The Guardian is a left-wing paper, so the author of this column may also be a collectivist, but he gets credit for being honest about the European Union’s shortcomings. Even more important, he has several very clever lines – such as “post-democratic statism” and “greatest boondoggle of the late 20th century.” His column is designed to promote Gordon Brown for the job of EU President, but read it for the scathing rhetoric:
He is clearly unhappy with the rough and tumble of democratic politics, with the daily grind of public appearances, glad-handing and schmoozing. But these are not required in Brussels, where nobody is elected to anything and such populism as smiling at cameras and holding referendums are anathema. Brown, dark-suited and anonymous, is a natural oligarch, his governing style attuned to the post-democratic statism of 21st-century Europe. …If a Brown presidency were a success it would be a triumph for Europe. It might help rescue the meretricious gravy train that is today’s EU hierarchy, perhaps even setting it on a path to usefulness. If Brown failed, nothing would be lost, since everyone knows it is not a proper job anyway. Since it was invented by the greatest boondoggle of the late 20th century, the Lisbon treaty, it has been a title looking for a purpose – which is why Tony Blair so wants it. …An inability to think laterally has long been the curse of the European movement. A sign of its intellectual insecurity is that it cannot handle scepticism, treating any but the most craven sycophant as an enemy. At the Nice summit that followed the corruption scandals of 1998-9, the EU’s spin doctors declared that in future “decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen”. They lied, and knew it. So did the public. Since 2005, few have dared ask Europe’s citizens if they agreed with the Lisbon constitution, and those that did received bloody noses. The reneging of Labour and the Liberal Democrats on 2005 election commitments to a referendum showed the power of Europe’s oligarchs to outflank democratic accountability. It is near impossible to ascertain what any European citizen expects or wants from what is to be an extraordinary sovereign power placed over them. Nothing in recent constitutional history has been more cynical – or more dangerous – than the fact that referendums voting yes to euro-integration are accepted and those that vote no are rejected. …The tragedy of Lisbon is that it is a rotten treaty, slithering from the disciplines needed for freer trade to the phoney utopia of a level socioeconomic playing field across the continent. This will not work. It will propel the EU into constant friction with national parliaments, and stir public anger at being denied a vote on the new constitution.