Steve Baker, Tory MP for Wycombe and head of the modestly titled Conservatives for Britain, has been over the moon about the No vote in the Greek referendum last Sunday.
“Today’s dramatic result is a wake-up call for the failed EU Establishment. Even the most vulnerable small nation will not be bullied by supranational authorities.”
He goes on to add a little hint of the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, some of the problems in Greece are down to a system in which income tax was not collected while the state went on a profligate spending spree and then elected a far left government – but only a hint. Nothing that would get in the way of the narrative that this whole thing is down to the dreaded “EU establishment” (I love how the word “establishment” has become one of the most pejorative in the modern political lexicon, even – absurdly – amongst Tories).
Douglas Carswell tweeted the other day: “The Euro elite admonish Greek people for voting to reject a life of debt misery.” The brilliant thing about that is, it could have been sent by Owen Jones or George Monbiot. So Douglas wants so badly to revel in this moment of Euro-related meltdown that he’s going to make it trump everything else he believes in politically? Like the fact that large states with unsustainable debts is a bad thing and out of control spending by governments should be checked? Carswell of all people should know that whatever it was the Greek people voted for over the weekend, it was not, in practice anyhow, an escape from debt misery: that will go on, regardless.
What we have here is a weird coming together of Left and Right around the idea that a No vote in Greece on Sunday was a huge victory. But given what they each think it was a victory for tells you a lot about how hypocritical each position really is. Switching to a critique of the Left on this: how can the Greek referendum be held aloft as a triumph of democracy, and yet these same people supported Labour’s refusal to have a referendum on Europe in Britain a mere few weeks back? Why is direct democracy in Greece – done on an incredibly dodgy timeframe, I hasten to add – good, and a referendum held in a much more transparent and straightforward way, bad? Don’t get me wrong, I have never been that keen on an In/Out referendum in Britain – but then again, I’m not shouting from the rooftops about how a Greek shambles that Tsipras held to get himself out of a jam is some sort of victory for modern day democracy either.
So we have a situation in which a large portion of the Right in Britain is crowing about the actions of Syriza, despite the fact that the far left party represents everything they stand against in politics, while the Left champions Syriza’s attempts to destroy the European project that they are set to try and defend Britain’s membership of in an upcoming referendum. It sort of boggles the mind if you think about it too much, sort of like when you try and actually comprehend eternity.
Tom R says
I find this analysis a little bit odd. The Greek referendum wasn’t a question of ‘is financial profligacy by the state bad or good?’, it was an assertion of the will of the people as superior to the opinion of their representatives, in which debt and profligacy played an incidental (though important) role. That creates another dimension, and so even if one agrees with the particular directions of the Troika, this is obviously subordinate to the question of whether one agrees with the method and means of establishing those directions in policy.
Whether you’re Margaret Thatcher, or you spend your spare time masturbating to the thought of more debt, I’m sure you agree that no debt should be created or challenged unless the political leaders of the country have a good reason for thinking they’ve a democratic mandate to do it. If that weren’t true, you would presumably agree that it was legitimate for a dictator to sweep in and impose the recommendations on Greece. Obviously this isn’t legitimate, because what is important is not just the policy but the means of establishing it. Tsipras apparently didn’t think that process was democratic and, assuming the referendum was fair, it doesn’t seem to have been as such.
I think Carswell’s endorsement is quite understandable.