Cameron and the EU

It looks as if David Cameron is once again going to dance rings around Gordon Brown and his ministers
Stuart Weir
5 November 2009

I wonder in despair what it would take to rouse that lumbering beast that we know as the Labour government into decisive action. But it looks as if David Cameron is once again going to dance rings around Gordon Brown and his ministers. Cameron has adroitly mollified most of the Tory Euro-sceptics with his foxy trot round the broken pledge to hold a referendum on Lisbon, and has perhaps picked up quite a lot of support among a public that is also broadly Euro-sceptic, if not noxiously so.

But surely there was an opportunity for Labour to knock him out of his stride? Cameron's neo-liberal instincts may well be in tune with the rump of the party that he leads, but I do not believe that the public would accept that the price for asserting Britain's 'sovereignty' against Brussels should be to lose the social and employments benefits that they receive (unknowingly no doubt) through the EU - holiday entitlements, parental leave and much else. But Labour seems to have lost its traditional instincts in its own move towards neo-liberal politics. A government that wanted to protect the working population - once Labour's raison d'etre - should have protested long and loud about the potential loss of benefits to working people instead of waffling on about the 'bigger' issues of European politics.

Of course, Cameron ought to be more vulnerable on the Tory 'sovereigny' whinge. Sovereignty over the British people, their Parliament and local democracy, yes. But 'sovereignty' over the US that binds us into an unwinnable, illegitimate and unpopular occupation of Afghanistan, no. 'Sovereignty' over corporate and financial business, no. But the government is equally vulnerable on these counts and equally committed to the brute sovereignty over their subjects in the UK that its party shares, albeit unequally, with the Tories. There is a real opening here for the Lib Dems, but they don't have the guts to take it.

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Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

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