Opinion: The modern Conservative party – how very Reckless

If Dickens had invented a character called “Mark Reckless”, it might have looked a little contrived. The Conservative MP for Strood and Rochester has argued that Britain should withdraw from the EU, and claims that over half his Conservative colleagues support him.

And not since such Dickensian figures as Sir Leicester Dedlock or Artful Dodger has a character lived up to his name with such enthusiasm. For think how reckless it would be if Britain were to withdraw from the EU, a scenario which even Margaret Thatcher considered suicidal and which was once the lonely position of the lunatic, Bennite left.

Amid the understandable enthusiasm of the right to develop new markets in the East, there is a simple point often overlooked: Britain conducts more trade with Ireland than with China or India. Perhaps Conservatives, casting off their xenophobia, might wish they could float Britain to the Indian Ocean, but alas geography dictates that we are in Europe.

Our cultural and historic links with the Continent are obvious. Supporting the EU doesn’t mean slavish adoration of every outmoded social and economic policy in Greece. But many of the problems we face, such as impending environmental catastrophe and the global banking crisis, can only be tackled through powerful international institutions.

My book The Clegg Coup is an attempt to show what British government would be like without the sane influence of the Liberal Democrats –- yet even I would not have dared predict that A MAJORITY of the parliamentary Conservative Party would really be mad dog enough to contemplate total withdrawal from the EU. This is no longer a “flapping white coat” mad fringe, this is now Conservative orthodoxy; and it is deeply scary.

Yet I am actually very grateful to Reckless – for showing us just how dangerous the government would be for Britain without the safer hand of Nick Clegg.

* Jasper Gerard is a journalist, author of The Clegg Coup, and a long-standing Lib Dem member and activist.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • jenny barnes 2nd Nov '11 - 11:36am

    It seems that the ability of the nation-state to ensure that global capitalism behaves sensibly is, to put it mildly, very limited. Global capitalism can, and does, take its toys away when any regulation it doesn’t like is passed, unless there’s nowhere to take them to. At least the EU rules make that a bit more difficult. The nation-state is just a particular way of organising politics, and it only really works when both capital and labour are relatively immobile – once capital has escaped, the nation-state become less and less relevant.

  • Cllr Colin Strong 2nd Nov '11 - 2:32pm

    @Alex “Greece and Ireland are members of the EU. They’re in dire, DIRE straits. Why should this be? I thought the EU was the answer to everything?”

    You are mixing the European Union (EU) and the currency, the Euro.

    Those nations foolishly ditched their national currencies and joined the Euro. One of the reasons why I have always been against the Euro is the fact that interest rates are set in Frankfurt for the entire Eurozone.

    The UK for years had required interest rates higher than the Eurozone because that is what was required for our national economy. I imagine we would have had a similar Irish type HUGE boom if we had had the lower Eurozone interest rate.

  • The observation about trade with Ireland compared to trade with India and China probably doesn’t help with the likes of Mr Reckless who probably think it should still be part of the UK.

  • Jasper Gerard 3rd Nov '11 - 11:40am

    A fair point from Cllr Strong. Notice none of the Euro-sceptic (Conservative?) posters had an answer to the point of Jenny Barnes – the public are deeply concerned about the power of global capital. Perhaps it has grown too strong to regulate, but by withdrawing from the EU you would seriously weaken both its and our ability to exercise whatever limited control we have over it.

    As to “nonny nouse” – here are two “fun facts” in return: 1) the only other previous contribution of note by Mark Reckless to national debate was when he admitted to being too drunk to vote on the budget and 11) talk to anyone in Cameron’s circle privately and they would far rather deal with Nick Clegg on Europe than some of the loons on the Tory backbenches.

  • peter tyzack 3rd Nov '11 - 12:21pm

    Having met Nick, I would trust him with my life.. not so sure about Dave, he always seems to be looking over his shoulder.
    As regards the anti-European Tories, time they splintered off and formed their own party. that would have been a far more likely outcome if we had achieved voting reform.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Nov '11 - 9:29am

    “the project that Clegg is embarked upon now; that of transforming his party from a pointy-headed protest movement pining after consensual and proportional government into a party of government ……”

    Eh? Come again? Where is the evidence that anyone in the Lib Dems centre presently could transform their way out of a bramble bush, let alone is trying? Ask anyone in the media. Ask anyone in a bus stop or grocer’s shop. Setting aside the limited nature of the actions concerned, the idea that there is any serious penetration of any coherent separate Lib Dem entity is total denial and delusion. It reminds me of ‘Oh what a lovely war.’ We are seen as Cameron’s scarcely-relevant side-kicks, alternately sheltering under his wing and propping him up.

    “The problem with predicting the Lib-Dem’s demise is that it rests on the false premise that Clegg and his Orange Bookers are content to be the eternal bridesmaid of left-wing politics.”

    The Lib Dems’ partial demise and stagnation owes nothing at all to any premise. It is the problem of the centipede when it turns its mind to the order of its feet. Any half-competent and/or half-honest Labour Party would have made matters much worse by now. Thankfully, there is no obvious sign of either on the horizon.

    As for the real question here, of Europe and the Euro, the EC simply has to be made to work but has been shackled by the timid nationalistic tendencies in most of the big nations as well as some small ones. It took a crisis to break down the barriers around a collective approach to fiscal matters.

    The Euro is a totally sensible and logical project which, if done properly, we should have been in from the start. But I have never advocated it for one reason. I had this vision of printing presses in Bulgaria ans Rumania running off billions of the new currency in their garages and sheds. I was out by a few hundred miles – and of course they didn’t even have to buy the paper for the banknotes.

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