Here's a paradox for you: The more rightwing that some rightwingers get, the more like a bunch of lefties they behave.
Thus, once upon a time, it was only leftwingers who were hung-up about tests of ideological purity. But, these days, one only has to declare one’s belief in the reality of climate change, for example, to be condemned as a lickspittle of the New World Order.
Once upon a time, it was only lefties who split off from mainstream parties to form ideologically pure minor parties (and then split again to form even purer micro parties). But, these days, the People’s-Front-of-Judea-action is mostly on the right – what with UKIP, the English Democrats, the Libertarian Party and the rest.
Once upon a time, it was only lefties who demanded immediate revolution. But, these days, it’s: ‘What-do-we-want? An in/out referendum! When-do-we-want-it? NOW!’
An in/out referendum would be great, of course, but timing is everything. If it were to be declared now it would rise to the top of the political agenda – an order of priorities which, in our current economic circumstances, most voters, (though Eurosceptic themselves) would find perverse.
Patience, however, is not the same thing as inaction and, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out for the Telegraph blogs, the Government has not been inactive:
- “For those readers who missed it, the UK is preparing to pull out of almost all areas of "Justice and Home Affairs", the so-called Pillar III of EU jurisdiction. (Pillar I is the single market, and Pillar II is foreign affairs)
- “This is revolutionary. We are withdrawing from 130 directives, covering everything from the European Arrest Warrant, the European Public Prosecutor, to the European justice department (Eurojust).
- “…we did so on the grounds that the UK's Common Law foundation requires special treatment, but nobody really thought at the time that we would use the opt-out. It was a sop to placate people like us at the Daily Telegraph until the Lisbon storm had passed.”
Evans-Pritchard sees this as part of a much wider process of British disengagement from an EU that is slouching towards a superstate:
- “It is now clear that Britain's decision to stay out of the euro at Maastricht was a de facto decision to leave the EU as well… It has a taken two decades but we can almost all see now that a free and self-governing Britain can no longer be part of the Project.
- “This is the backdrop to William Hague's speech this morning, his cri de coeur, his warning that anger over EU encroachment has reached boiling point. ‘A great machine that sucks up decision-making from national parliaments to the European level until everything is decided by the EU. That needs to change. If we cannot show that decision-making can flow back to national parliaments then the system will become democratically unsustainable.’
- “Obviously, nothing is about to flow back. The EU is going headlong in the opposite direction. What Mr Hague is really doing is preparing the ground for withdrawal.”
Of course, one can hardly accuse the government of plotting a straight course on matters European, let alone of travelling along that course at top speed. Instead, there are twists and turns, fits and starts – as one might expect given the uncharted territory ahead.
But unlike Edward Heath who took us into the EEC, unlike Margaret Thatcher who took us into the ERM, unlike John Major who took us into Maastricht, there can be no doubt that the general direction of travel under David Cameron is away from Europe, not towards it.