06 July 2011

There's a Reason Why the New Testament Calls 'Party Spirit' a Sin

No, really, it does. Factionalism leads to tribalism, and tribalism kills thought.

There are friends of mine who make me sigh, people who are incapable of changing their minds when faced with inconvenient facts, things that challenge or flatly refute their dogmas. They have a habit of reading stuff merely to validate what they already believe, and are incapable of realising that when a source they trust is shown to be either dishonest or ignorant on one issue, that it may well be far from trustworthy on others.

One yesterday said he was a bit cynical about the Guardian's revelations about the News of the World coming three days before the BSkyB decision goes through, as they'd surely known about it long ago.

A Manichean Siege Mentality
This, of course, is typically tribal nonsense, as spouted on the Telegraph blogs yesterday with reference to the BBC, paranoid rot which even the normally odious Cranmer is sensible enough to recognise as reprehensible gibberish. It's of a par too with the victim mentality displayed by Boris Johnson last year and by Conservative Home's Tim Montgomerie in the Guardian the year before, when he said:
'Given that Coulson has behaved impeccably since becoming a key adviser to the Tory leader, we can only assume that the attack on him is politically motivated... 
If this affair was simply a matter of Labour versus the Conservatives it would have quickly died a death, but the antagonism towards Coulson is also rooted in the hostility of the Guardian and the BBC to Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Polly Toynbee articulated that hostility on Saturday. She accused the owner of the Sun, the Times and Sky of "Europhobia", and of corrupting politics. 
I do not wish to defend every action of the News International empire, but Rupert Murdoch has been an overwhelming force for good in this country's life and politics. Sky Sports has revolutionised English football. We now have the most exciting football league in the world thanks to the money that football was denied when the BBC and ITV possessed their duopoly of stale, pedestrian coverage. Murdoch's Wapping adventure broke the stranglehold of the Fleet Street union barons – a bold action from which all newspapers have since benefited. His newspapers and Sky News have formed the most powerful rival to the dominance of the BBC. Without the Sun and the Times, the Eurosceptic message would have struggled to prosper. The BBC has never reflected the British people's concern about the European project and Murdoch has been a champion for them.'
Well, of course. We can only assume that attacks on Murdoch's Minions News are politically motivated. It's inconceivable that there might more to it than that. It's inconceivable that demanding journalistic integrity, standing up for the British people, and opposing the Murdoch Empire might just be the same thing. Isn't it? And no doubt Murdoch is shocked to learn what's been going on...

Of course, the claim that all the newspapers have gained from 'Murdoch's Wapping adventure' is a dubious one: their sales figures certainly haven't. And the idea that the Premiership is a particularly exciting league is, frankly, codswallop, given that it's less competitive now than it ever was in the pre-Sky era. The poppycock about the European project is particularly reprehensible; opposition to the EU has been moulded for decades in Britain by the Murdoch press. It hasn't so much been that Murdoch championed opposition to the European project, as that he basically formed it. Sensible Conservatives can see that.

Margaret Thatcher, Champion of European Integration!
Look at Thatcher, for instance, who before she became Murdoch's creature was herself a champion of the European project. She'd been part of the Conservative government that had negotiated entry to the EEC in the first place, and that signed Britain up to a process of ever-closer union, that being the avowed aim of the European project as stated in the very first sentence of the Treaty of Rome. She had thus been fully aware that a single currency was on the cards at the time of UK accession, and that there was no point the UK joining the Common Market if didn't plan on adopting the planned Common Currency.

When running for the Conservative party leadership in early 1975, just months before the British referendum on Europe, Thatcher insisted that leading Britain into Europe had been Heath's greatest achievement, and said:
'This torch must be picked up and carried by whoever is chosen by the party to succeed him. The commitment to European partnership is one which I full share.'
On 8 April of that year, she openly championed Britain's continued participation in the European project, basing her case on Britain's need for security, guaranteed food supplies, and access to the European market in general, as well as the prospect of a more important role in the world, saying:
'I think security is a matter not only of defence, but of working together in peacetime on economic issues which concern us and of working together on trade, work and other social matters which affect all our peoples [...] The Community opens windows of the world for us which since the war have been closing. [...] When we went in we knew exactly what we were going into.'
She was right, too. It's clear that way back in the 1970s, before Murdoch and his ilk got their talons into her, Thatcher had foreseen and was comfortable with all those things she has denounced since the late 1980s,* with her rabid minions whining and yelping in chorus behind her ever since.

Did Blair Really Sell Out Britain to Europe?
And unfortunately, those curs just keep barking idiotically, foaming at their feral mouths. Yesterday I saw a piece in the Spectator, entitled 'Barroso's EU Confidence Trick', which argues that
'... the battle for Britain's EU spending was lost under Blair. In 2001-02, Britain was a net beneficiary of EU to the tune of £900 million. The next year, the cost of EU membership soared to £3.4 billion. By 2004-05 it was £5.7 billion and in 2009-10 it was £6.6 billion. It's rising even more. Consider that the total defence cuts will save £2.4 billion: this is masses of cash. And for what? [...] Britain is paying billions for membership of a club that most of us think isn't helping at all.'
In the first place, Britain gains massively from the EU through trade within the common market and through having a combined negotiating position globally, so it's ludicrous to limit Britain's gains to what it receives from Brussels directly. That aside, though, 2002 was an anomalous year for Britain, where various factors including the rebate led to Britain receiving more from Brussels than it contributed; this was compensated for the following year. Britain has basically been a contributory state -- which makes sense, given that it sees itself as a successful and wealthy country -- for a very long time, long before Blair. All you have to do is look here to see how long this has been the case.*

Secondly, that contributions to the EU should have risen over the last decade is hardly surprising, given that a dozen countries have joined the Union since 2004, most of these having needed financial help in becoming functioning and profitable capitalist economies, or, if you like, in becoming useful partners for Britain. The UK, in fact, has long been the great champion of EU expansion, and had wanted the accession of all those countries, just as now it's the UK that shouts the loudest in favour of Turkish accession to the Union. This has to be paid for, of course, so it's somewhat ironic that those who should cry most for the Union to be broadened should then cry loudest when the bill arrives.

But of course, the opponents of the EU don't care about such facts, evidently taking the line that reality is something to be sampled rather than understood. They probably don't realise that as a proportion of national GDP, Britain contributed rather less to the EU under Blair and Brown than it did under Thatcher and Major.

* And if you don't believe me and can't be bothered trawling through Hansard, go and have a look at John Campbell's Margaret Thatcher, Volume I: The Grocer's Daughter. Because they hide this information in books.
** Yes, I know, this doesn't seem to incorporate the Rebate. Still, the general trend is discernible either way.

1 comment:

shane said...

I wonder was that Guardian article intended as an oblique job application?