Our Common European Home
Today, one reads the comments of both Martin Kettle and Charles Moore that Tony Blair may yet attain the 'Presidency of Europe' with some dismay. Being a church-going Catholic like both Mr. Moore and Mr. Blair, it is particularly disappointing to see Mr. Moore's suggestion that Mr. Blair's conversion "though perfectly sincere, comes at the right moment." If Mr. Moore is not the keeper of his brother's conscience, then he had best keep quiet about its timing.
There are, of course, many political sticks with which Mr. Blair can be beaten, not the least of which is the rather scabby way he scrabbled out of the House of Commons. For all his faults, at least Heath continued to give decades of service before retirement, and both Thatcher and Major served out the balance of a parliamentary term before going onto the lecture circuit. For a man to spend years gagging to gain a career opportunity, work his way through the ranks and then become desperate to leave is nothing unusual; but few prime ministers have been as blatant as Blair in their desire to distance themselves from their original electorate once the removal vans have left Downing Street and the motorcade's finally passed by. Tony Blair is neither so capable nor accomplished that he couldn't have gone through the motions on behalf of the people of Sedgefield for a couple more years; and one has to think that the folks at the Trimdon Labour Club, never mind the British people, shown that their former prime minister only considered their democracy to be a tool for his own advancement, deserved rather better than they got. To take the Hundreds the day after you resign as Prime Minister is to give a Promethean "Up Yours!" to British parliamentary tradition.
But it would be entirely in keeping with the way in which the construct named 'Europe' has developed in the last 60 years for a man so out of touch with proprieties to become its 'president'. It would be entirely in keeping with the history of much of continental Europe.
At various times, Brezhnev, De Gaulle and Gorbachev all used the expression 'our common European home', usually when they were trying to appeal to others' better natures. The one thing that European history teaches us is that its people are too different from each other ever to be able to successfully live together as a single political unit. No matter how many Treaties of Versailles get written (I've counted three so far, and am always on the lookout for more), sooner or later a Louis XIV, Bonaparte, Wilhelm II or Hitler has always crawled out the woodwork and upset the schnitzel or onion cart. As well as giving the anti-nuclear brigade a reason for getting out of bed in the morning, all those American divisions in Germany did a very good job of keeping the multiple occupancy bedsit that is the 'common European home' from becoming a blighted property once again.
Attempting to integrate 'Europe' only seems to serve to isolate the peoples of Europe from each other. The French will be French, Germans German and Poles Polish long after the fairytale crown that is the 'European flag' gets rolled up and burned. Before the shouts of 'xenophobe!' go up and the tumbril gets rolling, I'd like to mention that my wife is Irish; and if anyone thinks the Irish, those most avid recipients of 'European' funds, will ever give up being Irish to become 'Europeans' they are up a gum tree.
Of course it is far better if we don't fight each other; the shared memories of the horribly destructive nature of all European war, the end of totalitarianism, a few strategically placed peace treaties and a healthy military budget would all be far better at keeping the peace than trying to fit the quarts which are the European peoples' into the pint pot which is 'Europe' itself. Indeed the Second World War might just have been the last war, amongst the peoples of Western Europe anyway; it was so destructive that to all intents and purposes we fought each other to the point of exhaustion. After that, further wars between France and Germany, or Britain and France, would have been impossible, even without 100,000 guys named Dwight and Clayton Lee on the spot to ensure that we all played nice. Having them around was very nice, of course, given the very close proximity of the Red Army.
The 'European' project is entirely in keeping with the way continental European nations do things. Top down stuff is their way, not ours. As far as I'm concerned Tony Blair can play with these guys as much as he likes; he feels himself to have more in common with their traditions than ours. Whenever these guys produce a Nice or Maastricht, they actually think they're involved in an event as consequential as the Peace of Westphalia or the Congress of Vienna, with every man a Mazarin or Talleyrand - I hate to tell them this but when I was wee boy I often went to bed thinking my name was Luke Skywalker, and I never once woke up as a Jedi Knight the following morning.