Bill Carmichael: Meet the new Eurosceptics – on the Left

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WATCHING the left-wingers and the Euro-federalists tear each other apart over the latest doomed bailout deal for Greece, it is tempting to buy a big bag of popcorn, sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

After more than 25 years of fanatical pro-Europe zealotry, leftwingers have suddenly discovered that the EU is not the cuddly, pro-socialist, union-friendly institution they imagined, but is in fact a nasty, bullying, anti-democratic cabal.

The appalling vindictiveness that has characterised the EU’s treatment of Greece, and the deliberate impoverishment of that country because its people dared to challenge EU dictats, has opened a few eyes among the pro-Europe brigade in the UK, and prominent left-wingers are now lining up to announce they will campaign for an “out” vote in the coming referendum.

Well, welcome aboard folks, but where have you been for the last two decades? Did you not notice that the Common Agricultural Policy is deliberately designed to further enrich wealthy French landowners at the expense of poverty-stricken farmers in the Third World? Where was your much-vaunted international solidarity then?

Why did you remain silent when the results of popular votes in Denmark, Ireland, France and the Netherlands opposing the European Project of greater integration, were simply swept aside by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?

And why no protests when the EU engineered coup d’etats to overthrow democratically-elected governments in Italy and Greece in 2011?

Still, better late than never – or as the Bible has it, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over 99 just persons that need no repentence.

Traditionally, of course, Labour was the Eurosceptic party, with figures such as Peter Shore and Tony Benn lining up in the anti camp. Even former leader Neil Kinnock was against the EU until Brussels stuffed his mouth with so much gold that eventually he changed his mind.

It was only in 1988, after three bruising general election defeats at the hands of Margaret Thatcher, that Labour and the left dramatically changed tack on the EU.

In that year the then European Commission president Jacques Delors gave a famous speech to the TUC conference promising the EU could regulate working hours and improve employee benefits. The comrades suddenly decided the EU was a good thing after all.

At the same time Margaret Thatcher was pushing the Conservatives – up to then very much the pro-Europe party – in a much more sceptical direction. So in effect the two parties switched sides.

Since then, left-wingers have derided anyone who offered even the mildest criticism of the EU as bigots, racists and Little Englanders and they have turned a blind eye to waste and corruption.

Now with the Greek tragedy – which I suspect is far from finished – that might all be about to change. As in 1988 the tectonic plates of politics are shifting again, and left-wingers are abandoning the EU in droves. For the first time in a quarter of a century we could see a coherent anti-EU campaign on the left.

Which all means the coming referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will be very interesting indeed.

Apocalypse now?

Crowds in Tehran were dancing in the streets this week – presumably taking a break from chanting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’.

Who can blame them, because Iran has got pretty much everything it wanted from the negotiations with the P5+1 group – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The sanctions and oil embargo that has severely hit the Iranian economy will be lifted and Iran’s nuclear programme remains intact. It is a win win for the mullahs.

Nothing was said about Iran’s appalling human rights record or its promotion of terrorism around the world through its proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas.

Instead we are expected to trust Iran to stick to the deal.

And far from making the world a safer place, as US President Barack Obama claims, the deal will spark an arms race in the region with Saudi Arabia sure to want to develop its own nuclear bomb to counter its great rival in the region.

We’ve taken one step closer to a Sunni vs Shia nuclear Armageddon – that’s if the Iranians don’t try to “wipe Israel off the map” first.