Power is one of the oddest concepts there is. Although abstract, it can bring about the most appalling physical changes. One can render it physical by writing down its exact nature; yet someone with more power can still tear that up by using abstract power.
But the oddest thing of all about power is that the plural is somehow worth less than the singular.
You never hear of anyone being ‘in powers': it’s only ever worth being in power.
This is especially true of the European Union. In that fine institution, a Member State can have as many powers as it wants: if the EU retains the power to remove those powers, it can. Thus did the Conservative Party live up to its name when it chose to safeguard existing UK powers. The pledge was – as we’re beginning to see – very conservative indeed.
To explain briefly: as the Cleggeroons understand perfectly well, power has been transferred to Brussels already. Such power allows for the transfer of further power without there being any need to ask us for any more powers. In fact, even with no further powers being transferred, more power will be transferred via the power already transferred. If you follow.
David Cameron’s bum had barely warmed up the top Number Ten Cabinet seat when he began wriggling on the powers issue. There was yet more Baldwinesque “well, let’s wait and see first” when Geli Merkel suddenly decided the unchangeable Lisbon Treaty could be changed after all, primarily because it wasn’t working for Germany.
Ah said Dave, but you see we can change Lisbon without transferring any more powers to Brussels. The Prime Minister made this point with such a Simple Simon expression of triumph on his face, it made me want to shake him very hard. What we’d like, Mr Cameron, is the power back – in order to stop the clowns snatching still more powers in the future.
Faith may be able to move mountains, but power can render the mountains irrelevant. A big factor in this reality is that the singularly powerful always have access to big money. Indeed, a major problem with the ‘no more transferred powers’ pledge is that the word ‘money’ is missing from it. I somehow suspect that (insomuch as they care either way) most Brits would rather stand firm on the UK to EU cashflow than anything else.
Earlier in the week, this was picked up, examined and then thrown away by The Economist, another once-excellent magazine that in recent years has fallen prey to the sort of insouciant barbarians who used to write Anglican Parish Magazines.
Noting that Britain is not contributing to the €440 billion eurozone bailout, the Big E sighed that ‘this abstention will be wearily tolerated on the continent’. How splendid of our European friends to do so. How tired of us they must be. How unutterably dense of the writer to imagine that, having taken the correct decision not to join EuroNoddy, we would now be raring to head the corpse-revival team. The Economist probably hasn’t noticed yet – along with almost everyone else – that we just coughed up 150% of the ‘savings’ made by Osborne & Laws for the EU’s ‘balancing fund’.
The ultimate power over one’s destiny is called, in English, sovereignty. In the Commons this week, William Hague told Members that, much as it pained him to say so, “mistakes have been made in Europe” and he wished to reiterate the Coalition’s clear policy of “no further transfer of sovereignty or powers”. Hague is a bright bloke, and thus I have to suspect that he knows sovereignty is like pregnancy: it’s not something one can have more or less of. It is a condition you either enjoy, or you don’t.
For this reason alone, the Tory promise on Europe is empty. But that said, the thing missing from their pledge – the cash – is the very thing that ensures any power will be truly sovereign power. Our own Parliamentary history proves this: from 1215 onwards, transferring such fiscal power from the Monarch to the Legislature was always the goal. Once that happened, the Kings and Queens could no longer raise either armies or taxes without Parliament’s consent.
In 2010 Europe, the type and amount of money in play has become the only game in town.
Those like me who suspect the EU of being anti-democratic and illiberal in its desire to hide corrupt incompetence have had our fears redoubled by the eurozone’s current mess. For the desired outcome from the currency crisis in Frankfurt and Brussels has been made clear: total control of all the money.
This is being dubbed ‘presentation of fiscal plans’, ‘improved fiscal surveillance monitoring’ and so forth. But any political historian can see this for what it is: a final bid for Sovereign power.
We are passing in these few short years from one period of history to another, and it is this passage that makes the present so fascinating. But if we don’t want to lose control over our national and personal destinies, then fascination must be set aside in favour of strong resolve.
The big players in the EU know this. The French won’t give up control over their monies – and the Dutch (about to swing conservative) won’t either. The same is true of the Bundestag…whatever Merkel says.
Money, as they say, is power. Lose control of that, and it’s Game Over. The UK Coalition Government is wobbly on this issue, but I thank God that the Tory Party is in the Coalition we have. For the Conservatives alone have the focus to ensure that – come what may – our currency is our own currency…..and our money must remain our own money.
The Tory Party isn’t David Cameron, but David Cameron must be steadfastly Conservative on this issue. My forming opinion is that this split – between Tory focus on fiscal power and LibDem acceptance of EU profligacy – is what will break the Coalition. That would be a shame; but it would also be a catalyst for the sort of Election we – and all the other peoples of Europe – badly need. Such might yet prove to be the saviour of liberal democracy.