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Is Miliband’s “vision” out of step

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David MilibandDo we want an expanded Europe?

The dead tree press are having a field day picking and unravelling South Shields MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s speech to the College of Bruges, the place where twenty years ago Margaret Thatcher declared that we don’t want “some sort of identikit European personality”. His argument that expanded influence of Europe into areas like Africa, the Middle East and Russia would lead to greater stability is wobbly and subject to a considerable amount of risk. We cannot discount the fact that European peace has been bolstered by the EU since it’s inception, and that trading partners on the whole are likely to be friends and allies, but the current constitutional arguments in Europe demonstrate a tension that is felt beyond the offices of commissioners and reflected in public opinion in a number of member states.

Talking of greater cooperation and creating a new model role for Europe, as well as talking up it’s defensive capabilities is all rather quite naive, and will only play into the hands of the federalists who wish to build their greater European empire without the consent of European people! This “vision” is clearly out of step with the current vein of opinion within the UK, also fails to gain the approval of the Prime Minister, who intervened to virtually rewrite passages of Miliband’s speech in order not to offend our biggest ally the US.

My guess is that the majority of Britons would not care to see our armed forces operating under the command of some European CiC, and that future Prime Ministers and Chiefs of Staff would prefer to have the freedom and flexibility to decide their own strategies and tactics. Moreover, talking up Europe’s military capabilities is only likely to weaken the stance of NATO, an alliance which has conspicuously carried out out it’s remit with some success since the second World War. Europe’s response to the crisis in the Balkans was particularly weak and vapid as is it’s contribution in Darfur, and Afghanistan or Iraq, it suffers from a very poor track record in military or peace keeping roles which some regard as disdainful to our American allies who assisted during Europe’s darkest moments.

The expansion argument is of course full of risk, however we can have no disagreement over expanding our markets within the framework of free enterprise and trade, but this need not necessarily require the membership of African, Asian, or former USSR blocs. We are quite capable of building these trading relationships without expanding the EU, it’s bureaucracy, and it’s pervading regulation. Such moves would be grist to the mill for people like Valerie Giscard D’estaing, who continues to press for further integration and the building of a European superstate encompassed by it’s new Constitution Reform Treaty.

An article in The Times quite brutally exposes Miliband’s lack of influence and “clout” over sections of his brief, and indeed the Prime Minister:

“He has a rather silly blog that is more about burnishing his image than true democratic outreach. There are regular turns on YouTube, even if the audience secured is minuscule. Only on Wednesday, he, along with the foreign ministers of the Maldives and Malta, conducted what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office news department hailed as an “historic joint virtual press conference through Second Life to draw the world’s attention to the devastating impact of climate change” (a pity that the FCO news release misspelt him as Mr Milliband). And he has two astute media advisers, perhaps inevitably dubbed Trinny and Susannah. But to the brutal, anyone on Second Life needs to get a life.

The Foreign Secretary’s significance today depends on the degree to which he and his department shape policy in Afghanistan, and influence an innovative debate over the future of Iraq. Mr Miliband must also take on the Department for International Development, which behaves as if it were a left-wing NGO, not an agent of British foreign policy. He should assume more of the lead on Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, not risk being seen as merely a middleman between Gordon Brown and Lord Malloch-Brown (to be dubbed “Mr Malloch-Miliband” would be fatal).

Being nice and bright and cheery is not enough in politics. Whether Mr Miliband can acquire pre-modern attributes – necessarily assertive and sometimes confrontational in Whitehall and in his dealing with other foreign ministers – will determine whether anything that he says or does in this post will endure.”

Perhaps he should concentrate on the more simple messages of economic cooperation, democratic values, engagement of the people, and engaging Prime Minister Brown in an effort to return to the promise included in Labour’s last manifesto which would allow us to decide on the visions of a greater Europe. He needs to align his “vision” with that of the nation which he has been charged to represent.

The issue of a referendum on the proposed constitution Reform Treaty is far more uppermost in the minds of British people than the possibilities of Europe’s sphere of influence extending way beyond our imagination.

And finally, Quentin Letts reporting on The Speccie’s awards lunch:

“There was no sign of Mr Miliband’s brother David, but Bob Marshall-Andrews (Lab, Medway), wandered up to me afterwards to discuss the Foreign Secretary’s failings.

Mr Marshall-Andrews was not impressed by our young Lochinvar. Noting Mr Miliband’s gauche progress round the world’s capitals, he called him “this pillock on his gap year”.”Can I quote you on that, guvnor?” I enquired. “I insist you do so!” roared Marshall-Andrews MP, QC, VSOP. He was, let me add, perfectly sober at the time.”

A bit harsh coming from your own side I would say!


Written by curly

November 16, 2007 at 10:20 am

One Response

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  1. […] or ‘Innie’? The EU belly button Open Europe Blog: Miliband at Bruges Curly’s Corner Shop: Is Miliband’s “vision” out of step The Midnight Sun (oddly seeming to think that David Miliband is somehow an EU spokesman): E.U.: […]

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