As Churchill put it, “Democracy is the worst form of government we know — apart from all the others”. But that message doesn’t seem to have got through to the EU.
A year or two ago, the parliament organised a couple of “Agoras”. That’s a pretentious word for a Conference. The topics were European integration, and climate change. I attended both, and was more or less the only dissenter at each.
Of course the EU craves democratic legitimacy, and the European parliament exists primarily to give an impression (the word “fig-leaf” springs to mind) of democratic legitimacy to institutions which are palpably corporatist and technocratic, and fundamentally unaccountable and undemocratic, if not actually anti-democratic. At these Agoras, the idea was openly canvassed that “Representative democracy has failed, so we must move on to a new model of participative democracy”.
This begs two questions. First, why or how has representative democracy failed? And second, what on earth do they mean by “participative democracy”? I wrote about these questions at the time, but as yet another Agora arrives, this time on poverty, they’re worth re-visiting (see photo above)
The EU perceives two key ways in which representative democracy has failed. First, the voters in their ignorance, and with their prejudices, are prepared to elect to the European parliament MEPs who are fundamentally at odds with the whole EU project — MEPs like myself, or Dan Hannan, or Nigel Farage. Secondly, on most (not quite all) occasions when the public are invited in referenda to vote on EU questions, they give the wrong answer. So they have to vote again, or they are presented with the same proposition in a different wrapper (the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty), and told they can’t have a referendum the second time. The EU simply can’t work if the public are allowed a say, so clearly we have to get away from representative democracy.
And “participative democracy”? Why, that means consulting with civil society. And what’s civil society? I remember at one of these events, causing outrage by saying that I did not know what civil society was. “I know who the people are”, quoth I, “they vote for me, and I represent them. But I don’t know what you mean by civil society”. But now I do, and it’s simple. They mean NGOs.
The EU assembles the leaders of NGOs and quangoes, and consults with them. And the scandal is that for the most part, the EU funds them as well. In a very real sense, they’re simply paying people to tell them what they want to hear.
And what right do the leaders of these NGOs have to claim to be representative, or claim to have democratic legitimacy? OK, maybe the RSPB has two million members, but they’re mostly kindly folk who want to protect birds, and may have no interest in ruining the economy or threatening Europe’s energy security with the extreme green measures that the EU and the NGOs discuss. People who find their way to leadership positions in these organisations are frequently single-issue zealots with no claim to any kind of broad mandate.
The other point is this: these people tend to be very comfortable indeed with the corporatist ethos of the EU, which results in a very agreeable and cosy dialogue. No wonder EU apparatchiks like to deal with these folk, rather than the great unwashed public. I can’t help recalling that a similar model of pseudo-democratic governance was attempted in Italy in the 1930s. It was called fascism, and its chief exponent was Mussolini.
These were amongst the issues I covered in my address to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council in KL on Jan 25th (see my account below). That is an industry being damaged by a lazy consensus reached between the EU Commission and green NGOs, a consensus which excludes challenging alternative positions.
Dan Hannan says that the EU is making us poorer, and less democratic, and less free. Of course he’s right, and this move to post-democratic governance illustrates the process.
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The number of people who still believe in the value of the EU, is overwhelmingly on the decline. Never, has the EU demonstrated any genuine measures to respond to the requirements of ordinary citizens. Clearly, this is the opposite of true democracy – and just another form of “tokenism”. “Participative democracy” is not a satisfactory alternative. Our country must start taking measures to leave the EU, before it is too late.
What do our UK politicians see in the EU-is it, ultimately, a chance to sit at a “top table,” enjoying, free, fine wines and cigars?
Do they deceive themselves, and us, that WW 3 in Europe is made impossible?
What would really happen if UK withdrew, unilaterally? Need there be a net cost?
Should we be updating nickname for 5 Nov. to “Ted Heath Night?”
I think the answer is that for those at the top table, it is easier to make decisions in Brussels than to face the scrutiny of the House of Commons; it flatters their egos that they are deciding for 500 million not 60 million; and indeed they are seduced by the respect of continental colleagues (and the fine wines). So people like William Hague, whom I would have trusted through thick and thin on Europe, turns out to be as much a europhile as his Labour predecessors.
Whatever excuses or justifications people may mention, our country has been betrayed. Most people (in any society) would not accept that “fine wines” and the “respect of continental colleagues” – could justify EU membership (for the millions of citizens who are forced to belong). Sadly, the preferences of William and his “friends” are allowed to continue (along with this government’s broken commitment regarding an in/out EU referendum). In addition, future generations will probably have to endure even more restrictive EU socialism, aggressive secularism and other related problems (because of this government’s failure).