Sunday, June 15, 2008

Davis and the Irish

There's a curious symmetry about the day's big political stories. David Davis, by resigning, and the Irish by voting against the European constitution have both taken populist stands against political establishments. (Davis's position may not be intrinsically populist in that the Britsih seems to favour 42 days detention, but the way he has taken it has, at a stroke, made him a popular hero, as he intended.) I don't have strong feelings about either position. Brown's 42 days was a stupidity, but Davis's stance is probably also a stupidity. And I find both eurosceptics and europhiles equally wrong; the first because I would be prepared to sacrifice quite a lot for continued peace in Europe and the second because of the idiocy of trying to sell an incomprehensible legal document as a constitution - a simple list of generalisations like the American constitution would have easily won hearts and minds and allowed structural reform to continue. But the very fact that these gestures work in the way they do indicates a truth about our current political processes. The people's mistrust and distaste is now the primary political reality.


  1. "the first because I would be prepared to sacrifice quite a lot for continued peace in Europe"

    Since when did the EU deliver peace to Europe? the reality is, free people dont fight one another, and if the EU wish to continue to establish a Putin style pseudo-democracy, then peace is obviously put at risk.

    There is also little evidence that the public support 42 days detention, apart from a push poll that HMG clung too for dear life in the debate last week.

  2. Bryan I agree with much of what you say (including the value of the EU in fostering European cohesion) but it triggered me into writing a quite different article.

    It comes down to me being a little less indulgent of the sins Gordon Brown and the Irish, but especially the former.

    Desperate politicians cranking up psychotic fear and reaching for authoritarian measures are intimately connected with the causes of the political malaise that your conclusion points at. To that end I think I approve of Davis's futile-gesture politics, though I reserve the right to reassess depending upon how he executes this futile gesture.

  3. I find in this 42 days business a unique study in contrasts with the US. On the one hand you have the whole matter of constitutional rights and police power. You have no constitution per se, and the police and political classes can get away with extraordinary measures to control the population, such as arresting boys with signs assigning cult status to marginal religions. In that regard the British public are not near distrustful enough.

    On the other hand we Americans are dramatically more tough on criminals once they have actually been convicted in court. You Brits seem woefully unwilling to incarcerate for all but the most serious offenses, letting petty, malignant misbehaviors fester in public.It seems that you are comfortable with your police possessing extraordinary measures of discretion compared to the US, but without the commitment to follow through with adequate punishment upon conviction.

    So I find the British public in this regard simultaneously too trustful and too mistrustful.

  4. Thats excatly the point duck..David Davis is standing on a libertarian platform but as he is right wing and someone who advocates the death penalty is regarded as authoritaian by the left, when what matters in fact in due process, which is what the debate is really about.

  5. Perhaps the "curious symmetry" is that both stories provide a focus against authoritarianism - that being the modus operandi of "our current political processes".

    "Peace in Europe" is often shorthand for "no more trouble between France, Germany and the UK". But exhaustion followed by prosperity first under the Marshall Plan and then under the Pax Americana have probably had as much to do with this as the EU. Peace in the Balkans, or peace in the parts of Europe under the Soviet boot for half a century? Not really.

    The EU was fine as a trading agreement, even a very intricate and far-reaching one. But at some stage it became grandiose and Utopian and called itself a Project. As John Gray might point out, Utopian plans are inherently authoritarian; and Utopians are elitists who tend to see those who disagree with them as criminals and mentalists. And so we come full circle to the Irish vote.

  6. The problem that the Irish have (in as far as one can speak for the many) is not with reform nor with Europe. But with the fact that all of the parties came out in favour of the thing. As did the Unions, the Business people, farmers, along with every Tom Dick or Harry. Not one of them had read the thing, and could inform on what could happen once all of the housekeeping reforms were done with, and all the other clauses came into full effect. The where is this going and why.
    And we are not in this (to use a Simpsonism) to embiggen Germany and/or France whatever they would like to think.
    Yours etc.

  7. The simple fact of the matter is that the Irish government made a dog's breakfast of the whole thing. Whatever about the incomprehensibility of the treaty itself, for our prime minister to admit early on in the campaign that even he hadn't read it, and wasn't going to, adding, that if anyone did they needed their head examined, was the beginning of the end. It was downhill from there with every crackpot from the left and right saying whatever came into their scheming little heads to scare the bejaysus out of the wary voters (and getting the airtime to do so because of the legislation governing how referendums are handled by our state broadcaster).

  8. 'They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.'

    Benjamin Franklin.