The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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In real praise of Nick Clegg on the EU…

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I’m a Nick Clegg guy. It isn’t anything new and a big revelation but I am. I think he is the most intelligent of the party leaders. I think he is the best speaker of the four main party leaders and when you look solely at what he says then it makes the most sense. His biggest problem at the start of this parliament was clearly he was outmaneuvered by the Conservatives and showed a distinct lack of political nous. Also despite putting up good overall numbers, he actually oversaw his party losing seats in the House of Commons, spreading our resources too quickly instead of concentrating on seats where we should have won or should have held on. That was poor.

However four years on and he is facing the toughest fight with the electorate to date. The European Elections. The Lib Dems are going to get an ass-whooping, not because the electorate are pissed off with the Lib Dems but because the anti-European brigade are dominating the political landscape. UKIP are surging on the back of that sentiment and both Labour and the Tories are being a bit woolly-minded as to what they really think about the European question. They are both grown-up enough as a political party to know that being part of the European Union brings the country great benefits as well as the downsides, it is a two-way street, however they know the way the wind is blowing so they don’t want to fly the pro-European flag to any significant degree.

This is where Nick Clegg has decided to step out and put his party and his own position very much out there. In a terrific letter in the i on Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister puts forward a cohesive and sensible viewpoint for why he believes that being part of the European Union is an important position for the country.

The problem is most people do not see the benefits unless they are involved directly in business. They don’t see that billions of pounds are generated and pumped into our economy due to our links with the largest single market on the planet. They don’t see that if we pull out and become an isolationist state that we will no longer have any say about what goes on politically in our back yard. It really is a better situation for all to try and piss from inside your tent to outside than attempting to do so the other way round. Also the long-term strategy of climate change is an issue. Look at the way our weather patterns are changing, this is clearly an issue that needs to be dealt with and being part of the EU can help us tackle what might be the biggest crisis to ever face the human race. Yet far too many people only see another Polish shop on the high street and they complain.

The one paragraph that really stood out though was the following:

I understand why Nigel Farage’s brand of pub-friendly Euroscepticism is appealing. It plays on the fear of the ‘other’, the fear of change, the belief that someone else must be to blame for the ills of the modern world. It offers beguilingly simple solutions: pull up the drawbridge, close the door and turn our back on the world. It is an appealing offer but one that is extremely dangerous.

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. This is exactly it. People are scared and want someone to blame for their lives not being as perfect as they believe they should be. The two easy targets are Europe and bankers. We have heard Labour lead the fight against bankers and what an evil sort they are and it sickens me. Talk about scapegoating one section of society believing it will mask all of their ills for not managing the economy but that is another subject for another day. Europe, and immigration of EU nationals is the issue that is now creating the most buzz. People don’t want non English people here as they are taking our jobs so they say, jobs that most English people do not want. In the early part of this century when the Poles decamped over here to do our cleaning, our data entry, our receptionist jobs, our hotel work and the like no-one cared because they worked hard and did jobs people didn’t want. Now people want them gone because they have seen the economy tank.

Did the economy tank because of an influx of EU nationals? No. No it didn’t. Would the economy recover if we kicked out all the EU nationals we didn’t want and did those jobs for ourselves? No it wouldn’t. That is such a simplistic view of the world and the economy and one that doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality. If we kicked out all foreigners how would we staff our National Health Service? There are not enough qualified health professionals to staff the NHS so in turn we’d lose front-line patient care. Is that what people want or do people that want to leave the EU want special dispensation put in to allow foreigners work visas if they are working in certain sectors?

What about foreign sports stars? I’m a football fan and enjoy watching great players from around both Europe and the World ply their trade in the Premier League. Do we not want these people playing in our leagues and paying the huge amount of tax that they give to the Treasury? See that is the thing, you know these foreigners? They are working over here and actually paying in to our Treasury and enhancing our society.

The problem is people are looking for the easy excuse, the simple narrative and that is that all our ills are due to Europe and foreigners. Recent reports on the flooding have said that we should pull out of the EU to sort out the floods. These reports say that with the money we spend putting into the EU pool we could sort out all our flood defences and on a simplistic level we could easily, however we’d also then in turn lose a lot of money that we come into the coffers due to our position within the EU and then in turn we wouldn’t have the money.

‘It’s the economy stupid’ was a war cry of the Bill Clinton 1992 Election campaign, well not the war cry but it was a slogan they used to remind staff about their primary message. The economy is the key to everything and it is a very hard thing to know in great detail. Do we get more out of being in the EU compared to what we’d get if we left? I don’t know the answer in a strict economical sense because I don’t have the figures but clearly we do get genuine benefits from being in rather than out. For that I’m happy to be involved with the party that has put its cards firmly on the table as wanting to protect the economic revival. I am pretty sure that leaving the EU would see the economy take a hit not only in the City but also in businesses up and down the country and businesses employ people and give people jobs and then they pay taxes etc. etc. etc.

So I’m very happy Nick has set out his stall so firmly. It might not be what people want to hear and it might go against the popular narrative but it is honest and it is a genuine position based on real economic and sociological issues. It isn’t based on scaring people with mis-truths and that is why the Lib Dems are I believe fast growing up as a political party.

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Written by neilmonnery

February 11th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Politics

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One Response to 'In real praise of Nick Clegg on the EU…'

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  1. I don’t ‘do’ politics outside of the purely academic context, but the recent anti-EU discussions have – for obvious reasons – piqued my interest (and, yes, got on my nerves too!). Nick Clegg’s letter, apart from perhaps one or two articles in the Economist (‘You’re welcome’ being the most notable example), is perhaps the most intelligent approach to the whole issue – neither idealising nor demonising the EU, but simply identifying how extensive and important the link is, and how much this link is actually needed.
    So for that, if not for any other reason, he has my respect.

    PS. Probably shooting myself in the foot here, but I take exception to the frequently made argument you cited – that the Poles simply took the jobs that ‘no British people wanted’. 🙂

    Magda

    11 Feb 14 at 7:37 pm

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