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When Bill Cash and Nigel Farage are trending on twitter, something is going very wrong in our land

Posted on 11 December 2011 | 10:12am

I don’t know which papers Lord Leveson reads, but assuming he flicks through them all as he presides over his inquiry into the press, he will be getting a very good example of the fusion of news and comment right now.

There are pro Europe papers and there are rather more, and louder, anti Europe papers. The pro Europe papers are presenting David Cameron’s ‘veto’ of a planned new Treaty as a disaster, and the anti Europe papers presenting it as a triumph. The truth will emerge more quietly, and more slowly, over time.

I lean to the disaster scenario. Politically, not least because of the noise Eurosceptic papers and MPs will make, and also because there is something mildly stirring about a UK PM ‘taking on’ the rest, Cameron will almost certainly get a lift.

But the glow from that will fade fairly quickly. Then comes the next day, and the next, and the one after that, and the many meetings and discussions he will have to take part in to try to shape Britain’s future political and economic success. I didn’t see the Andrew Marr programme, but it is clear from twitter that the view is already settling that the Eurosceptics are now driving Cameron’s strategy. When Bill Cash and Nigel Farage are both trending, something is going very wrong in our land.

Margaret Thatcher was the most Eurosceptic PM of our lifetime. Yet for all her rage and frustrations with our European partners, she never for one moment countenanced the possibility of absolute isolation. She knew that trade deals, raw power and diplomatic influence came not just from our history, or her personality, but from how other countries perceived our international strength and reputation.

In winning a short term boost for his own reputation for strength amid Eurosceptics, (who will now just move on to the next stage of their campaign against him) Cameron has put at risk the strength and reputation of the country he leads. He got himself into this position in part by failing to take sufficient care over his relations with other EU leaders. It is to be hoped he is not simlarly dismissive of relations with the US, China, India and emerging economic powers. But in reality those relationships too are weakened by what happened in the early hours of Friday morning. They all know where and what Britain is, and they all know who our PM is. But part of our strength with them has been our strength in Europe.

Nor is it clear to me – and he needs to make it clear in the Commons tomorrow – how exactly he has protected the interests of the City in vacating a chair at discussions when vital City interests will be at stake.

He was, according to his people, wildly cheered by Tory MPs when he entertained them to dinner at Chequers on Friday. His tribe is happy. But the party interest does not always coincide with the national interest, and that may be the tension that sees the short term lift for himself give way to longer term damage to Britain.

  • Anonymous

    On the contrary, when Nigel Farage is trending on Twitter it is a sign that the British people have finally woken up to what the LibLabCON have done to this country – and they want change.

  • “The party interest does not always coincide with the national interest…” This point of coinciding interests is crucial to the whole argument. Most European leaders think that the European Union interest coincides very closely with their national interest. Not so here, where the eurosceptics see those interests as being somehow at odds. But the idea that envious Europeans actually want to weaken a successful member state such as the UK is totally irrational, and a sign of eurosceptic paranoia.

    • reaguns

      The idea may or may not be irrational, but assuming that some people hold it is not irrational.
      For example, I am scared of China due to its potential military and economic power. I would like either the UK and US to strengthen in comparison to China, or for China to weaken.
      You may call me irrational but my point of view exists.
      I believe there are plenty of Europeans wary of the Brits for, perhaps not military, but economic reasons. They know a free market Britain can take investment away from their own economies, so therefore they want to weaken Britain – pretty rational I say.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Nothing has been done to solve the debt crisis.
    Euro-crisis summit failed to stabilise the eurozone. The single currency is still vulnerable to collapse.
    European banks and governments are highly indebted. Borrowed and printed money is being used to bail-out governments.
    We are treating SYMPTOMS, not CAUSE!
    With single-currency straitjacket eurozone countries cannot help themselves.
    Will we now face “euroquake”?
    European Central Bank (ECB) has now cut its eurozone GDP growth forecast to 0.3% in 2012. This means that Italy, Spain etc. will be in recession.
    What this does to debt dynamics is disastrous. We might even see disorderly market-driven break-up of monetary union.
    Eurozone is now heading for budgetary integration meaning EUSSR.
    Stability union will lead to political union. I hope Britain and Finland will stay out of this “new Europe”.
    Eurozone will lend money to United Nations´ IMF which will then lend it back.
    But balanced budgets will not solve productivity problems or unemployment.
    Eurozone members will have to repay $1,100bn of debt in 2012.  European banks have $665bn of debt coming due by June.
    Germany does not allow ECB to produce full-on QE or to buy bonds much beyond $210bn.
    European banks must now rely on the ECB for funding. A lot of banks in Europe and the US face insolvency. Banks are not lending which will lead to recession.
    Spain´s problems were entirely caused by the private sector. Italy is not a problem to the eurozone – the euro is a problem for Italy´s economy.
    Sub-prime crisis caused the “mess” in the first place. Banks, credit-rating agencies and traders are to blame.
    David Cameron defended the City of London in the “national interest”. But it was the City that caused the financial crisis and recession.
    British banks with balance sheets of 400% of GDP are the biggest threat to Britain´s national security. The more bankers move to Switzerland or Hong Kong, the better.
    Complex financial instruments should also be banned.
    Britain has isolated itself in Europe. But refusing to give up the freedom to independent fiscal policy was the right thing to do even if it means less influence.
    Finland has also expressed reservations about sanctions against countries deemed to have broken rules.
    Germany is now calling the shots in Europe.
    Centrists elites who run the EU will soon be under siege from populist anti-EU politicians from both the left and the right.
    It is in the national interest of Britain and Finland to stay out of the coming United States of Europe as it will not be democratic.
    It will be run by the elite. The elite which already controls the markets.
    Bankers are the dictators of the west! 

    • reaguns

      I like your post, but one thing I’d disagree on slightly. The banking crisis would not have been possible under free market rules, or without government intervention.

      The crisis was exaggerated by low interest rates (governments fault) but the main problem was moral hazard.

      Because we have deposit insurance, bankers know that the government cannot allow banks to fail, as it can’t afford to pay out on the deposit insurance. So with deposit insurance in place, government will always bail out banks. Therefore banks know they can take massive risks. If they win they become rich, if they lose, the taxpayers bail them out.

      Now one suggestion is a glass stiegel / vickers report one to separate retail banks from casino/investment banks. This will help. But it won’t stop retail banks lending out to people who can’t pay back their mortgages – this is what happened Northen Rock.

      So whats the solution? There are a few, which all involve getting rid of deposit insurance.
      My favourite is advocated by Douglas Carswell and Andrew Lilico, force banks to offer a storage only account, ie money that is never lent out and doesn’t legally belong to the bank, so if the bank goes bust, that money is still there, it neither belongs to the banks or to the banks receivers/creditors, its yours and they’ll go to jail if they lend it. No need for deposit insurance then, no moral hazard, no more crazy lending by banks (as now if they lose money, THEY lose it, not us.)

      I can think of no reason why any good capitalist, any good socialist, any decent left/right, tory/labour person wouldn’t support this.

      Only cronyists/lobbyists/corporatists should oppose it.

    • reaguns

      Also, I agree that while the taxpayers are on the hook for dodgy banks, we’d be better off without them.

      If we had the Lilico system, then we’d be better off with them, because if they made money we’d get the tax to use for schools, hospitals, armed forces, welfare etc. If they lost money, we could just laugh at them as our personal money would remain safe.

      People who want to get rid of the banks should remember that this would mean every public good we currently have would have to lose 10% of its current funding. I.e those who want to shoot the bankers also want 10% less dole every week, 10% longer queue at the hospital etc etc etc.

      Lilico system would make the banks work for us, not vice versa.

      Now, the banks may want to move to other countries where they do have the government bailout guarantee – but as we’ve agreed, under such a system they are welcome to them.

      People may think putting an end to fractional reserve banking is crazy, non-mainstream. But once it was crazy and non mainstream to say that house prices wouldn’t rise for ever, and that Gordon Brown wasn’t the worst chancellor in British History.

  • MicheleB

    Nick Clegg is discovering that his misuse of the balance of power, his concentration on power instead of balance has cost the country big time.

    His about face today vs yesterday is staggering, he’s living the Hokey Pokey.

    Isn’t he the chap that went to GB on May 8th asking not only for better roles for LDs than Dave had offered but also demanding GB stand down and then came running out of the meeting going ‘Wah wah wah that nasty man shouted at me’?

    GB might be difficult; he’s not sly and Clegg fell for sly.

  • Just because right wing obsessives are delighted doesn’t make it wrong. Seems to me Cameron had a tough call to make. Do we really want the “yes” implications? Enshrined budget positions would likely force even greater austerity than the Conservatives are proposing.

  • Have to agree with Boudicca_Icenii, we are seeing the start of a Russian Spring after the success of the Arab Springs.

    Are e looking at the start of the UK spring?

  • Nick

    Clegg has lit the blue touch paper to exploding the coalition.His only really hope of avoiding political oblivion for him and his party is to grow some balls and remind the Tory  Eurosceptic mob who holds the balance of power.A call for a vote of no confidence seems inevitable. A general election with Europe and the economy being the main issues .

  • Anna

    I don’t know what this ‘influence’ is that DC is supposed to have sacrificed by veto-ing this treaty. Didn’t Sarkozy tell him, only a few weeks ago, to stop poking his nose into matters that didn’t concern him?

    Angela Merkel has suggested that fighting European integration will ‘lead to wars’. Nonsense. I am not a ‘Daily Mail little Englander’. I love Europe and fully supported the original concept of the EEC – a loose federation of nation states, trading with each other, establishing cultural and other ties. It was an excellent project, and  promised an end to the constant warring of European states. Political and monetary union has been imposed by bureaucrats out of touch with the people of Europe who want friendship and trade without all the other straitjackets that Brussels imposes. The two nations allowed a referendum on the Euro rejected it. The tensions within the Eurozone and the power exercised by Germany over states she once conquered, like Greece, are causing huge resentment. It is this, and the erosion of democracy, that will lead to increasing animosity between individual states. Forced economic and political union will not prevent wars. What prevents wars are strong democracies. There is no example in modern times of two fully functioning, democratic nation states going to war with each other. Democracies don’t fight each other; the settle their differences by neogtiation and compromise. Two states in the EU already have unelected governments and a resentful populace. It all looks very ominous.

    • MicheleB

      Can you provide a link please that is quoting as in quoting  Angela Merkel using the actual words you claim mean that  she has ‘suggested’ / ‘will lead to’.

      Thanks awfully, let’s get rid of weasel words that transpose in to other weasel words and before we know where we are all those that happily admit to being Little Englanders will be on cheering you.

      On the other hand, if you want to admit to some invented padding, admit it.

  • AC your last lines, “ But the party interest does not always coincide with the national interest, and that may be the tension that sees the short term lift for himself give way to longer term damage to Britain ”. So when TB would rather allow GB to take over, show that he was not New Labour and thus protect the New Labour brand, what was he putting first, Party or Country. Sometimes I do wonder if you remember that Labour was in power for 10 years, New Labour and 3 years with Gordon Brown. If TB cared about the Country he would have stopped GB in his tracks early or sacked him, that would have been in the interest of the Country. Please if you going to spin please give your loyal readers some respects as to having read the New Labour memoirs, the Brown’s Chancellor out of the tent and briefed against, do I have to go on, what that in the interest of the Country. Or from Lord Mandelson that you wanted Mrs Blair not to say a word in public after the flats fiasco. To quote an old US comedian, so us some respect AC.

  • reaguns

    From my point of view, if I thought that the Europeans wanted sensible rules imposed on us for budgets, markets, financial ‘regulations’ etc, I’d still be opposed to the EU – because its undemocratic, and I believe in democracy above all else.

    Thats why I respect people from the left and right who are democrats for example David Davis and Tony Benn.

    And why I don’t like Tony Blair, despite all his good achievements, he had contempt for democracy. At least Alastair Campbell only wants to subvert and manipulate democracy, not do away with it altogether like the Europeans!

    I wonder if Alastair Campbell can answer me, why did Labour abandon their working class voters. Working class people do not want EU integration because it means Poles etc can come here and take their jobs, or drive down the wages of their jobs. The left should oppose this more than the right. There are pros to this approach but the average working class voter is more concerned with the cons.

    Here is my view. I think for example in in Ireland, capitalists may view the EU as a good thing, because it forces more capitalist rules on Ireland than its electorate and parties would otherwise stand for.

    I think with Labour in UK its the other way round. They believe the EU is a way of forcing more socialism on the UK than Labour can manage alone, or than the electorate would stand for.

  • reaguns

    As for Cameron, he loves the EU but like Brown and Blair he loves power more – he knew coming back with nothing might force a rebellion. So he had a choice of veto or referendum. Referendum is what the eurosceptics, and the majority of british voters want. Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel are all happy with this deal whereby they won’t get a referendum.

    Michael Portillo made the point the other day that there are many Eurosceptics who care more about this issue than the general election, than Cameron’s leadership, than the party, than their own seats. If thats true then democracy may not be dead, if these guys care more about their principles and their voters, than the party – this is how a democracy should be. The MPs should fear the voters taking away their seat more than the prime minister not offering them a job in cabinet.

    2 changes we should make on this – all parties, all constituencies should be elected via open primaries.The other is that members of cabinet should get no extra pay.

  • Libdem

    Alastair, please explain how Cameron got himself into this pickle by failing to take care over his relations with other EU leaders. What did he do wrong and what would you have recommended he do when confronted with a fait accompli by the French and Germans? Presumably, they knew each other’s positions before the meeting and probably had a good idea of the outcome.

  • ZintinW4l

    The problem I have is that I don’t ever want UK reduced to a fringe player in European affairs. Why? Well because in many arenas of European policy we are the progressives. This is hard for the Tories to accept but it is, nonetheless, true.

    And now? Lithuania will have more influence. Well done Mr Cameron and your bunch of knuckle dragging regressives.

  • Janiete

    Alastair, you rightly draw attention to many examples in the press of the fusion of news and comment on this complex issue. A reply to your blog today asks;
    ‘Do we really want the “yes” implications? Enshrined budget positions would likely force even greater austerity than the Conservatives are proposing.’
    This comment directly demonstrates the concerns we should all have about the quality of political reporting in both broadcast media and the press. Right-wing newspapers, politicians and commentators have deliberately mis-represented the facts in order to persuade people that Cameron vetoed proposals that would be against our interests.
    Contrary to popular belief, the proposed budget restrictions, whether sensible or not, would apply ONLY to Eurozone countries. Andrew Neil (Daily Politics) wrongly suggested Britain would be obliged to comply, he wasn’t challenged or corrected.  Philip Hammond, on Any Questions on Friday tried to mis-lead the audience but on this occasion Dimbleby forced him to correct what he said, although it took several attempts to do so. When John Redwood said the same thing on the Politics Show today, Sopel did not correct him, leaving many viewers misinformed. I should imagine the tabloids are full of the same deliberate untruths and even the quality papers have lacked clear factual explanations.
    I share concerns, as do many others, about the drift away from democratic legitimacy within the EU, made worse incidentally by Cameron blocking a full treaty which would have forced referenda in several countries. Our only defence against the power of globalised business interests and the influence they now have in governments is to strengthen our democracies.
    To do this we MUST have honest, factual and accurate reporting in broadcast and print media. The future success of any democratic country rests on the good judgement of its people. To make good choices, voters need facts and balanced information. Currently, most of our media are failing to provide this. We deserve better and politicians need to take this issue far more seriously or the temptation for them to disregard what we think will grow. They will rightly judge we don’t know what we’re talking about.

  • Janiete

    Someone at The Economist had a convincing theory as to how he made such a mess of things:

  • reaguns

    Excellent post. Facts, accuracy, and democracy would go a long way to smashing bureaucrats, big business, big government, and huge corporate entities that behave like them.

    The reporting in this country, and others, on everything from the right wing fox news to the far left bbc makes this same mistake. As I said in one of my posts, surely ordinary folks and voters from the left and right should want to oppose this.

    The bbc will play a story about some sob story agency which had its funding cut, without digging in to the reasons why, to show whether the funding went elsewhere, to show the funding to other worthy causes, and perish the thought they might ever say that if the economy shrinks 5% then there should be a 5% funding cut across the board!

    I wasn’t expecting to find a comment like this on Alastair Campbell’s blog!

  • Chris lancashire

    “I lean to the disaster scenario.” What a surprise.

  • Janiete

    Another thoughtful one-liner from Chris. What a surprise!

  • Dave Simons

    This contribution is very much appreciated, a breath of fresh air in fact.

  • MicheleB

    Elsewhere on the BBC, on R4’s Friday 1pm programme, the fact that
    Cameron had misunderstood the terms being offered as ultmatum to the 17
    (and not to the 10) was explained, along with all the aspects of his
    having misused the veto.

    I’m not sure what reality anyone should expect from an Andrew Neil programme.  He has the contacts and imhoo misuses a lot of people’s valuable time with his BBC-bestowed monopoly and handing out of favour (like some medieval priest).

    Perhaps we need something like the Leveson Inquiry i.r.o. what’s broadcast that is known to be false.  Cameron’s mis-take on things has still not been reported in much of the media.

    Commentators of all types have had plenty to say about front page Press splurges that are corrected on page 57 of future editions, perhaps it’s time for ‘Aplologies & Corrections’ slots on TV channels – at prime time.

  • Dave Simons

    Sarcastic one-liner – no surprise!

  • Whatifwhatif

    What’s your own leaning then CL? 

  • Libdem

    You have the most ‘selective’ memory M, I’ve provided you with this before and yet you won’t accept it…..go on, admit it!

  • Libdem

    Thanks Janiete, you’re right not a bad theory but I find it difficult to believe that they’re all sitting there waiting for each other to spring their surprises. It’s too well organised for that and if you remember they all have pre-meetings.
    A lot of this has been orchestrated for our benefit!

  • Janiete

    The BBC is generally among the best we have in terms of balance and accuracy but there has been a lowering of standards recently, perhaps in response to the wider ‘norms’ of other networks and in the press.

    However, to describe the BBC as representative of the ‘far left’ suggests to me you may yourself have been brainwashed by unreasonable and seriously skewed media reporting.

  • Ehtch

    Great response by Ed Miliband to Cameron in the Commons. Ed was giving it all in the last minute, and he was completerly puce when he sat down – thought for a moment he was going to burst a blood vessel. Excellent passion by him, and more importantly sound and true points he made. Cameron threw his toys out the cradle last week, and he has no excuses for the drama-queen tactics then to our neighbours.

  • Ehtch

    Where is Ed Milibands full reply on Democracy Live, Beeb?

    Bluddy London-centric beeb, in cahoots with the torys, The City, and the Met, and the old NOTW, and News International and etc. etc…

    Pathetic. Make the Home Counties into some new Switzerland for gawd sakes, and have it over and done with, so the rest of us can carry on life normally sensibly minded, and not living in some fantasy past. Idiots!

  • Ehtch

    Re. Chequers on Friday – cigars and port no doubt accomponied the small mind of Dave in appreciation, as if we were fighting Napoleon all again, and that was two fecking hundred years ago! When will these old torys just let it go?

    A vid of what some recent comedians that have appeared on telly think of these old torys,

    and I was vewy vewy drunk, the other night at Chequers!

  • MicheleB

    I don’t know why you’re responding to a question I have placed to Anna unless you are also she (having an IT glitch on here like my own?).  Say so if so.

    Someone, maybe you or maybe an.other, made a post about a week ago accusing Mrs Merkel of having threatened war and I responded that in fact her words were about her fears of EU fallouts.  There IS a difference.  If that situation is not what you’re dribbling on about I have no idea what it is that you are.  Advise if you can be bothered ….. yawn.

  • MicheleB

    “………… Finland has also expressed reservations about sanctions against countries deemed to have broken rules.”
    Wow, a comment about Finland for a change 🙂

    If countries had ‘broken rules’ some years ago in order to boost their ex-currencies’ parity with the Euro then I see nothing wrong in their future figures being checked; at least till it’s proven that each is doing their accounts and collecting their taxes and using comparable-quality accounting methods. 
    If they inflated their currency value to enter the Euro it’s akin to stealing.
    Sanctions?  Why not if earned?


    So …. what the heck governance is there even internationally about banks and national economies?
    Our FSA now accused of not being up to the job.
    IMF floating like a butterfly over Euro parity claims.
    S&P and their ilk knocking national ratings down with the result that countries’ loans become more expensive to insure ….. insure ……. even Germany’s! 
    Sounds like a stratospeheric level of the recent PPI scandal!
    Never been keen on insurers’ methods, I blame it on ‘The Threepenny Novel’.

  • Libdem

    I think the word ‘disingenuous’ sums you up rather well.

  • Ehtch

    Cameron’s mates explaining their european “foreign” policy, when vewy vewy drunk at Chequers last weekend,
    Pass the port my good man

  • MicheleB

    I’m not sure what’s disingenuous about asking the questions I did.
    I have an IT glitch on this site and only on this site, it’s been noted and pointed out for weeks and regulars know that SOME posts arrive with what is part of my email address, others with my ID.  Some posts’ ID literally switch as they move in to moderation queue.
    They are all within the same cache/history, there’s no intent on my part for what happens to happen and I’ve no idea if the same happens with/for others. 

    Are you also ID Anna?  It’s a simple and obvious question given my own experience above and that I asked her a question but that ID has not responded yet you challenge.

    Whether you are Anna or not the input by that ID is skewed.  It is not true that Mrs Merkel “has suggested that fighting European integration will ‘lead to wars'”

    Mrs Merkel HAS expressed fears that the repurcussions from all this could be bad.  That is expressing fears, it is not making a threat.

    Nuance matters and that nuance was pointed out last week to an(other ?) apparent Euro skeptic.

  • MicheleB

    From 5 weeks ago actually and in response to someone using the same misrepresentation as yourself about Mrs Merkel after the meeting that brought down Greece’s and Italy’s leaders.
    Parts of my factual reply:


    “………..Shortly (very shortly) below the headline reading:
    “Merkel wins rescue fund vote after raising spectre of war”

    is this, the second paragraph including Mrs merkel’s own words:
    “We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill.
    None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail.”

    War was NOT being threatened, rather than its possibility (was) being dreaded”…………….. :

    I daresay the headline writer is the person your criticism should really be being pitched at.


    You should not pass on right-wing propaganda ‘libdem’ or if you insist on continuing the Euroskepticism you need a more honest ID.

  • Paul Thompson100

    Had he bothered to talk to them beforehand he would have been in abetter position. Instead, he chose to place his party with a bunch of nutters.

  • Paul Thompson100

    Predictable as usual.