This Europe Thing by Derek Wyatt
I am a proud patriot of the United Kingdom. I recognise that Scotland has a right to self determination but if the vote in September is successful a desire for the English to follow suit will be inevitable which would not be good for either the Welsh or the Irish (both North and South). I hope the Scots will stay with us though the No Campaign has been appallingly led. Frankly, it is not about standards of living or tax increases. Voting for independence is a heart not a mind issue.
I have never fought in a war. My grandfather fought in both world wars and my father signed up to fight the evils of Nazism whilst my mother joined the WRVS for six years. Out of this courageous stand by this great country came a desire to see peace in Europe forever. This has been achieved in two ways - by NATO and by the EU. The values that my family stood for have seen their children and grandchildren live peacefully, with less prejudice, whilst simultaneously enjoying a free health service - still the envy of the world - and a standard of living simply unrecognisable from when they were children.
NATO looks a busted flush witness Afghanistan, Georgia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and now Ukraine. The USA has reluctantly conceded that this is China's century and is fearful of stoking a new cold war with Russia. Time therefore for the EU to have its own version of NATO. We need to become more independent of America. We need a new special relationship with mainland Europe. Sadly until our own Foreign Office grasps this and stops its unfettered love affair with our friends across the pond, we cannot move on as a nation.
The EU has grown too quickly without proper democratic controls. It has a vast bureaucracy which needs to be savagely pruned. Its budget should have to fall by 10% every year for the next decade. Its MEPs are faceless (go on name three)and powerless.
It is simply wrong to elect MEPs to another external institution without them being accountable to their own parliaments. David Cameron is right to want EU reforms and right to offer a referendum if he is unsuccessful. He might have done this sooner in his first term but, at least, he has offered it. The Labour party should side with the Prime Minister.
The Blair/Brown axis was too wedded to the European ideal. The EU needs restructuring from the bottom up but there are no European politicians prepared to give it real leadership. Into this vacuum has come UKIP, a party without power anywhere in the UK, but which is now our biggest political party in Brussels.
UKIP may well be the UK version of the Tea Party in America but my sense is it is more than that. Its only voice - Nigel Farage (such an English sounding name) - has dominated the airwaves for the past three months. Indeed, by the time you read this, it may have its first MP (the Newark by-election was held on 5th June just after we went to press). Its main policy has been to reclaim the UK from Johnny Foreigner but more are promised.
Our nation has no hard power left. As our armed services have been cut to the bone it is unlikely we would be able to save any of our dependencies, like the Falklands, as we did 32 years ago. Withdrawing from Europe would lead inevitably to us losing our veto power at the United Nations. We would become a small back water nation with no levers on the world stage.
In London, the leading city in the world, these things are part of the chattering classes concerns. And as the local May elections displayed, London thinks differently from the rest of the UK. The London bubble, where our politicians live their lives, has become more isolated from the people it represents.
The challenge between now and the next General Election in eleven months time is for a party to emerge which will offer a new constitutional arrangement for us in Europe and another in the UK. No "ifs" no "buts" but a new digital political landscape not the same old, same old, analogue mantra.