One language in Europe: no populism please!
What have Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome and Timothy Garton-Ash of Comment is Free got in common over this Euro-crisis? Fear of the people it would appear, if maybe nothing else. Montgomerie is exercised over the populist anti-Hun sentiment of the Daily Mail where Richard Littlejohn has committed the apparent crime of reviving the Producers’ ‘Springtime for Hitler and Germany joke’ and calls for the intemperate to have a little more respect for the Germans.
Montgomerie presumably wants to defuse any popular anti-German sentiment that might lead to a referendum and ensuing civil war in the Tory party. Garton-Ash, equally, is furious that German politicians appear to be playing to their crowds and the effect that might have on us Britons.
Writing in Comment is Free, Garton-Ash gave the impression he seemed to be itching to call Volker Kauder, the Christian Democrat leader, a Nazi for his ‘Now all of a sudden, Europe is speaking German’ speech. He described it as ‘a “rallying the party faithful” number’, as ‘bombastic’ and ‘insufferable’. Kauder spoke with ‘extraordinary self-righteousness and arrogance’ and – here is the killer beer hall moment – in ‘the late-night language of the pub’.
Got that? No pub language and no pub-goers in politics please. No rousing speeches or rallying cries. Probably best not address the public at all really. Keep it the Euro-way: behind closed doors.
It’s almost as if, just at the moment that everyone notices that Europe’s future is being decided by a technocratic cabal of experts (amazing it took not one but TWO national elected leaders to be deposed first…) voices are promptly raised to tell us that it’s OK: well, at least that populism would be worse. That we would be in real trouble should the Little Englander in all of us wake up to what’s going on.
Populism is the real swearword of the pro-EU lobby. Of the ‘unite or perish’, There Is No Alternative for EU brigade. To be called a populist today is equivalent in such circles to being called a climate change or Holocaust denier and presumably in their minds one thing leads inexorably to another.
But let’s not forget that if anyone is anti-populist it’s German politicians. Their entire post-war political system – that of streitbare Demokratie or reinforced democracy – and its constitutional legal framework is explicitly based on making sure the people never have the say that they had in the mass politics of the ‘20s and ‘30s again.
I’m not arguing that street fighting is the answer to this crisis. I am arguing that until the public – in every country in Europe – assert themselves and fight for their interests that there will be no permanent solution to the crisis. None of the politicians and bureaucrats in the EU today will be accountable until we make them so.
It’s not the populism of a Merkel, a Kauder, a Sarkozy, that’s the problem here. They pander to the people occasionally but their real attitude is one of lofty disdain for the messy business of mainstream political argument: bereft of ideas they push for yet more supra-national, unelected, unaccountable, Euro-bodies in the hope that the problem will, if not go away, not be in their hands. So little point in anyone putting their hands up to vote for them…
If it’s left to the technocrats the fixes will be at our expense: trim their budgets; trim our living standards. If we put our heads together – yes, maybe even in pubs, late at night – then I’m sure we can come up with something more appetizing. If it’s populism to demand that the wishes and needs of ordinary people are met, then sign me up to the No to the EU, Yes to Europe movement.
Throughout October and November, The Independent Online is partnering with the Institute of Ideas’ Battle of Ideas festival to present a series of guest blogs from festival speakers on the key questions of our time.
Angus Kennedy is head of external relations at the Institute of Ideas and chair of its Economy Forum which is hosting the Institute of Ideas’ Christmas public lecture on December 15: ‘It’s Christmas in Euroland’.Tagged in: Euro-crisis, opinion, tim montgomerie, Timothy Garton-Ash
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