Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Ukip's success fulfils a media prophecy that fails the people of Britain

Last week Britain voted Ukip in as its third favourite party to represent them in the European parliament. In doing so they have given the Eurosceptics much to gloat about and created a very real risk that British governments could start to become even more awkward and obstructive in Europe.

Why are we in Europe? Primarily to keep the peace. The main thing our generation has forgotten is that before the creation of the European Union not a single half century passed without some spat between European states leading to hundreds of peasant deaths. The first half of the twentieth century saw generations ripped apart by these superpowers playing with their big new toys. War became simply too dangerous for Europe. The economic partnership of the EU has proved the most stable way to forge peace. But Europe gives us plenty of advantages above free trade: where the British government is reducing the powers of the Lords, Europe provides a stabling check on governmental power: all its actions are basically to fulfil the peace and development aims and uphold human rights - something that was never part of the British landscape until Europe made it explicit. Those that bleat about British sovereignty and self-determination forget that it is our country that took us into a war the majority didn't want and is paying the consequential costs. Our economic problems are nothing to do with Europe, they are our problems. Before you get all terrified about the constitution, just try reading it, rather than killing off all that we Brits hold dear it reinforces many of the greatest principles that Britons built in the world: peace, security, equality and prosperity. Most of its contents are very vague, it contains few things that we haven't already signed up to and the way it is implemented is, well, up to us.

Governments must take some of the blame for the break-down in communications between Europe and its British citizens. While they have been involved in every decision taken in the last 25 years, and often very influentially involved, they do not admit to the full extent of European involvement in our affairs. They blame problems on Europe, but take credit for the advances in employment law, consumer protection and economic regeneration that they helped to create from Brussels.

But it is the media which has been the real architect of the dismal level of debate which led to people using their European vote to protest against the British government or vote for Robert Kilroy Silk because they'd seen him on t'telly. Who writes about Europe intelligently? Not the Europesceptic papers, obviously, but not even the likes of the Independent and the Guardian to any real level. The argument against it seems to be that the readership 'wouldn't understand and aren't interested'. Well, make them interested, that's your job. Imagine if the media spent ten years without reporting at all on the British parliament and then turned round and said 'people are voting against Parliament because it's an undemocratic and unnacountable monster. Let's abolish it'. It would be exactly the same, and then who would run us: Murdoch? Richard Desmond? The media has many purposes, not just to tittilate and scare us, but its most respectable purpose in a democratic society is to hold our institutions to account. We should be able to rely on journalists to tell the truth about what they see around them, and there's no reasons why we should expect that from a bunch like Ukip, or any other political party for that matter. But the media has failed to hold the EU to account to such a spectacular extent that people like Ukip can come up with whatever scare stories they want and nobody on the doorstep knows any better.

If Ukip use their new powers to honestly expose the problems in the EU, the waste and the over-bureacracy then all for the good, but they will be addressing nothing that the EU isn't already working on. But if they use all that MEP money to try and destroy the EU from their lair in Birmingham (a city that has done very well out of Europe), then they will be guilty of the worst corruption themselves: by failing to involve themselves in the intitutions of Europe they will be failing their constituents.

No comments: