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IF the politicians are to be believed, Europe is the defining issue of these times and pivotal to Britain’s future prospects.

IF the politicians are to be believed, Europe is the defining issue of these times and pivotal to Britain’s future prospects.

Such a mindset is reflected by polarised views that range from Nick Clegg’s enthusiastic endorsement of the EU, a consistent view that the Lib Dem leader reiterated yesterday, to Nigel Farage’s demand for Britain to leave Brussels immediately and David Cameron’s wish to see the current relationship redefined before a new deal is submitted to a referendum vote.

Given these differences, next month’s European elections offer an opportunity for the major parties to engage with the public in a civilised manner about the EU and whether or not it is a force for good.

If only this was the case. So far, the campaign has been characterised by the main protagonists using increasingly extreme language in order to trade insults and soundbites scripted with only the TV news bulletins in mind.

There appears to have been very little of the traditional electioneering that should see candidates debate with voters at hustings or on the doorsteps. Because of this unwillingness to engage in a genuine dialogue, there is every possibility that the turnout next month will be even lower than the derisory 34.7 per cent recorded five years ago and the result will struggle to pass the test of electoral credibility.

It is not helped by the main parties preparing their excuses before polling day – Mr Cameron continues to describe Ukip as a “protest party” while Mr Clegg will blame coalition politics for any squeeze of the Lib Dem vote.

These would not be necessary if they, and Ed Miliband’s under-performing Labour Party for that matter, had the courage of their convictions and started debating the great issues of the day – Europe included – in a civilised way.

For, unless they break free from the counter-productive negative campaigning which has been imported from America, apathy and indifference will prevail in a country that was once home to great political orators ranging from Winston Churchill to Enoch Powell and Yorkshire’s very own Harold Wilson.

In very safe hands

Duke and Duchess wow Australia

BY ALL accounts, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of Australia has been a resounding success thanks to their informality – and the presence of Prince George.

There were, inevitably, the awkward comparisons with past royal tours – the couple’s posed photo in the shadow of Ayers Rock did evoke memories of the strained 1983 trip by the Prince and Princess of Wales a year after Prince William was born.

Yet perhaps the more pertinent comparison is with the 1954 visit when the Queen became the first reigning monarch of Australia to set foot on the vast continent when the SS Gothic docked at Sydney Harbour.

This two-month trip – characterised by its formality – set the tone for Her Majesty’s reign and forged Australia’s place in the Commonwealth, a relationship that has survived various challenges from republican diehards.

Yet, while the first decades of the 21st century are very different to the period of post-war austerity, the relaxed style of the Duke and Duchess have shown that the future of the Royal family is in safe hands. And, to anyone who is still uneasy about the virtues of a constitutional monarchy, a two-word answer will suffice – President Blair. After all, that’s the alternative.

An open invitation

The church raising a glass to all

THREE cheers to Hull’s Holy Trinity Church for its enlightened decision to host the city’s three-day real ale and cider festival. This is the type of open invitation that the Church of England needs to be issuing if it is to avoid “last orders” being called on its work in those communities where congregations have dwindled in recent times.

For, as the former Cabinet Minister John Redwood observes on the opposite page, there is now a belief that “some Church leaders seem to have become the religious wing of Labour’s campaign for higher welfare payments”.

As such, there will be many who contend that the CoE should be going out of its way to open its doors to people from all sections of society and providing the type of guidance – whether it be spiritual or self–help – that will benefit parishioners. And that mission can only be aided by recognising that churches should not only be places of worship, but the focal point of communities across Yorkshire.