Saturday, June 14, 2008

Whom the Gods wish to destroy ...

There is an ancient saying, "Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad."

I think this applies to the reported attitude of Gordon Brown in proceeding with ratification of the Lisbon treaty after the Irish people voted against it in Thursday's referendum.

That section of the British electorate which is interested in Europe and either sceptical in the proper sense of the word or downright hostile to Europe was incensed over the broken promise from Labour and the LibDems to support a referendum on the European constitution. They noted that everyone except the British government, including all the other EU governments and some of Labour's own backbenchers, regarded the Lisbon Treaty as 95% the same as the defeated constitution on which all parties had promised us a referendum.

The Irish vote against Lisbon gave both Labour and the LibDems an opportunity to reconnect with those voters by demonstrating that they can listen. Brown apparently is not going to take it. According to this morning’s news he is pressing ahead with ratification in the UK, even though the treaty cannot come into effect without all member states agreeing it, and Irish voters have turned it down.

This is exactly the sort of tactic, ignoring the votes of ordinary citizens, which so annoys that part of the electorate which cares about Europe.

It's not the wish to update how Europe works to meet the new challenges of the 20th century which annoys me, it's the ingrained habit of treating the electorates of Europe with contempt. And when the general election comes, the electorate of Britain will have the chance to return the favour.

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