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Francis Wheen calls it right

9 June 2005
Sorry folks, I’ve been away and my well planned route to technological upgrade failed. Hence the long silence. Now I’m off to Brussels. The capital of a momentous disaster. I agree with Paul Hilder’s comment on my blog entry just before the French ‘Non’ and the Dutch 'Nee'. It is all very well to support them, as I did – and still do. But it is too sanguine to think that a more democratic Europe will necessary follow from a well earned rebuke to the anti-democratic character of the European elite. It is just as likely that a reactionary, retrograde process will be unleashed. Spot on. Next week I will write about why even war might follow if Europe defaults back to its older self. But this was happening anyway. There could be no democratic future built on a constitution being pushed through by a tiny majority based on fear – the only other outcome on offer. Had this happened the disaster already taking place would have been postponed, but when it came it would have been much worse. Now, at least, an ‘popular revolt’ delivered by the ballot box opens the way to a better process. I was fearful that I would be alone as an English Europhile who supported the European refusal. Francis Wheen has ensured a warm cohabitation. By chance I nicked from the plane's club class a copy of Saturday’s Daily Mail of 3 June. This ran an op-ed by Wheen which sets out my views better than I can. (Unfortunately, their wretched website means I can’t link to it.) He opens with self-criticism: “For too long people like me made what philosophers call a ‘category mistake’. As pro-Europeans, we automatically defended the entity that called itself ‘Europe’ in its gradual evolution… Not any more…. There’s nothing wrong with the European ideal. What’s wrong is the arrogance of a political elite who seeks to realise it through lies instead of honest debate, who assume it can be imposed from above rather than shaped by the people.” It is a bit like the way Christopher Hitchens thinks that the Bush invasion of Iraq is the Hitch invasion (but that too is for another day). We hoped that the Europe being created was the Europe that was needed - an advance in democratic terms not a retreat. I was amused to learn that Liam Fox for the Tories demanded a thorough debate over the constitution, without realising that the consitution which most needs this is still Britain's own.

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