The four reasons why Clegg lost:

1) The up hill battle for pro-Europeans

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The pro-‘in’ case has been on the ropes for a while. A toxic mix of a Labour party whose own intervention has been poor and lazy coupled with some genuine concern with current shape of the EU have put pro-Europeans on the ropes. It needed a new figurehead who was respected enough to carry the torch. (ironic drum roll). Enter Nick Clegg

2) No one likes ‘Cleggy no mates’

Since the Liberals’ turncoat act in 2010 that made a mockery of general election manifestos, Nick Clegg has, politically speaking, been radioactive. In the same way that the Better together campaign in Scotland could do without Tories – hated north of the Border – staying off the telly, pro-Europeans should be screaming for the LibDem leader to do the same. The EU has a bad enough press in the country without the country’s most unpopular politician shooting more holes beneath the water line of the pro-European case.

3) UKIP are the new protest vote

With the Liberals now as popular as the ebola virus, voters post-2010 needed a new protest option for by-elections and the like. It’s been obvious who’s been filling that void and who will do this at the European parliament elections and who will likely do this a year from now.

4) Clegg started delivering as many euro-porkies as Farage

So Nick Clegg has a difficult hand. No one likes him, the EU is not too popular either and voters are increasingly enamoured with Nigel Farage and UKIP.  Even when Farage resorts, as he does, to talking euro-trash it unfortunately doesn’t matter to a lot of voters who agree with him anyway. He can get away with it. If a pro-European of any sort is to indulge in outlandish conjecture and Euro-fibs of their own, they will look – perhaps unfairly – worse. Clegg did this a number of times last night. The fact that Farage was correct in accusing Clegg of “willfully lying” when the latter claimed “only 7% of our laws come form the EU” was a painful moment for anyone who loathes Farage. This claim of Clegg’s was an absurd falsehood. Another Clegg claim that the UK, or any, Parliament is in position to veto trade deals reached by the EU was similarly – factually, legally – false.  Of course Farage delivered a few of his own, including the ludicrous claim that EU free movement had created a “white underclass” in this country. A ‘rivers of blood’ moment if ever there was one. But he, sadly, is more likely to get away with it. He needed to be taken on with facts, reality; he got shrill, like-for-like euro-porkies instead.

The one mallet pro-European’s have to whack reactionaries like Farage with is that the exaggeration and fabrication makes of eurosceptics makes their argument baseless and one clearly driven by xenophobia. If Pro-European’s start indulging in lies and rubbish too the standard of debate on this subject will get worse (if that were possible) and, more importantly, pro-Europeans will lose.

Clegg clearly fancies himself as a great statesman who can sell anything, but people have made their mind up about him. Let’s hope his poor performances in these debates doesn’t sink the pro-European ship down with his. He certainly hasn’t helped its cause. His is already lost.

#europedebate

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good analysis Andy. As someone who has defended the EU for some time I think it is time for some realism vis-à-vis the whole Euro project. As it was first conceived it was supposed to be a third way in global politics, a bit like the old Yugoslavia, elevated to a regional level. What was envisioned by De Gaulle was an independent bloc of nations, non-aligned and standing as an alternative to Russian communism and American capitalism (imperialism), Moreover there was also the Delors’ vision of a social Europe and a more benign type of capitalism – a social market economy rather than the wild west neoliberalism of the Anglo-American world.

    Unfortunately this model is totally unrecognisable in the present EU. The present EU has about as much relationship to the original paradigm as Blair’s Labour has to Attlee’s Labour. The economics are neo-liberal, and who better to personify this than ex-Goldman Sachs luminary, Mario Draghi, boss at the ECB. As far as foreign policy goes this is even worse. The EU’s military arm, NATO, is little more than the spearhead for the crazy neo-con adventurists in the US state department. Traditional UK Atlanticism is now the norm in the EU. As Samir Amin has written:

    ” … it is not only Great Britain which is Atlanticist. The continental European states are no less so, despite their ostensible intention to construct a political Europe. Proof is given by the position of NATO in this construction in this political construction.”

    The game-changer for me has been the Ukrainian episode. This engineered coup by the EUSA establishment is nothing new. The eastward enlargement of the American empire is all part and parcel of the neo-con strategy which was set out in founding document. Project for a New American Century, after the collapse of communism. And the EU have become the spear-carriers for this project.

    What is left worth defending one wonders. Okay so it is unlikely that the UK (Astrip 1) will become any less Atlanticist than it is at present, if it votes to leave the EU, and the same goes a fortiori for other vassal states in Eastern Europe, principally Poland (Airstrip 2) Hungary, the Baltic States and the Czech republic.

    Unfortunately, however, the whole project has been hi-jacked by the military-industrial/political-financial power elite, and, as Keynes once said, ‘When the facts change, I change, what do you do sir?’

  2. I’m heartened sir by your realism. The problem I find Frank is between those on the labour side that either a) retrench into an 1990s account of European integration whereby we’re meant to love the EU, or b) an over reaction to the EU’s post-2000 neo-liberal turn that demands we leave. I think positioning ourselves somewhere in the middle isn’t a bad place to be running up to a referendum; meaning that we are prepared to be as critical as we need to be of EU in its current guise but back this with firm proposals to reform it. Alliances with the left in other EU member states is essential to any of them working. I’d be interested to see what you think of this. Maybe surprise they I’m not a withdrawalist after all.

    But we intellectual honesty, so can we get Cleggy no mates off the telly?

    Go to Frank’s peices on the Ukraine folks: http://wp.me/p4kxhD-ub and http://wp.me/p4kxhD-vC

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