Michael McGowan: Ireland's turmoil reveals the cracks that may break Cameron's coalition

IT is not only Ireland that is facing political humiliation and turmoil as a result of the EU, IMF, and UK bailout. It is also the UK coalition Government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg itself.

British taxpayers now face a multi-million pound bill to help bail out Ireland, and for the possible nationalisation of Allied Irish Banks, while Prime Minister David Cameron still beats the drum about the importance of Britain's political sovereignty and the virtue of free markets.

The Sheffield constituency of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, where a fifth of the residents are students, is preparing its political revenge following Clegg's U-turn on fees and now knows it will also have to dig deep to help prop up Europe's bankers.

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The double talk of Cameron on Europe, and the deafening silence of Clegg, is not only baffling to their supporters but may well destroy the coalition itself.

The rhetoric of Cameron in condemning all things European, and at the same time calling for an increase in the size of the EU budget and now agreeing to bail out the European bankers, does not add up.

The coalition's "programme for government", published three weeks after the General Election, highlighted the need "to protect taxpayers from financial malpractice". It was quickly cobbled together in an attempt to square the contradictory policies on Europe of the two partners of the coalition.

The Tory manifesto at the General Election stated: "The steady and unaccountable intrusion of the European Union into almost every aspect of our lives has gone too far."

Ireland is in trouble because of the country's property boom and bust. And now the public of Europe, including UK taxpayers, are to bail out the bankers for their bad behaviour and the government policies which have condoned this behaviour.

It is a bit rich to blame all this on the eurozone and the EU – but as always, when there is a problem it is great to have someone to blame.

The Lib Dems claim to want to be at the heart of Europe and have said in their manifesto that they believe membership of the euro is in the long-term interest of the UK.

But what is Clegg doing and saying in this situation? It is no secret that his party used to have different views from the Tories on Europe, asylum seekers, and immigration. Has this changed completely or is it simply that the junior party of the coalition has next to no influence when it really matters? A politician with European credentials, a former MEP who speaks several European languages, besides having a Spanish wife, what has Clegg now to say for himself?

It is hardly surprising that the Lib Dems have slumped in the opinion polls and last week held an emergency "away day" with representatives from the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden to seek advice about preserving the marriage with Cameron and preventing a divorce with the Tories in the coalition. This is the Prime Minister who won the leadership of the Conservative Party on his anti-Europe credentials but is now speaking up for the need for stability in both the EU and even the eurozone.

Is this the same politician who recently spoke out to increase the EU budget by almost three per cent and fought an election on his anti-European platform?

The problem with Europe is that it will not go away and Cameron is having to speak with a forked tongue – as is Clegg – and it is looking a bit thin.

The Tories have been in hot pursuit, shouting from the rooftops their hostility to the euro and claiming the high ground in opposing all things Brussels and all things EU. David Cameron has promised to keep the pound regardless of all circumstances and William Hague has said that a Tory government under Cameron will never join the euro.

When it comes to anything to do with the EU, a deafening and paralysing cloud descends because of the fear of being thought to have loyalties across the English Channel and the reality that Tory back benchers don't want any support for the EU and the euro.

British taxpayers and those facing cuts in benefits and services, besides the loss of their jobs as a result of the failure of the bankers and their supporters in government, are now being required by the coalition to pay for these mistakes. Ministers are now wondering if we should have more European regulation and a stronger set up in dealing with problems in the eurozone.

That we are inter-dependent is a reality and a fact of life and pandering to the little Englanders and those who want to take a "tough on foreigners" stance is not living in the real world.

The reality is that Europe will not go away, the double talk must not continue, and the public should not be required to pay for the mistakes of the bankers and their friends in government.

If the coalition is to survive, simplistic comments by Cameron about sovereignty and the virtues of free markets have to be replaced by an open acceptance that the countries of Europe are inter-dependent and Clegg needs to demonstrate that he is not a poodle of the Prime Minister.

Michael McGowan is the former Labour MeP for Leeds and President of the Development Committee of the european Parliament.