The Thin Red Line

"Brussels bureaucrats! Thousands of them!" Labour's Douglas Alexander (picture Norbert Schiller / World Economic Forum / Flickr)

I have written an article for the European Movement magazine reflecting on Labour’s new European policy (read What is Labour thinking? on page 6 here).

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is seeking to reduce the gap between Conservative and Labour policies on Europe by acknowledging the case for repatriating powers, although he claims it should not be a priority.  During the period of the last Labour government, public opposition grew to the European Union, but Douglas Alexander does not appear to understand why.

The reason is not that there are flaws in the EU (although there are), but that the Labour government spent its time cultivating that opposition.  Every moment that could have been spent promoting European cooperation was in fact spent denigrating it.  Tony Blair went to summits armed with his famous Red Lines, a running commentary on the defence of these making up the media reports.

After this deliberate attempt to invoke the spirit of Waterloo or Blenheim or even Rourke’s Drift – ask yourself why those lines were red and not blue or green – Labour is then surprised that the voters got war fever too.

The lesson is that when the political class sets its face against Europe (and I will assume here that it has only one), public opinion follows.  Douglas Alexander is not setting a new course but merely continuing the old one.  He is making a mistake.

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