Friday 13 June 2008

Has Cowen blown Lisbon?

The early tallies - and they are usually reliable - suggest a victory for the No campaign in the Irish referendum on Lisbon. If so, the result owes a lot to confusion and Cowen. The new Fianna Fail leader started well but went downhill quickly thereafter, substituting his foul tongue for serious debate and crudely attacking the opposition parties at a time when he needed their support.

The Yes campaign was shambolic, where the clever and well-funded No campaign caught the popular imagination. Instead of coming together with a consistent message and a seriousness of purpose, the main Irish political parties seemed more concerned to do their own thing, resulting in posters boasting dismal portraits of the party leaders and screeds of unco-ordinated reasons to vote Yes which were only marginally more readable than the text itself.

As with all such Irish referenda, many of the No arguments were specious and irrelevant to Lisbon; but when confusion replaced coherence on the Yes side, it was inevitable that many of them would be believed. But - aside from the European Commission and those seeking a more coherent structural organisation for EU bodies - the big loser from the Irish referendum is Brian Cowen, whose Biffo nickname will surely be uttered with feeling in the corridors of Berlaymont today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The politics surrounding the European in Britain is different in kind from every other aspect of UK politics. Instead of a bored, disengaged electorate, somewhat suspicious of politicians, but broadly willing to trust them to get on with the business of politics we have a rabid media clamouring on behalf of the people for a referendum and screaming ‘Betrayal!’. Politicians can’t be trusted on this issue; elites are corrupt and power-hungry and they don’t see the world the same way as decent, ordinary people. Or so says The Sun and the Daily Mail. Politicians can’t be trusted and they aren’t up to the job; instead ordinary people on the basis of a simple majority vote should be the ones to decide whether this fiendishly complicated, legalese-soaked document should be approved. When it comes to one of the most complicated, technical decisions that needs to be made in politics they want to have the professional law-makers stand aside and surrender themselves to the amateurs.

Europe is the only issue in British politics where this sort of direct democracy, anti-elite populism has any real influence. And it’s because we’re suspicious of people we don’t know, people who aren’t like us. British politicians can be trusted with authority because shared experiences, values and traditions mean that we can rely on them to see things our way. Politicians from other countries and particularly EU officials in “Brussels” (a sort of hellmouth to the Eurosceptics) can’t be trusted with power because we don’t have that same guarantee that they will share our perspective. The great heat that one sees displayed on this issue and the nauseatingly insistent appeals for a referendum are an outgrowth of a very understandable, but lamentable, chauvinism. We like what and who we are familiar with; everything else we are suspicious of.

To read more on the European constitution link to my blog, just who the hell are we?, at: