Monday, 13 June 2022

UK/EU:60 years of standing still

 I am somewhat belatedly* reading Volume 2 of David Kynaston's  "Modernity Britain" which covers the years 1959 to 62.  Regarding attitudes to the then EEC, on page 252 he quotes the Liberal luminary, Lady Violet Bonham Carter (Asquith's daughter, no less) in  a letter to her son (presumably Mark.), as follows:

"Both the major parties are split down the middle. . . Many Tories still don't realise that we have already lost "national sovereignty" - through NATO, UN,Gatt, IMF, etc.etc. . .The Labour party are Jingo Little Englanders, economic nationalists & xenophobes who dread the "foreigner". . ."

As in so much the Liberal Party was (and the Liberal Democrats now are) well ahead of the game.  

To be fair most of the Conservative Party moved on and it was Macmillan's government that tried and Heath's that eventually succeeded in joining the the EU, and eventually most of the Labour party came to accept membership, some with enthusiasm after their eyes were opened by Jacques Delors.

Unfortunately the anti-EU fantasists, whom David Cameron dubbed "the Bastards," have now taken control of the Tory Party and manipulate their former vote winner, PM Johnson, like a puppet on a string. The Labour Party lurk in the shadows for fear upsetting their former supporters in the "red wall" areas, whom they suspect of fitting Lady Vi's description.

Both major parties share the blame for the debacle of the Brexit vote.  Neither has espoused full-throated enthusiasm for the European ideal, both have been quick to blame any measure which seemed to be unpopular on "Brussels" even though for most of the period of our membership unanimity was required, so their governments must have agreed to them.

Public opinion has been so poisoned by the press that no political leader now has the confidence to lead the obviously urgently required fight to rejoin, even though the damage to our economy and international influence which result from our far from splendid isolation become daily more evident.

Surely this is a "call to arms" for the Liberal Democrats.  Political parties should be prepared to lead public opinion,  not cravenly follow grudging prejudices, or simply hide in the shadows until the "sunlit uplands" re-emerge by some mysterious process of their own.


* I read "Modernity Britain,"  which covered the years 1957-59,when it was first published in 2013, and assumed that was it. I've only just realised that a second volume had appeared a year later. Given that I was in my early 20s in that period Kynaston's meticulous research awakens many happy memories, and a few painful ones.

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