Lib Dems hold Tories back on Europe

The Spectator reports:

Hague says he’s been held back on Europe by the Lib Dems
William Hague’s comments in an interview with The Times that the Liberal Democrats are restraining the Tories on Europe will increase the grumbling among Tory backbenchers about the power of the junior coalition partner.

I’ll file that in the ‘good news’ pile.

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14 Comments

  • themanwithsalthair 10th Sep '11 - 10:29pm

    The obsession of certain party members with Europe is quite extraordinary. Perhaps its appeal to the social democratic wing makes some degree of sense, but the culture clash with both liberalism and ‘localism’ is irreconciable.

  • I don’t see how its good news given that public opinion is generally Eurosceptic, if not obsessed with the issue to the degree that, say, UKIP are. Furthermore for a party that believes in localisation I am genuinely surprised that Lib Dems seem to like the idea of handing power upwards to an EU level. If the EU wants to bring in legislation that Britain opposes then I don’t see how it is any way “progressive” that we just have to put up with it.

    Come to think of it weren’t some senior Lib Dems in the Orange Book arguing for the repatriation of some powers?

  • Jonathan Price 11th Sep '11 - 9:10am

    Power should always be exercised at the level most appropriate to the matter in question. So for the environment it needs to be at EU level at least, preferably UN level, whereas for regulations regarding pavements it should be at parish council level.

    Historically far too much power has been concentrated at the nation state level. This has been addressed to some degree by a transfer of power upwards to the EU, but there has been no accompanying transfer downwards to subsidiary bodies except in Scotland.

    What we need a levelling out of the distribution of power and responsibility. Westminster still has far too much power and other bodies far too little. Liberal Democrats should strongly support the devolution of power upwards and downwards just as Tories resist it because they are, “the natural party of government” at Westminster.

  • Well done LibDems.

  • @themanwithsalthair

    I disagree. In fact, I’d even disagree that there’s really a meaningful social democratic wing, social liberals are not social democrats – they are just liberals that aren’t economic liberals.

    Part of a recurring trend throughout the history of liberalism is opposition to the concentration of power – Jonathan Price made the point I was going to far more succinctly than I could so just read his post. I think in view of wanting power to not be concentrated too much at any one level that a lot of LDs would like the idea of a Europe of the Regions.

    @Richard

    The general public is generally apathetic about Europe to be honest, even amongst UKIP voters immigration ranks as a higher concern than Europe. It’d be more appropriate to call it eurosceptic than europhilic but I don’t think either describes the general public well.

    The press and the politicians are, however, generally eurosceptic. Particularly the press, which are positively europhobic.

    @Jon Price

    Hear hear!

  • Jonathan Price is spot on. As Liberals we want power exercised at the appropriate level. So whilst it would be wrong to hand policy on climate change to a Parish Council, its equally wrong for Westminster and Whitehall to decide which cities are allowed to improve their public transport.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Sep '11 - 8:19am

    This is very handy rubbish for Hague to spout. He knows full well that there are structural reasons why his Party cannot do much about ‘Europe’ and a shedload of them don’t want to anyway. So how about keeping the headbangers happy by blaming the gold (or is it turquoise?) crew in public and with volume?

  • Paul McKeown 12th Sep '11 - 5:37pm

    @Tony Dawson

    “This is very handy rubbish for Hague to spout. He knows full well that there are structural reasons why his Party cannot do much about ‘Europe’ and a shedload of them don’t want to anyway. ”

    It’s conference season.

    Europe is the only mainstream political issue that could currently cause me to vote tactically one way or another(*). If the Tories were ever to put forward a hardline Eurosceptic manifesto, then I would shamelessly be prepared to vote Labour (rather than LD) if that would stymie them. For the rest, though, Labour, LD and Conservative are mostly shades on the free market/social democrat spectrum, close enough that many swing voters are able to choose between them for reasons of perceived competence.

    (*) I could vote tactically in perhaps a score or so of constituencies to exclude a particularly idle or stupid candidate, but that is a different point than one of platform.

  • Old Codger Chris 12th Sep '11 - 6:01pm

    Press coverage of EU matters is often wildly inaccurate and deliberately so. I’m sure most people don’t know the difference between (for example) the EU, the European Court and the Human Rights Act.

    But…….the party does need to be more critical of the EU when justified. When was the last time it was possible for auditors to approve the European Commission’s accounts for example? Why don’t we make more noise about the disgraceful practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea?

    Many EU countries are riddled with politicians who are even more venal than the worst of ours. And some Lib Dems are pushing for a Federal Europe and UK membership of the Euro!

  • Paul McKeown 12th Sep '11 - 6:34pm

    @Old Codger Chris

    “the party does need to be more critical of the EU when justified”

    The CAP would be a good place to start.

    The LDs campaigned on the redistributionist pledge to raise the threshold for income tax to 10K, which we read might now become 12.5K. They talk about Land Value Taxation and are in favour of a Mansions Tax. They probably don’t like the current arrangements for non-dom non-taxation much either. Yet, a policy which results in Prince Charles receiving a small annual fortune from European taxpayers receives little air time. Reckon you might have the beginnings of a coherent policy platform for the next general election there, LVT or mansion tax to signal a move away from yet heavier and heavier taxation of earned income, non-dom status only for job creating investors, root and branch reform of CAP, pair that with a moderate raise in the threshold for the 40% income tax rate to help the not particularly well off middle classes. A small shift away from taxing lower and lower middle incomes, coupled with a campaign against social welfare for billionaires and a pledge to reform one of the least loved excesses of the European Union. Discuss.

  • john stevens 13th Sep '11 - 8:58pm

    Since this government’s entire economic strategy is dependent on the outcome of the crisis in the eurozone, over which we have no influence whatever, I am slightly surprised that Europe is considered to be such a marginal matter. But this is only the beginning. If, as is probable, the end of this story is a more integrated European core from which we are progressively detached, the parochial roof of UK politics will fall in. An accelerated break up of the union with Scotland will be the mildest of the consequences which could flow from an existential debate about where we belong in the world conducted against an economic backdrop of extreme adversity. For the so-called “Party of Europe” this should be an opportunity. However judging from these comments and the general mood in the Party, it will instead more likely be a further reason for incoherence and collapse.

  • Old Codger Chris 13th Sep '11 - 9:50pm

    @john stevens
    I agree that Europe isn’t a marginal matter.

    Unfortunately for those of us who are pro-EU the Euro’s problems are proof that (a) “One size fits all” doesn’t suit widely differing economies – should have learnt that from the European Exchange Rate fiasco in 1992 (b) Certain EU member countries cannot be trusted to keep their promises – they can’t even be trusted to tell the truth.

    Is it surprising the Germans are less than happy?

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