern them; actually UKIP will use whatever inflammatory means it finds to push its anti EU agenda.

    Whether Nick Clegg felt his debates with Farage were a set back or not, I am pleased that he is pushing ahead and not backing down. What I do think he and others have to do soon is to make a noise about what Lib Dem MEPs have done and can do for their electorate and how the electorate are ill served by MEPs who fail to represent their constituents interests, but only turn up for expenses that they cannot or will not account for.

  • John Dunne: am pleased to live in a country that has elected representatives in the European Council and the Council of Ministers and sends elected Members to the European Parliament. These bodies form the legislature and determine the direction of EU policy.

    No, I absolutely do not want to live in a country which has to go along with whatever is decided with no democratic input whatsoever.

  • “The fight is on. The threat is real. It’s time to pick a side.”

    The latest ICM poll for the Euro elections says:
    Lab 30%, UKIP 27%, Con 22%, LD 8%

    So what is the best way for pro-Europeans to use their votes against UKIP?

    Suppose that poll is right, and suppose the Lib Dems succeeded in attracting 4% of pro-European voters from Labour. What would the headlines say? Would they focus on the fact that UKIP had topped the poll, or would they highlight the Lib Dems’ 12% as a resounding vote of confidence in the EU?

  • Peter Watson 22nd Apr '14 - 1:34pm

    @Martin “Concurrent with Nick Clegg’s article is UKIP’s latest advertising atrocity that carries a stark implication that 26 million people from across the EU are threatening to make UK workers jobless.”
    I think that attacking UKIP on their dodgy implication about tens of millions of immigrants is a dangerous tactic because it gives UKIP’s claims more publicity. Certainly nobody can realistically believe that many would come, but every time Lib Dems draw attention to these figures it reminds people about the huge potential numbers involved. More starkly it is a reminder that even if only the “best” few percent come, that is a lot of positions and opportunities “lost” in a competitive job market where it is feasible that these employees are “better” than the British workers they displace (after all they had the gumption to get on their bikes like Norman Tebbit’s dad). Ignoring this risks reinforcing the image of Clegg and his ilk as a “homogeneous political elite” who do not recognise the concerns of those who really do feel threatened.

  • @ Martin
    “No, I absolutely do not want to live in a country which has to go along with whatever is decided with no democratic input whatsoever.”
    So a referendum is not democratic input ?. Well it seemed to be democratic enough for the AV vote? I suppose such an inconsistent anti-democratic attitude is what we voters have learned (at their cost!), to expect from a party with ‘Democrats’ in it name. Might I humbly suggest that that is why Lib Dems are at 8%, because you consider what voters really want, to be ‘optional’ and resisted at all cost, lest the unwashed proletariat use their democracy to make ‘the wrong choice’?
    Strange how erratic the position of Lib Dems can be when it suits them :
    ” This generation deserves its chance to say where we stand on Europe – in or out.”
    Nick Clegg ~ 25th Feb 2008 Guardian (Cif)
    But then again,… who believes what Lib Dems say?

  • Richard Dean 22nd Apr '14 - 4:26pm

    I would rather live in a secure, prosperous Europe.

  • I’d rather live in a more equal UK where power and money is distributed more evenly between people and regions underpinned by better ways of voting and governing ourselves. Democratic power should be wielded at the level that people themselves consider to be their own community, not higher and not lower.

    That, in a nutshell, is what we are all fighting for, isn’t it?

  • The problem with using ‘Great Britain or Little England’ as a campaigning slogan is that in September the whole question could become very academic and might just hand the debate over to the Little Englanders for the immediate future.

    More to the point, though, the economic illiteracy of the 26 million Europeans claim needs to be challenged – British workers won’t magically stop having to compete with those 26 million should the country leave the EU. Instead, we’ll just be competing from outside the free trade area, with the added encumbrance of tariffs and regulation differences.

    Even in the UKIP fantasy of Commonwealth free trade areas, it gets no better. The competition will be with the European and American economies tied together in their new trade area for high value work, or with about a billion Indians working in a far less protected and liberal labour market for the low value work. Either way, going it alone is not going to work, and any attempt to try frankly means turning Britain into a kind of European version of Mexico from around 1980 – a country that can possibly poach jobs in certain sectors by cutting workers rights and salaries right back, but that really hasn’t got the power to negotiate with the larger bloc from the outside.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd Apr '14 - 5:19pm

    i thought this was rather good:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/andrewlilico/100027074/ukip-posters-yes-26-million-people-are-after-your-job-thats-a-good-thing/

    In particular this:

    “Lastly, the one other group affected negatively will be UK workers that would gain if they were willing to move elsewhere in the EU to where the firms that would employ them are most efficiently located, but for cultural, family or other reasons are not willing to do so. That group are what we might call “legitimate losers” from the free movement of persons policy – they suffer a downside but are unable or unwilling to take advantage of the upside.”

    For it implicitly recognises the existence of a language-skills gap hampers the perception of ‘reciprocity’ as one perceptive LDV commenter put it.

  • @Caracatus — that’s “change of tack,” a sailing metaphor — tacking being the craft of sailing against the wind by travelling now a little port of the wind and now a little starboard, it being impossible, of course, to sail directly into the wind. If you accuse Clegg of “changing tack,” that implies that he actually knows where he is going and has a plan to reach that destination!

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Apr '14 - 8:38pm

    Would ‘yawing’ be better, David-1 😉

  • Little Jackie Paper 23rd Apr '14 - 12:25am

    jedibeeftrix – Exactly. It is entirely valid to look at open borders and say, ‘so what.’ Romania is being drained of doctors because they earn far more in the Old EU – so what? Lots of agricultural land in the East is hoovered up by Old EU agribusiness – so what? Trends in the UK labour force have favoured transient labour over young UK people – so what? All of this and any number of examples are basically freedom in action and, after all, no one is doing anything wrong. Well the, ‘so what,’ is true if one takes as a starting point that domestic governments have no, ‘contract,’ (for want of a better term) to the domestic polity. If the domestic polity is not convinced by European integration, or indeed other forms of integration, then the voters can respond at the ballot box as they see their interests.

    I would hazard a guess that being drained of doctors is not popular with the average Romanian at large. Similarly Eastern European farmers probably are not that keen on land being bought out. The perception (at least) of wage arbitrage as a result of immigration from within and without the EU is strong and unhappy. But who are the policy-makers there, ‘for?’ Someone must see all these things as in their interests.

    No doubt there are winners. After all, so what if Granny sells her bubble priced house to a French banker and takes her fuel payment to the costas? Well, good for granny – but those freedoms are precisely the same freedoms that are working directly against the interests of a great many who simply are in no position to up sticks and hope for the best abroad. If the flows of people do not become more symmetrical then it is going to be very hard to sell the idea of a Union as meaningful. And Clegg needs to be clear – law enforcement, the environment will pale. Free movement will be the defining issue of any referendum, maybe even this Euro election. If people sense that free movement is basically rights for other people then that really isn’t going to fly.

    Now none of this is to say that being OUT is the best approach or that being OUT would solve all ills. Type, ‘Mode 4,’ into google to have that illusion shattered. But the truth is that free movement is the most visible, day-to-day experience that most will have of the EU and to many it is a freedom that exists on paper only. Politicians should not just gloss over that, and credit to the Telegraph for at least saying it.

    I consider myself a euro-agnostic – the sky will not fall if the UK is IN or OUT of the EU. However free movement has kicked up some winners and losers and I simply can not see more of it as any real answer to the economic dislocations that mark our time, at least not on current technology.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Apr '14 - 2:39am

    My impression is that Clegg has misunderstood UKIP. The UKIP members and particularly activists that I know seem like people who feel powerless to resolve what they feel are genuine grievances through the existing social and political system. “Who runs this country?” really is their central motivation and message. Both the anti-EU and the immigration policies follow from that idea. They really do see themselves as insurgent patriots defending something from invasion: the something often seems like an untested, outdated, or ignorant ideas, but not evil ones.

    The message has obvious appeal to many of the public, and it does not seem to be addressed by any of Clegg’s arguments. It also presumably appeals to those conservative MPs who see their own power diminishing, or who see the EU as a convenient scapegoat for their own failings.

    But Clegg is right to take UKIP on. It’s nonsense that existing UK jobs are threatened, but simply saying so won’t convince anyone, and ignoring the challenge will surely reinforce existing UKIP supporters’ feelings and attract more people to UKIP. The EU provides opportunities as well as threats. The task is to identify the real, valid concerns of UKIP supporters, to provide a way that those concerns can be addressed without needing UKIP’s present, extremist positions, and to do so in language that is accessible to those existing and potential supporters.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '14 - 11:12am

    Richard Dean

    The UKIP members and particularly activists that I know seem like people who feel powerless to resolve what they feel are genuine grievances through the existing social and political system. “Who runs this country?” really is their central motivation and message.

    Yes, and they have been supplied with an answer which is wrong, but is used as a distraction to turn their attention away from the real answer.

    The EU does not run this country. Ask anyone who claims that for concrete examples of just how the EU is running this country and what answers will they give? The usual myths about straight bananas and the like which are routinely exposed as nonsense here. If the EU was REALLY running this country, would not we all be anxiously looking at what was going on in the European Parliament, wouldn’t MEPs discussing these things be the major elements of political news? Wouldn’t UKIP’s MEPs have a real job working on exposing all this damaging legislation they say is dominating us now? The big political decisions are the ones made in this country, that is why political discussion focuses predominantly on Westminster and the UK government.

    Our country has changed dramatically because of the influence of globalisation and the dominance of the economy by big multinational corporations. They are who REALLY runs this country, particularly with the anti-politics mentality so strongly pushed by UKIP, which leads to the ideas that politics and politicians are bad, so control of things should be passed to private business.

    For many people “Little England” sounds lovely. It conjures up all sorts of pleasant images, of a time when people felt more secure and optimistic. That is, the 1950s and 1960s when the state was more dominant than now, and we did not have this “competition to drive up quality” mentality which in reality means rule by stress and fear, and equality in terms of wealth and income was much greater than it is now. But UKIP has NOTHING on offer to return to those sort of days, in fact quite the reverse. UKIP is funded by big finance people, and its vision of the UK out of the EU is even more dominance by international finance, even more of the sort of right-wing economics which causes the fear and stress that lead people to support UKIP.

    This has been the genius of the political right, particularly here and in the USA. They retain enough of a socially conservative attitude to attract the support of people who have lost out in the economic changes and feel bewildered by how the world had changed and out of control because they no longer have the certainties that allowed them to plan their lives. Yet the economics of the right are just the thing that is causing this bewilderment and feeling of lack of control. So the political right is like a quack who sells a medicine which causes the very symptoms it claims to cause – a wonderful way to make money if you can get away with it.

    The political left has let them get away with it. That’s because the political left now is dominated by elite types whose leftism is more a pose than something which comes from the gut and from real experience of life in the lower part or even middle part of society.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '14 - 11:14am

    Me

    So the political right is like a quack who sells a medicine which causes the very symptoms it claims to cause

    Or rather (what I meant to write), “a quack who sells a medicine which causes the very symptoms it claims to cure.”

  • Matthew Huntbach, as an American friend used to say “You’ve sure slobbered a bibful!” Your piece is a highly perceptive analysis – doesn’t say all that has to be said but covers a lot of it. The hard thing is to decide how to counter these malevolent forces. I for one applaud Nick Clegg for taking them on in a way that no-one else prominent in UK politics has done. I would much rather go down fighting than come up with the weasel words uttered by so many who know very well how important the EU is to our future.

    As to “Little England and Great Britain” I think there is over-analysis in this thread of a soundbite intended to convey a general impression. Those of us who hail from outside England but now live here are unlikely to get around to calling ourselves “English” but in the main are very happy to call ourselves “British”. In my case that Britishness is enormously enhanced by our membership of the European Union. One only has to look at the chequered and fissiparous history of this patchwork continent to see why.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '14 - 1:28pm

    Denis

    The hard thing is to decide how to counter these malevolent forces. I for one applaud Nick Clegg for taking them on in a way that no-one else prominent in UK politics has done.

    Yes, but a lot of what he has done has just bolstered Farage by accepting his propaganda rather than challenging him and exposing him for not being what he wants to be viewed as. The most effective way to counter an opponent in politics is to show them up as the opposite of what they claim to be. If I wanted to attack a socialist, for example, how would I do it? By saying that the sort of society he wants to create where wealth and power is more equally shared out is a bad thing? No. The most effective argument against socialism is to point out that in practice it gives wealth and power to an elite group running the state, and so in practice is the opposite of what it claims to be.

    As to “Little England and Great Britain” I think there is over-analysis in this thread of a soundbite intended to convey a general impression.

    Yes, but that was my point. The general impression given by this phraseology is beneficial to Farage. He WANTS to be thought of as a “Little Englander”. It may just be throwaway words, but I feel most people in this country (I mean England) would actually answer that “little England” is just where they want to live, it sounds safe and cosy, it sounds like a move away from all those big bad things that are making people feel uncertain and unhappy. It feels like bringing life down to a manageable scale. So, if you really want to attack Farage in a way that hurts, you need to point out that his REAL vision for this country is the opposite of that. What UKIP actually want for the UK is for it to be an ultra free market economy, their real complaint about the EU, the reason there is big money willing to finance them and the mouthpieces of big money (the right wing press) so sympathetic to them, is the controls it does and can exert over big international finance. UKIP has absolutely nothing to say about the way USA cultural values have swept over traditional “Little England” values due to the dominance of the USA in the entertainment industry, they have absolutely nothing to say about the way so much of British business and even infrastructure has been bought up by foreign control. These are much bigger threats to UK independence than the relatively minor things the EU does, so it is a mark of how fraudulent UKIP is that it has nothing to say on them. Criticising Farage as being for “Little England” lets him get away with this.

    Clegg himself, however, and his advisers are far too much free market freaks themselves to be able to understand and use these potent lines of attack on Farage.

  • “The UKIP members and particularly activists that I know seem like people who feel powerless to resolve what they feel are genuine grievances through the existing social and political system.”
    Spot on Richard. Now we have your astute perception of the issue, all we need to do is convince you to grab hold of the ‘Ukip sledgehammer’ along with the other 27% of aggrieved voters, and smash the contemptuous Westminster ‘cabal’ on the 22nd of May.?

  • John Roffey 23rd Apr '14 - 9:02pm

    Although there is significant support for Nick Clegg in the above comments – the true and final measure of a leader’s qualities is his or her success.

    The current campaign is aimed at getting as many Lib/Dem MEPs elected as possible – another contributor has pointed out the current polling figures from UKPolling:

    CON 22%, LAB 30%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 27%, GREEN 6%.

    On another forum I use there is a serious discussion as to whether the Party will manage to beat the Greens – with a slight majority thinking that the Party’s increasing unpopularity will put it in 5th place behind the Greens!

    Measured against all generally accepted values – Nick Clegg is an appalling leader – and it is time that the members acknowledge what they must know is true in their hearts – if they do not want to see the Party they have worked so hard for disappear without trace after the next GE.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Apr '14 - 9:29pm

    @John Dunn
    What is your point?

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