Sunday, 11 December 2011

A big week

I was at my Office Christmas night on Friday and accordingly was in no real fit state to blog yesterday.

With the benefit of hindsight that is just as well because had I done so it is likely the blog would have been composed entirely of vitriol about the Liberal Democrats. I've calmed down a bit now but I'm also heartened by the fact that there seems to be some dawning realisation on their part that they can't simply go along with Cameron on Europe.

It is said that Winston Churchill's favourite Film was Alexander Korda's Lady Hamilton.

Now, for all the beauty of Vivien Leigh, or the melodrama of the plot, no-one is in any real doubt that the reason the great man was drawn to the film is in its finale when the Royal Navy forms its line at the Battle of Trafalgar and, to a score based around a chorus of Hearts of Oak, Nelson orders his famous "England Expects" signal and prepares to meet his destiny.

That is one view of our history and I defy the hardest and most cynical lefist not to be temporarily moved by it.

But it has always seemed to me that the pro-European liberal left has a moment to at least equal that in another film made the following year; Michael Curtiz' Casablanca. Pure fiction (even more than Lady Hamilton!) but powerful fiction nonetheless.

In some ways, the real hero of that film is none of the principal players but the cause they each, in their own way, choose to serve. Among the principals however is Victor Laszlo, described as a Czech Resistance Leader. At no point is Laszlo held out to be a fighter, in the physical meaning of that word. He is a democratic politician; a representative not of how things are but of how they ought to be. His work is not to fight totalitarianism with bullets but to fight it with ideas. Yet when he instructs the band in Rick's Cafe to drown out The Watch on the Rhine with The Marseillaise, even Hearts of Oak must take second place in the goosepimple stakes.

The European Union is the creation of hundreds, thousands of real life Victor Laszlos. Determined never to return to either 1942 or 1805. And among them are an awful lot of Liberal Democrats, in Britain and beyond.

British withdrawal from the European Union, or, better still, the destruction of the Union itself, is clearly a course on which a significant part of the Conservative Party is set. Whether David Cameron is among them or is simply unable to resist them, need not detain us here. There are people who do have the power to prevent that course being set and to do so with immediate effect.

It is easy to say that all Liberal Democrats have no principles but that would not just be unfair, it would be untrue. To choose to participate in politics without joining either of the big parties is surely a sign of people motivated by more than mere personal ambition.

They made a serious error in May 2010 but it was surely motivated by a belief, firstly, and correctly, that the Country needed a Government of some sort but, secondly and fatally, that the Tories could be trusted to recognise that they were simply the largest minority in a parliament of minorities and to govern accordingly. Patently, they are not. Europe is not however just one issue like, for example, tuition fees. That involved only a stupid manifesto commitment and an opportunist campaign. Words could be eaten.

Words surely however cannot be eaten on Europe. The reason the Liberal Democrats are the Liberal Democrats, and not just the Liberals, is because a significant section of their founding membership left the Labour Party over its one time anti-Europeanism. And the reason they, in turn, chose to join up with the pre-existing Liberals was because they had so much in common on, above all, Europe.

It cannot surely be the case that for an unwillingness to admit an error, less still for a ribboned coat, that they are now prepared to sail in the company of John Redwood and Trevor Kavanagh.

The Tories seem for the moment to be consoling themselves that the one thing, above all others, the Lib Dems won't want is an Election. I have already pointed out however that the collapse of the Coalition will not mean an Election if an alternative Government can be formed.

There has been some criticism of the low profile Ed Miliband has been keeping since Friday. I wonder if it's because he has been working the phones? I sincerely hope it is.

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