Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry has started blogging. Amazingly, there is now a blogger who writes posts - well "blessays" (aawww, sweet) at even more length than Alex Wilcock

Friday, September 28, 2007

Guinness Advert: Is it just me?

Watching the England-Tonga game, there's a Guinness advert with black and white cartoon characters playing rugby. I might be being too sensitive here, but I read it as the good, white smaller team, against the bigger, black bad guys.

Is it just me, or is that a racist stereotype?

OK just seen the other advert, where the black team have the ball and score against big scary white players. Point withdrawn...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why the European debate misses the point

For some reason, when British people debate the EU, we never seem to debate any of the important questions. For example, the entire debate on the European Reform Treaty is about whether we (ie Britain) should accept it or not - well, and whether we should have a referendum or not.

Strangely, those in favour of the referendum / against the ERT have not adopted the slogan I suggested for them: "Nice is nice". Yet, that is what their position amounts to: let's have the Treaty of Nice, not the ERT. Indeed, I find it utterly bizarre that there is no meaningful debate about the kind of EU that there should be. How can you criticise the European Commission for being unelected and unaccountable - and then not propose elections and accountability?

If you observe the last 56 years of the EU - going back to the Treaty of Paris, it has essentially been a battle between two groups - the functionalists (and their neofunctionalist allies) and the federalists. You can take this all the way back to the beginning - Jean Monnet was the founder of functionalism; Altiero Spinelli the founder of federalism.

You can follow the links to wikipedia on the meaning of functionalism and neofunctionalism, but in the present EU they are essentially anti-democratic pro-bureaucratic forces. Functionalists have quite profound concerns about democracy itself; they think that a government that is too responsive to the people can be overthrown by populists. Examples like Mussolini and Hitler were frequently cited in the forties and fifties; the popular front government that Franco overthrew in Spain might well be cited by more right-wing functionalists. Isolating the people who actually do things - the executive, in effect - from the democratic parts of the constitution is a profoundly functionalist act within the EU context. If anyone has wondered why the Commission is structured as it is, then here is your answer.

I am, as I'm sure it won't surprise anyone, a federalist. A real federal Europe, with a democratically elected legislature, an accountable and sackable executive, an independent ability to enforce federal legislation, and so on, would antagonise the "powers that be" in the EU far more than any of the intergovernmentalist proposals of the alleged eurosceptics - even leaving would be better than smashing the Commission. My God, someone who didn't graduate from ENA might get some power! There might be a public debate about a Directive before the vote! That would never do!

If we are going to have a political debate about Europe, then the debate needs to be what kind of Europe do we want?

I don't know how to achieve this, other than for different people within the UK to propose different kinds of European constitution, but if we never get that debate, then we get driven back to what Ming has acknowledged as the question that the Sceptics ultimately pose: "Europe, yes or no" - a question to which "yes" can be the only answer, of course.