The Independent backs the Liberal Democrats

Less surprising than the news from The Observer and The Guardian this week, but nonetheless a welcome leader today:

Only the Liberal Democrats have consistently put the case for Europe, doing so even when seeking to hold seats in parts of the country, such as the south-west of England, that are more euro-sceptic than others. Like his recent predecessors, Nick Clegg is unequivocal in his support for the EU. A strong vote for his party would show that parts of the electorate recognise the importance of Britain playing a positive role at the heart of Europe. On that basis alone the Liberal Democrats deserve to perform well.

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  • Fat lot of good it has done us, this unequivocal support, losing us 5% of our share of the vote.

  • And people wonder why the Independent is on the point of going bust…

  • I said in advance it would be a disaster, and it was. We need to rethink what we say about Europe and turn more towards constructive criticism rather than dewy-eyed optimism, which has been totally off-beam in this campaign.

    Oh well, there’s always 2014….

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '09 - 9:27am

    Robert C,

    What “dewy eyed optimism”?

    That’s something our opponents throw at us, but I’ve never seen it in anything we say or do. Our position has always been, and we’ve made no secret of it, that we support European co-operation and for that reason support membership of the EU but that doesn’t mean we aren’t critical of the way it is currently set up.

    If you can give me any example of a Liberal Democrat saying in effect “The EU is wonderful, there’s nothing wrong with it, I support it and the way it works, there’s nothing about it I would change”, that would be “dewy eyed optimism”. But I don’t think you could find that.

    The people of this country are pretty clueless about the EU. There are various powerful forces in the country who raise the EU as some sort of bogeyman controlling our lives, but if you were to ask the average person in the street what actually it is that the EU does to control us, they would find it hard to give an answer, and what they would say if anything would most likely be a few trivial things, many of which are actually myths.

    So should we just join in peddling the myths because that would win us populist sentiment? Or should we actually try thing a serious and truthful position on the issue? On the whole, I’m on the side of truth.

  • The problem is the media has trouble with more nuisance than ‘in Europe or out of europe’ which is nuts as none of the parties able to win in a GE are going to take us out of Europe.

    I think we’d do better if we said ‘We will be out of Europe IF we cannot get X, Y & Z key reforms (you’d have to set the bar pretty low)’

    That breaks the ‘in or out’ dichotomy & puts the focus on what we want to change. Although I accept that you’d need to actually be prepared to carry out the threat.

  • Aaron – I am surprised if that is a Lib Dem MEP because:

    – In the East Mids the Lib Dem MEP Bill Newton Dunn regularly has articles in our local Lib Dem leaflets.

    – In the European Election Address from him there is a whole section on reform of the EU and the need to work via the EU on climate change, financial regulation and stopping cross-border crimwe

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Jun '09 - 12:48pm

    Aaron Trevena says

    My local MEP

    MEPs are elected on a regional list system, that means you don’t have one who is “my local MEP”.

    Yes, we do need a european parliament, but we don’t need to spend even 50% of what we currently do on it, and it’s a shame that none of the supporters are prepared to campaign on reforming it rather than endorsing it warts and all – because it’s currently mostly wart!

    That is just not true. As I have already said, I have not seen any Liberal Democrat MEP anywhere who says “I support the EU Parliament exactly as it is, and wish for it to stay that way and not change”. I have seen plenty who say that while we support it in general, there’s lots of things we would like to see done to improve it and the way it works. That appears to be more or less the standard line from Liberal Democrats.

  • Liberal Eye 4th Jun '09 - 3:35pm

    I’m firmly with those who believe that the EU as currently constituted is an undemocratic offence.

    For instance, how can we, as a supposedly pro-democracy, rights-minded party go along with flagrant bullying of smaller nations that have the temerity to vote against the establishment?

    Yet what is conveyed to the public is, if not exactly “dewey-eyed optimism”, pretty uncritical and a false dichotomy between “In” and “Out” or, as the Manifesto puts it, “The Conservatives and UKIP would make things even worse by isolating Britain. Turning our backs on our partners will achieve nothing for Britain”.

    Why have we not worked up and promoted an alternative to Lisbon that is actually fit for purpose? Why do we not directly attack the dreadful CAP with for example a specific proposal to ‘repatriate’ it to member countries? (Leaving any member country free to continue subsidising landowners – but out of their own taxes.)

    What we actually get are just attacks on other parties’ positions that are naturally disregarded by voters. They switch off and by the time we get to what little substance there is in the message they are long gone.

    It is not about Britain vs Europe but progressives vs conservatives – both throughout Europe.

    The debate on Europe needs REFRAMING in pan-Eupropean terms or we will loose it.

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