Plagiarism is important in politics (as is also alliteration!). Many of my best ideas come from other people. And a fair number of those come from my good friend and colleague Dan Hannan MEP (South East). Dan recently wrote a blog piece drawing a parallel between the Prague Spring of 1968, and the current ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. In Prague, we saw the Communist system forcing through its will in the teeth of opposition from the people. We saw it riding rough-shod over the legitimate opinions and aspirations of citizens. That was when the USSR lost the last pretence of democratic legitimacy.
In the case of the Lisbon Treaty, we see the EU forcing through its plans in the teeth of NO votes in France and Holland, and against strong public opposition in Britain and other countries. We see the lies and cynicism and hypocrisy used to deny promised referenda. Again, we see the system defying the public will. We see the EU exposed, not just as undemocratic, but as deliberately anti-democratic. The EU does not yet have tanks on the street, thank heaven, but the parallels are too close for comfort.
By undermining the legitimacy of Communism, the Prague Spring led on inexorably to the fall of Communism. Dan hopes, and I hope, that the European Union may follow that precedent, and that the Lisbon débâcle may lead on to the re-establishment of democracy, liberty, independence and self-determination in our country, and indeed in the other 26 member-states.
So when I saw a circular on the parliament e-mail system advertising a debate: “The Treaty of Lisbon: Chance or Failure?”, I could not resist sending an all-points reply (yes, I admit it — spamming again!) saying “The Lisbon Treaty is the EU’s very own Prague Spring — the day it lost its last pretence of democratic legitimacy”.
As usual, Bill Turncoat Dunn MEP (Lib-Dem, East Midlands) could not resist the temptation to reply. He is so wonderfully predictable. For those not familiar with Bill, he was elected as a Conservative in 1999, as #2 on my own list, having gravely mis-represented his stance on the EU at his selection meeting. But he soon found the Conservative delegation insufficiently Europhile for his taste, so after a year or so he defected to the Lib-Dems. Since then, he has missed no opportunity to snipe at Conservatives generally, and at myself in particular.
To resume the story: Bill replied: “Except, Roger, that the Prague Spring led to the collapse of communism and to full Democracy”.
It seemed almost an act of wanton cruelty to put the boot in, but I can never resist an open goal. I replied: “Precisely, Bill, precisely. That was exactly my point”.
Bill was elected as the sole East Midlands Lib-Dem in 2004, taking the sixth place on a list of six. But next year in 2009 there will be only five East Midlands MEPs, so other things being equal, Bill would lose his seat. Of course other things never are equal, but with Bill well-known as a sell-out Europhile, and the Lib-Dems’ European policy in hopeless disarray, they can hardly do better than last time. As Shakespeare put it, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
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