Disraeli vs Gladstone

This book review was published by Tribune 20 September 2013

The Great Rivalry. Gladstone and Disraeli. By Dick Leonard. IB Tauris £22.50

Disraeli: or The Two Lives  by Douglas Hurd and Weidenfeld and Nicolson £20


It was Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Jenny Churchill, who put it well: ‘When I sit beside  Mr Gladstone at a dinner. I feel he is the cleverest man in England. When I sit beside Mr Disraeli, I feel I am the cleverest woman in England.’  Politics is about flattery and fixity of purpose, telling voters what they want to hear and telling voters what they need to know. Getting the  balance between what voters want to hear and what they need to be told is the art of successful leadership.

Gladstone and Disraeli were supreme practitioners of the political game. The people’s William and Dizzy, represent the two playscripts of Parliamentary life. The first sent to Eton and Oxford. He was bought a seat by his father who made his fortune out of his slave plantations. Gladstone dutifully opposed measures to outlaw slave trading just as he praised the breakaway slave states of the American south.

Disraeli had to be an MP because if ever he lost his parliamentary immunity he would be sent to a debtor’s prison. Gladstone liked cruising through Soho talking to prostitutes and whipping himself as punishment if ever he dropped his trousers. Disraeli openly used his prestige to bed women. Luckily there was no Mail on Sunday around and MPs in the nineteenth century did not go crawling to the police to get their colleagues investigated.

As Dick Leonard, himself a former Labour MP, with a real feel of how parliament works, notes, the real big beast of 19th century politics was Robert Peel. He invented free trade, modern policing, as well as the  Conservative Party which both Gladstone and Disraeli originally belonged.

In an article promoting  his new biography of Disraeli, Douglas Hurd, a fine chronicler of big figures in British politics, compared Dizzy to Boris Johnson. For chutzpah, a compulsive desire for money, and extra marital conquests the comparison is just. But as an Eton classicist who became president of the Oxford Union, Boris follows in Gladstone’s footsteps more than those of Dizzy. Hurd’s comparison has a barbed edge. Disraeli led the Conservative Party for 28 years in opposition and has little to his credit as prime minister save agreeing to proclaim the inane Queen Victoria Empress of India, a title of such empty bombast that one is embarrassed to think that a Commons which two centuries before had voted to execute the king now voted for such nonsense.

Gladstone created much of the modern Whitehall state – centralized, drawn from Oxbridge, rigid in its know-all sense of superiority. He enthroned religiosity in politics writing a dreary book called Vaticanism, a rabid attack on Catholics in 1874, and like most of today’s Liberal-Democrats was insufferably self-righteous. Gladstone was a roundhead, Dizzy a cavalier. He provided what today we would call a ‘narrative’ with his Young England and One Nation novels and forged an alliance between aristocrats and elements of the working class which provided the Tories with a voter base for a century.

In the 1870s, Gladstone whipped up a climate of fury against the Ottoman Empire as he described their atrocities in the Balkans in gruesome detail.  He wanted Britain to “punish” Turkey. But the cynical, old, Jewish prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, said No to war. Today it is Cameron and his little Liberal poodle, Nick Clegg, who are so keen to drop bombs in majority Muslim countries as the Tory Party of Disraeli has morphed into something weird that lacks coherence, purpose, and political philosophy

There is much to be learnt from both books but the thought arises. We get new biographies of Tory and Liberal leaders every few years. Reading new interpretations of history is good training for current politics. And biography is the easiest way into history. So why are there so few biographies of Labour PMs? Francis Beckett’s excellent Atlee biography is the last I can recall. The left spends all its time pulling down its past leaders and trashing those who reach high office. Until Labour learns to be proud of its past it will not easily shape its future.


Denis MacShane is Britain’s former minister of Europe.


Iran’s President Rouhani – Old Spice in New Bottle

I have long argued that the US should open diplomatc links with Teheran and am glad that President Obama has reached out to the new Iranian president Rouhani at the UN General Assembly. But when I read a gushing Daily Telegraph comment by Peter Oborne who writes very oddly if effectively on matters outside the Westminster world he has patrolled for 25 years I was moved to write this letter. Oborne lambasted William Hague who is hardly a favourite of mine given his vulgar anti-Europeanism but I recalled the last time a Foreign Secretary sought to make overtures to Teheran and how it did not end well. Here is my note below.

William Hague may be right to err on the side of caution in dealing with Iran (Peter Oborne comment 26 Sept). A decade ago the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, invested massively in Iran. Together with the French and German foreign ministers he visited Teheran, was polite about Islam, accepted under protest Iran’s rejection as ambassador of one of Britain’s best diplomats on the wholly false grounds that the nominee was Jewish, and proffered Britain’s hand as a partner. Straw’s well-intended outreach ended in Iran stepping up its support for its clients in Lebanon, Syria and above all Iraq where the Iran-sponsored Shiite militia plunged Iraq into civil war after Saddam was overthrown.
This was followed by the arrival of a president of Iran who called for Israel to be taken off the map of the world and sponsored Holocuast denial conferences in Teheran. All the while Iran was powering ahead with its bid to obtain nuclear weapons while undertaking the most gruesome repression of any Iranians who dared to cry freedom.
Perhaps Iran’s new President Rouhani is different though he has yet to explain his role in the planning and organisation of the Iran-sponosred attack in 1994 on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in which 85 Jews were killed – the worst anti-semitic atrocity since the 1940s. As an FCO minister I urged American colleagues to recognise Iran and used the Nixon in China analogy though Henry Kissinger told me that in China doors were open for the US to walk through and that is not the case in Iran where the US is still described and denounced in lurid terms.
Diplomacy is much sneered at by commentators but jaw-jaw even if you have to hold your nose is better than the alternative. But on Iran the current Foreign Secretary is write to sup with a long spoon until such time Iran makes clear it wants partnership with the many friends the people of Iran have in the democracies of the world.

Merkel Wakes Up to Hangover

This was written on 24 September, two days after Angela Merkel’s election triumph. At time of posting 29th September it is clear that far from emerging as the triumphant mistress of the German political scene she now has endless problems. The classic Black (CDU/CSU) coalition with the Yellow FDP which governed Germany as a moderate centre-right power block has been  smashed. And more and more commentators in Germany are asking if Mrs Merkel’s ultra-cautious mode of government (what I called more Vorsicht than Vorsprung) may have killed off the liberal FDP as they clearly had no influence or real role in Germany. At all events, it looks like a Black-Red allliance with the SPD demanding six government posts including the key Finance Ministry currently occupied by Wolfgang Schaeuble, the hammer of the southern European economies. In Britain we are fixated with the bubbles of our party conferences so we do not notice that Germany is without an effective project, Italy is in meltdown, France may be gently turning the corner as Hollande adopts more realist policies and we have in 2014 the biggest year of choosing Europe’s leaders ever – a new Parliament, a new Commission, new presidents for EU bodies. Meanwhile out Sunday paper obsess with the Jewishness and period Marxism of Ed Miliband’s papa.

The Real Decisions in Germany Were not Taken on Sunday


Now Germany awakes to the real time of decision.  The voters gave Angela Merkel a wonderful present on Sunday but Christmas only lasts one day. She knows that a majority of votes went to left-of-centre parties. The economic liberals in the FDP were booted out of parliament. The anti-Euro AfD like the internet libertarian Pirates failed to enter the Bundestag.

Before the election Europe’s watchword was waiting for Merkel. Now she has to wait for the Social Democratic Party’s special congress on Friday. SPD members will decide whether to permit the party leaders to enter a Grand Coalition. If the answer is Ja there then follows tough negotiations over the terms and programme of the coalition.

The SPD may yet baulk. They gaily entered a Grand Coalition with Merkel in 2005 and were quickly swallowed up and spat out into opposition four years later. Many in the SPD think those four years vitiated the party’s purpose and do not want to repeat the experiment. The party also has too many chiefs. Sigmar Gabriel is party leader. Peer Steinbrück was chancellor candidate. Frank-Walter Steinmeir led the party in the Bundestag and was Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister under Merkel between 2005 and 2009.

The SPD is also unhappy about the labour market reforms associated with Gerhard Schroeder. These liberalized the labour market by maximizing flexiblity, introducing low-pay insecure jobs and freezing industrial wages. The reforms suited German firms and allowed Germany to be better placed to survive the crash and subsequent recession after 2008. But they led to significant loss of support for the SPD amongst its core industrial worker and modestly paid public service electorate.

So if the SPD go into a coalition it will be on the basis of posts and policy. Instead of the now largely decorative foreign minister position which in a Germany that has given up geo-political ambitions and is content with a foreign policy along Swiss or Norwegian lines, the SPD will demand a top domestic and EU policy slot such as economics or finance minister. The SPD’s core belief is that Sozial – social is as important as Markt – market in the modern economy so will seek to secure minimum wage legislation and no dilution of the Mitbestimmung (co-determination) model which places workers and trade union bosses on company boards.

Martin Schultz, the German social-democratic president of the European Parliament, and the possible European centre-left candidate to be president of the European Commission, has already declared that the price for the SPD to enter a coalition is relaxing Berlin’s austerity ideology. Since 2009, under the eagle eye of the hardline finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, Berlin has refused to cut any slack for poorer Eurozone countries. Instead Berlin has preferred to keep whole nations in a latter-day debtors’ prison even though much of the cheap Euros were provided by German banks and much of the debt is owed to German firms, including arms industry exporters, who flooded Greece with pointless weaponry and infrastructure projects in the years before 2008.

It is far from clear that the SPD, which is also orthodox in most economic and fiscal policy will radically alter Berlin’s Eurozone policy but change will come.

Merkel has never shown much interest in classic liberal economics and the disappearance of the FDP de-liberalises still further German economic thinking.

At the end of July Die Welt published my article Deutschland erlebt die Merkel-Dämmerung – the Twilight of Angela about why I thought Mrs Merkel’s glory years were behind her and even with her expected election victory there were only difficulties ahead for Germany. David Marsh, Britain’s best-informed commentator on Germany has made the same point in his column for his banker’s think-tank OMFIF. This is not an anti-Merkel attack as she is a remarkable politician but her innate caution, which has paid off in winning support, is not going to change. There was a remarkable German TV documentary on German chancellors which had footage of Mrs Merkel going bathing on holiday in Italy. She enters the pool very gingerly, one step at the time, clutching the guide rail as she edges into the water while her husband looks on. It symbolises Mrs Merkel’s cautious approach, always testing the water before going further.

This will not change and those hoping for a radical new approach are likely to be disappointed. These include French socialist ministers who want to entice Germany into a new generosity and increase loans, credit and transfer payments to reboot the moribund Eurozone. But while Germany is rich, Germans are not. They have paid a solidarity tax of 5.5 per cent for 20 years to support East Germany and are not about to pay a Eurozone solidarity tax to suit Paris.

Germany will be flexible on new EU policy and even institutions but only up to the point where its Constitutional Court says a new EU Treaty is needed to provide a legal basis for new European payments, rules and institutions. A new Treaty requires referendums in too many countries notably France and there is now plebiscite fatigue everywhere in Europe. François Hollande will not risk a referendum before 2017, when he faces re-election, also the year Merkel, if she does not stand down after a decade at the top in 2015, has to go to the polls.

The exception to European wariness on populist referendums is of course Britain. David Cameron’s promise of an In-Out referendum in 2017 is based on a major renegotiation and repatriation of powers which he can present to the people as a new EU refashioned along the Eurosceptic lines of the current British cabinet with William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith maintaining the Conservative’s Eurosceptic faith.

Before then we have the summer of EU elections in 2014 when the three EU presidents (Commission, Council and Parliament) are chosen as well as a new European Parliament which the CDU and German politicians take much seriously than do the British or French political classes.

Mrs Merkel’s only ringing or memorable phrase is her statement that ‘If the Euro fails, Europe fails’ so Germany will do what it takes within its own limits to keep the Eurozone together. But major concessions to Paris or London are unlikely.

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Europe Minister

German Election First Analysis

This was quoted in Die Welt’s report on British reaction to Angela’s Merkel’s 3rd term victory in the Bundestag elections held on 22 September 2013

This article was published in the Social Europe Journal 23 September 2012

More Of The Same From Germany Or New Directions For Europe After Merkel Triumph?

Denis McShane
Ten questions…
1) Angela Merkel is as utterly triumphant as any European political leader has been in recent years. Unlike Tony Blair in 2005 or Margaret Thatcher in 1987 when both leaders won a third victory but on a smaller vote her third election victory has seen her win an extra 3.5 million votes. Even so the CDU/CSU total share of the vote is lower than the combined Union vote won between 1949 and 1994. And as with Thatcher in 1987 or Blair in 2005 it is a third time win for Mrs Merkel but will it be the last time? Voters love her don’t rock the boat, continuity, no change style. Like the do-not-much British Conservative prime minister, Arthur Balfour, a century ago Mrs Merkel believes that ‘Nothing matters very much and most things don’t matter at all.’ Like early 20th century England, early 21st century Germany is rich, ordered, well-run, socially one of the fairest EU member states, confident in its democracy, freedoms and rule of law and not a little self-satisfied. Why buy new shoes when the ones you have are comfortable, water-proof and look OK?
2) Germany is giving up on the classic post-war liberalism embodied by Ralf Dahrendorf, the German-British liberal politician and intellectual. He sadly is dead and his Weltanschauung was buried with him as a 20th but not 21st century politics. Cultural, gender and social liberalism has won overall and pure economic liberalism is less and less attractive. Merkel does not challenge the Social-Market model with its full acceptance of employer-union Partnerschaft. She let Gerhard Schroeder do the heavy lifting on reforming the German labour market to bring in low-pay, disposable jobs. She has allowed organized white metalworker wages to move up in line with recent profits and unlike British Conservatives Mrs Merkel is utterly unobsessed with reducing trade union rights or status. Why should Mrs Merkel adopt neo-liberal economic and labour market policies when the German variant works better?
3) Merkel is a post foreign-policy leader. Foreign affairs played no part in the election. Germany under Merkel refused to back the Sarkozy-Cameron adventure in Libya and has kept away from Syria. She does not challenge Putin. Russia both as a supplier of energy and a market for German investment and industrial goods is essential. She has criticized but not vehemently attacked US cyber-imperialism. Germany has no enemies and no longer needs US security protection. Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, much courted as a fellow Liberal by the German-speaking Nick Clegg, has seen his party humiliated and booted out of the Bundestag. The role and status of the foreign minister in a German government is now demoted as is the case elsewhere as foreign policy decisions become the prerogative of the head of government. Will a new coalition partner seek the Foreign Minister position or demand a key domestic and EU portfolio like finance or economics?
4) Merkel’s abandonment of nuclear power caught the Greens bathing as she walked off with their clothes. The soft de-industrialisation of Germany and the serious efforts to make sense of a sustainable ecologically friendly modern economic policy also chimes with voters who are nervous of high science after Fukishima and yearn for more of a nature-friendly Gemeinschaft (community) than a risk-taking scientific Gesellschaft (society). Is Merkel’s Nein, danke to nuclear power definitive and can wind and sun supply all Germany’s energy needs?
5) As after 1982, it will be a long march back to the Chancellorship for the social democrats. Once a CDU chancellor is dug in – Adenauer (1949-63), Kohl (1982-1998), Merkel (2005-2013) they are difficult to dislodge. It seems to take at least a decade and a generation change in the SPD before they find not so much the ideas but the right person (Brandt, Schmidt, Schroeder) to front them. The SPD candidate, Peer Steinbrueck, was yesterday’s minister who had compromised himself by going off to make millions out of speaking fees after 2009. The SPD meet on Friday to discuss forming a Great Coalition. Will they say Ja to being junior partners or stay in opposition waiting for 2017?
6) As in the Dutch election 2012 there is a reconsolidation of the two main centre-right and centre-left parties as newer identity or single issue parties lose traction. The big loser in the Dutch election was Wilders anti-immigrant party. It is always exciting to begin with when a fluent speaker manages to blame a nation’s woes on one specific problem or promise that more green politics, or less Europe, or more internet libertarianism (the Pirates) will radically improve lives. In fact, government is complex, full of compromises, and competing priorities. Millenian generation voters have been weaned off the 1968 politics of denying compromise and rejecting consensus. Merkel seems to have scooped up voters who want a real world rather than a utopian politics. Will the anti-Euro AfD sustain itself as a party for the European Parliament elections and regional Landtag parliament elections or dissolve?
7) Merkel campaigned for ‘more Europe’ and France’s President Hollande was the first leader to congratulate her, and invite her to Paris to discuss the next stages of EU construction. If she stays in office until 2017 she and Hollande face re-election that year. Both will need some better EU economic growth news by then. Both know that an open, enforceable rules-based EU is essential for their respective national interests. Both France and Germany see themselves as victims of the Anglo-American derivatives, hedge-fund banking crisis, bubbles, and private and public debt style of economic growth boosted by Clinton, Greenspan, Brown and the City that caused the crash of 2007-8 and subsequent Euroatlantic recession. If Poland moves to the nationalist right with the election of a PiS Kaczynski government in 2015 and Britain stays marginalized waiting for an In-Out EU referendum can Paris with its German-speaking prime minister create a new Franco-German axis?
8) She won on the absolute guarantee promised almost daily from Finance Minister, 71-year-old Wolfgang Schaeuble, that Germany would send no new money to southern Europe. So the Eurozone crisis is likely to get worse unless she can wriggle out of that promise. But she now has the mandate to tell the truth to the Germans that if they want to keep exporting someone has to import. If all of Europe adopts the German model who will import made-in-Germany goods? A trade surplus in Germany needs a trade deficit in other countries like Greece to exist. All EU member states cannot become creditor nations. Of course better supervision of national budgets is needed and as in 1950 with the Coal and Steel Community there will be new agreements to transfer some sovereign power to supra-national bodies. The ECB is recruiting 1,000 more banking specialists to Frankfurt for the EU financial stability and banking supervisory bodies created in response to the crisis. As these are consolidated Merkel can turn to Germans and say that loans or credit guarantees to the southern Euro state are necessary for German economic interests?
9) Having seen in the GDR how absolute power corrupts Merkel is unlikely to use her new powerful position to dominate or throw her weight around. She will develop a new concept of Bescheidenheitsmacht (modest or humble power) not dissimilar to that which obtains in Japan. This will require other democratic powers to do the heavy lifting on geo-political security questions. Last year Mrs Merkel torpedoed the merger between BAE and EADS to create a genuine European defence industrial capability. Will she continue to protect smallscale German defence industry firms or transfer German capability in this area to a European dimension? Will there be more Vorsicht (caution) than Vorsprung (a leap forward)?
10) David Cameron may need to rethink his opportunism on offering an In-Out EU referendum in order to attract Eurosceptic voters to the Conservative fold. Mrs Merkel made no concessions to the anti-Euro AfD (Alternative for Germany) party. In fact, it appears she won 300,000 voters from the AfD supporters who preferred a stable centre-right EU-friendly Germany rather than indulge the anti-Euro whimsy of the AfD founders and supporters. Her victory will be cheered by all other centre-right governments grouped in European People’s Party from Poland to Spain, Sweden to Greece. The one big exception is David Cameron who petulantly walked out of EPP in 2009 in order to boost his anti-EU profile. Mrs Merkel was not impressed and while she does not want the UK to quit the EU the mood in European capitals is changing to thinking this might happen and not caring overmuch. If she forms a grand coalition with the SPD, the chances of the next German government offering any presents to British Tories on social policy or other EU derogations are not great. Her only other possible ally is the Green Party and they are even more hostile to English elite Toryism than the SPD. Thus Mrs Merkel’s victory though good news for the EU-integrated centre-right does little to comfort David Cameron’s hopes of Berlin helping him along a Eurosceptic path to win in 2015 and then provide help to win a referendum in 2017. How does Cameron respond?
In conclusion Mrs Merkel has every right to savour her triumph which in recent European political history has no precedent. Her cautious approach has won German endorsement. But Germany needs to grow faster and find answers to its demographic problem. Above all Germany needs to answer its own European question. The challenges for Mrs Merkel are just about to begin.

European Defence without Germany – FT

This was published in the Financial Times today (26 September) in response to an interesting article in yesterday’s paper by the former French ambassador to the UK, Gérad Errara.

Gerard Errera is right that Britain and France should take a joint lead in promoting Europe’s defence capability though whether endless Suez remakes in Arab countries is wise remains an open question. (Syria shows why Europe needs to flex more muscle Sept 25)
In fact, London and Paris were ready to endorse the merger of BAE systems and EADS to create a genuine European defence industry world firm but it was torpedoed by Mrs Merkel who is keener on Vorsicht – caution – in foreign and defence policy – rather than Vorsprung – moving forward.
The European Coal and Steel community was shaped without Britain in the 1950s. Now might a European defence community be shaped without Germany or at least until such time Berlin is willing to help forge a stronger voice for Europe in foreign and security fields?

Immigration, Integration and Intolerance

This book review appeared in Tribune 5 September 2013

The British Dream by David Goodhart. Atlantic Book £20

300 years ago Daniel Defoe wrote his poem ‘The True-Born Englishman’ and described the ‘mongrel race’ which pretended it had a cear cut identity which others should subscribe and conform to.
60 years ago George Orwell described as the ‘new anti-semitism’ the open dislike of Poles – around a quarter of a million of men and their families – who stayed in Britain after 1945.
And anyone of Irish background only has to go back one or two generations to hear tales of the deep anti-Catholic or anti-Irish prejudice in some labour and housing markets.
The search for a ‘British dream’ – an integrative process – that would lessen the difficulties whenever incomers meet existing natives is eternal and can be traced in almost every nation in the world.
David Goodhart is a member of the British elite. He went to Eton, his father was a Tory MP, he worked for the elite Financial Times and he founded and brilliantly edited the elite’s monthly Prospect magazine.
He is a thoroughly decent member of London liberal bourgeois elite. Along with his favourite Prospect contributors, Andrew Adonis and David Willets, Goodhart has applied liberal rational thought to examind many contemporary problems.
He does so in this thoughtful, well researched and reasonably agued book about immigration. Some have got cross with Goodhart because he has said there is a problem. Others like the leading economist Jonathan Portes, has taken apart Goodhart’s statistics but then ended up quoting anecdotal evidence himself.
Goodhart does set up straw men like his denunciation of ‘multiculturalism’ as if ‘monoculturalism’ were possible. He implies that these problems were kept off the politica agenda by the left. I first stood for parliament in 1974 and the issue of non-British born workers and residents was huge then and remains so today.
Anyone who gets their hands dirty doing real door-knocking in real communities will have spent a large part of their political life worrying at the immigration question. Just because it was not much of an Islington dinner table subject does not mean the close-to-voters left has not seen it as a major issue. But it also a major issue for the new British citizens who so suffer from racism and who need a left to speak for them.
He discusses Islamism too superficially. It is about ideology not religion and the failure of British politicians and journalism, including Goodhart’s FT and Prospect, to examine the politics of Islamism between the Rushdie affair and 7 July 2005 is one of the most shameful lapses in our recent political and intellectual life.
Goodhart is right to argue that since the end of the closed frontiers once policed by tyrannical states there have been too many incomers arriving too fast and spreading out to too many corners of Britain all at once. No one notices 400,000 French living in London nor that the biggest contingent of EU workers on the London Olympic site were Irish.
But a handful of Kosovo asylum seekers arrive and a Slovakian food shop opens up in a small town unused to foreigners and a fear sets in easily exploited by the BNP or UKIP.
Goodhart does not offer many convincing answers. He is too liberal to embrace modern Powellism. He blames ministers especially those in 2004 who did not shut the door to Poles and East Europeans. I took part in that decision. We looked at France and Germany where a so called transition period was adopted. It failed to stop the arrival of workers on the illegal labour market. Go to Berlin and Paris and the low wage proletarian jobs are done, as here, by foreign workers. In Britain, tle EU workers paid taxes, NI, rented from Brits, shopped in British shops and spent money in British pubs and clubs.
Blaming the incomers for labour market problems is too easy and bad left politics. A fair living wage, proper apprenticeships, trade unions that organized in the private sector, a ban on permanent agency workers, controls over working time and better education to give young British citizens the skills a modern economy wants are the real ways of securing British jobs for British workers.
But that requires a politics of social fairness and redressing the scales tilted so heavily in favor of capital, big and small, in recent years. Goodhart, a former trade union editor of the FT might have focused more on the failure of Labour ministers to promote worker rights rather than on whether Britain like America, Canada, and every EU member state has seen unprecedented people movement since the end of communism and triumph of global capitalism.
Probably there is a French or Spanish David Goodhart lamenting the arrival of so many Brits in their countries, all demanding health care, the right to do work done by the French, and rarely learning the language of the host nation.
Free movement within the EU is a good thing and Britons have benefitted more than most. Like many Goodhart elides free movement of citizens with cheap labour for exploitative British employers. Like the term ‘immigrant’ which is meaningless now as incomers have travel, satellite, skype and other links back home (all the planes I take to East Europe are as full as those coming here) the categories used in this debate are part of the problem. Goodhart’s book is an honest attempt though I quiver a bit when it is the Daily Mail that makes him into a brave, dissenting hero. But as with many current political problems, better management rather than a final solution may be the best to hope for.
In 1958, John F Kennedy wrote a book called America : A Nation of Immgrants. That is real liberalism and on this subject we need more Kennedies and less posters urging people to shop an immigrant they don’t like.

Once Again a Story About Merkel and Cameron That Does not Add up

Social Europe Journal 6 Sept 2013

Is Mrs Merkel About To Sign Up to David Cameron’s EU Dreams?

Wishful thinking over Angela Merkel’s policy on Europe and David Cameron’s 2017 In-Out referendum still continues to surface pushed by anti-EU political forces in London.
Two weeks ago, Mrs Merkel’s spokesman declared the “astonishment” of her office at the interpretation UK Eurosceptics placed in an anodyne summer interview. She said, as she always says, that more Europe does not mean more power for the EU Commission and that more could be done by national governments coordinating their policies.
Open Europe, Britain’s main City-financed Eurosceptic think tank, and anti-EU Conservatives briefed that Mrs Merkel’s interview was a massive change of policy in favour of Cameron’s renegotiation and repatriation policy aimed at helping the British prime minister.
Naturally the Eurosceptic press picked this up but it was a story in London and appeared nowhere in Germany save in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which comprehensively rubbished the report. The FAZ is leading the German charge in favour of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and its anti-Euro line. But FAZ is too good a paper to buy London Eurosceptic spin in favour of the Tory hardline anti-Europeans.
Now the story has been repackaged in a Bloomberg story. It contains a quote from an FDP junior minister and one CSU spokesman as well as Open Europe, a Cameron press officer, and one of the leading anti-EU British Tory MPs. The story is perfectly accurate in terms of quotes cited and underlines Bloomberg’s reputation as a first class news agency.
But a quick check on the German media for what appears like a very major new German policy – namely Mrs Merkel putting her weight behind Cameron’s renegotiation and repatriation demands – shows it doesn’t feature. Try Google.de, type in Merkel, Cameron, EU and all the stories are from British Eurosceptic press outlets. Indeed with just two weeks before the German election it is unlikely that Mrs Merkel would want to start such Euroscpetic hares running.
So what is going on? What Mrs Merkel is saying is that she wants no NEW powers for the EU Commission. That is not the same as the massive repatriation of powers Tory MPs and UKIP are demanding.
Mrs Merkel is keen on the EU Commission having more power to pull into line what Berlin sees as recalcitrant spendthrift southern EU member states. But she does not want EU supervision of Germany’s shaky regional banks with their close ties to local politicians. She got cross with EU proposals on ecological grounds that would change the coolant systems in high power 250 kph German automobiles.
So Nein Danke to more EU interference in the German way of doing things but Ja Bitte to the Commission and ECB dictating German terms to Greece, Spain or Portugal.
Of course Mrs Merkel wants the UK to stay in the EU. So do all EU member states. But not at any price.
It is easy to find an FDP spokesperson to utter vague statements calling for Brussels to be curbed. But if – as may well be the case – Mrs Merkel enters a Grand Coalition with the social democratic SPD the hopes of Open Europe, Conservatives and UKIP for a massive repatriation of EU powers will evaporate.
A further factor that should feature in any of these stories is that the repatriation of powers London Eurosceptics seek would mean re-writing EU rules which are set as legally binding in an international treaty. Any new treaty would have to be submitted to a referendum in France, Ireland, Denmark with even German voices calling for referendums on future EU treaties, especially any that might involve admitting Turkey – a declared policy objective of the Cameron administration.
The idea that Francois Hollande would countenance an EU referendum ahead of his 2017 re-election campaign is fanciful.
In addition, there are many in Germany who think Mrs Merkel will bow out in 2015 after a decade in office rather than go on and on and on like Helmut Kohl or Margaret Thatcher who were humiliated by their parties and the public as they clung to office.
So while London Eurosceptics seek to enroll Mrs Merkel as their chief ally in their desire to see the EU changed into a loose federation of nation states all deciding their own rules and regulations on the basis of domestic politics they are taking their wishes for reality.
Mrs Merkel is no cheerleader for Brussels – no-one is – but she has not yet applied to join UKIP or even seek to initiate major EU Treaty change to placate Mr Cameron as he tries to appease anti-European passions in his own party.

New Thinking Please on EU Eastern Partnerships

Article published by The Globalist 4 September 2013

EU Needs New Tactics for Eastern Countries to Stop Russia Taking Over

Denis MacShane

Vladimir Putin would like to re-create a Russian zone of influence on the old USSR territories. But he is finding amazingly few takers in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Each country has proud nationalist, strategic and economic reasons to politely say No to the Kremlin’s embrace.
Ukraine has fashioned a self-image of a country occupied by Sovietism with much of its population killed in the 1930s by Stalin’s genocidal Holomodor when between 3 and 10 million Ukrainians were starved to death in the early 1930s.
Meanwhile, Belarus sees itself as an alternative to the Russia of oligarchs, corruption, gangsterism. Moldova wants an end to its breakaway Transnistra region under Russian tutelage.
Georgia wants Russia out of its occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. Azerbaijan sees itself as a gas state in competition with Putin’s Gazprom.
Armenia is perhaps the only one of the six countries that likes Russia, on account of Kremlin support for its Ngorno-Karabakh problem. And indeed Armenia has just indicated it will turn its back on the EU and opt for greater integration into Russia’s economic zone of domination.
The wooing by Putin has failed to persuade other states but time is running out for Europe. The European Union’s foreign policy strategy for the region now needs a makeover.
Four years ago, the EU was on the ball. Poland, Sweden and Germany announced the EU’s Eastern Partnership program with great ceremony in 2009.
Its intended purpose was to turn the six neighboring nations — Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, George, Armenia and Azerbaijan — into states that could eventually join the queue for membership after Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.
This concept was based on the long-held view that proximity to the EU and the possibility of future membership would serve as a magic charm to transform countries for the better appears to be running out of steam.
And even though this is one of the European Union’s flagship policies, it is simply not working. The EU is preoccupied with its own troubles and the countries slated for the “Partnership” have seen a regressive distancing from EU norms.
The third summit meeting of the Eastern Partnership will take place in Vilnius in November. It is the main event of Lithuania’s six-month presidency of the EU.
The small Baltic state has worked hard to make its role chairing the EU as efficient as possible. All ministers and officials have been required to prove proficiency in two or more languages.
The United Kingdom, proving itself to be an active European force, has seconded experienced EU experts to work in Lithuanian ministries to help the EU presidency function smoothly.
The big stumbling block, however, is that there is little willingness by the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) members to live up to the conditions Europe has set them.
Belarus remains firmly under one-man rule. Ukraine will not release its imprisoned former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. Georgia’s new rulers insist on treating some of the ministers who recently lost power as criminals to be placed on trial.
Azerbaijan remains indifferent to calls for more freedom. Armenia and Moldova insist that the only role of Europe is to find a solution to its territorial conflicts.
The EU thus has a dilemma. It could insist as non-negotiables the replacement of Lukashenko in Belarus, the freeing of Mrs. Tymoshenko in Ukraine, unlimited media freedom in Azerbaijan and in general the full acceptance of Council of Europe norms in the six countries.
If not, the EU will have to restart its search engine to find other “achievables.”
The original hope was that this six-pack of countries was just a few years behind Poland or perhaps the Baltic states or Bulgaria on the road to EU membership.
That kind of optimism (or perhaps rather naiveté) is gone.
All these states were fully and completely integrated into the USSR as it existed from 1922 to 1990. They were not like the initially independent Baltic states or the nominally separate central, east and southeast European republics of the Eastern Bloc established during and after World War II, following two decades of self-rule.
Rather, as founding republics of the USSR, these six states had no organic national experience of culture of democracy, rule of law, civil society, journalism and writing to draw upon when the Soviet Union dissolved.
There also were no diasporas with outposts at Harvard, Berkley or All Souls, Oxford to draw upon. As a result, these states literally had to invent European norms along with achieving independence in 1990.
That would have been a heavy load under any circumstance. But these countries had to deal with serious secessionist problems that was driven by mafia-type economic gangsterism and endless interference from the Kremlin, both before and during the Putin era.
It is better to see the EaP bloc in the same light as some Asian and Latin American states in the 1970s and 1980s — incipient market democracies that have not yet arrived.
Asking them to comply fully with EU norms simply won’t work. It is akin to expecting the Korean, Taiwanese or Brazilian authoritarian regimes of their era to have disappeared before their time was up, quite literally.
Countries have to reach a certain level of democratic maturity before they can be seriously expected to achieve that undoubtedly critical goal.
The EU thus needs not to modify the nature of its demands — but apply more realism as to a realistic timetable.
The model should be the 1970s Helsinki process, a more coordinated use of Council of Europe mechanisms and an updated version of the 1970s West German government’s policy of “Wandel durch Annäherung” (gradual transformation through consistently getting closer) toward East Germany.
It was this approach, marked by patience and far-sightedness, that led to the détente era network of contacts. It was this seemingly innocuous mechanism across seemingly impenetrable ideological divides that paved the way for Czechoslavakia’s Charter 77 and Poland’s Solidarnosc.
In practical terms, that means a certain amount of nose-holding political contacts is needed. Pilot programs on visa liberalization should be tried out. Intermediary institutions like universities, trade unions and interfaith NGOs should be used to build contacts as well as regular minister-to-minister contacts.
In addition, the old human rights concept of punishing, sanctioning or boycotting unpleasant governments needs to be rethought.
The great hope of a rollout of European democracy across the new nation-states that were fully part of the USSR was ambitious and noble.
But they have turned to ashes. More practical, modest and incremental goals are needed and should be set at the upcoming summit in Vilnius this coming November.

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Europe Minister