By Roger Scruton
Anthony O’Hear has already commented on Ed Miliband’s appropriation of the ‘one nation’ idea, in order to make a bid for the patriotic vote. Just when this particular disciple of Eric Hobsbawm decided to abandon the internationalist cause is not entirely clear. But one thing is certain, the Tory Party will be very much to blame if it fails to impress on the electorate that it is the party of the nation. Conservatives are heir to a tradition that puts national sovereignty at the centre of politics, and which identifies the nation as the unifying object of our loyalties. The causes espoused by the Labour Party are not, as a rule, national causes. The attitude of the Party in domestic affairs has been deliberately divisive, setting class against class, making war on institutions that represent ‘privilege’ (which often signifies nothing more than merit), and gratuitously pouring scorn on family values and old fashioned respectability. In the matter of Europe it has been normal for Labour politicians to sneer at the ‘Little Englanders’ who question the way things are going (the disgraced Denis MacShane, once Minister of State for Europe, was particularly given to this habit). And when it comes to the Union, it is very clear that the Labour Party wants to have it both ways – to break it up, and at the same time to retain the Celtic vote in Westminster in order to oppress the English.
The test case for the Tory Party is of course Europe. The European organism has developed according to the principles programmed into it by Jean Monnet, and concealed within the Treaties. It has grown to such an extent that its obligatory inheritance of laws and regulations – the acquis communautaire – now runs to 180,000 pages. For the thirteenth year in succession auditors have refused to sign off its accounts. It has a President from a country that hardly has a government, half of whose people are itching to have a nation state of their own. It has a foreign minister who has never stood for an election and who rose through the ranks of leftist NGOs and quangos to become the Labour Party’s representative (but not the representative of you or me) on the international stage. It awakens no loyalty in the ordinary people of Europe, who must constantly be prevented from voting on its legitimacy. And in every matter in which it depends on popular support it leans on the national sentiments that its officially propaganda covers with suspicion. In a way there is no greater proof of the need for the nation than the EU, which tells us that it, and it alone, brings peace to the nations of Europe, and in doing so surreptitiously reminds us of the thing to which our communal and political life is really owed.
Europe is, and will forever be, a continent of nation states. Its people have passed their own laws, and rejected the attempts by Popes, Emperors and internationalists to dictate those laws from outside their borders. Those are the premises from which a coherent European politics must flow. Now that the grey apparatchiks who destroyed Margaret Thatcher have drifted away, it is surely time for the Tory Party to repossess itself of those premises, and to ask itself what the national interest requires.