The Strange Death of Liberal Europe

John Curran

Image © BrotherMagneto

The Greek electorate have spoken and, borrowing a phrase from former US President Clinton, it is not clear what they have said. Although we have a decision, can it be described as a mandate? New Democracy winning by a mere 3% ahead of anti austerity socialist party Syriza, the majority party automatically gaining fifty extra seats thus placing them in the driving seat of a coalition government.

 As in the UK after the 2010 election, conservative politicians in open necked shirts make electoral agreements with minority parties with phoney liberal credentials. The political horse-trading in Athens was conducted in the Greek language but the narrative is one shaped by London, Berlin, and Brussels.

There has always been a liberal dilemma at the core of the European project. This is evident in the decision making process which is undemocratic and dominated by the Council of Ministers and the Commission. However, since 1979 the Parliament has grown in authority via the ballot box and the Single European Act. Despite this there is a problem in the governance of the EU, a quandary now thought key to understanding the crisis.  A predictable debate has begun with calls to abandon the EU project or establish a Federalist system.

The unprecedented interference from external influences in the Greek election is a worrying intrusion into the democratic workings of a sovereign state, justified by the ‘memorandum of understanding’ made on the cusp of the first Greek election this year. A document that binds future administrations to adhere to cuts of billions of Euros.

The interference in the Greek election are numerous, springing from comments made by European leaders such as Angela Merkel in Germany and George Osborne in the UK. Larry Elliott in the Guardian on 16 of June reported on comments made by Jean-Claude Juncker:

If the radical left wins [in Greece] – which cannot be ruled out – the consequences for the currency union are unforeseeable.

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London Calling: From Peoples March 1981 to Workfare labour 2012

John Curran

Image © John Keogh

In the spring of 1981 the UK was in the early stages of a monetarist revolution linked to the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman. Keith Joseph the principal advocate of the `Chicago School’ was forced to abandon his ambition of leading the British Conservative Party after delivering a speech about cycles of depravation where the perceived feckless behaviour of the poor was held to be the key to understanding poverty. The leadership baton was handed to his feisty acolyte and former Conservative Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who gained fame in the 1970s, “as Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher”.

Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in May 1979. Her first words those of Saint Francis of Assisi, uttered as she entered Downing Street, sounded increasingly hollow as the inner cities went up in flames and a war ensued over the Falkland Islands invasion.  Her doctrine at home was the `Resolute Approach` and abroad she earned the new nickname of `Iron Lady.’

Mrs Thatcher faced early opposition from many quarters. She confronted her first enemy within, not the political left but elements of her own cabinet a faction of `One Nation Tories’ contemptuously described as `wets.’ These liberal Tories viewed her agenda as anathema, adhering as they did to an economic orthodoxy forged in the post war consensus. However, the Conservative victory in 1979 was viewed as a mandate to overturn the Keynesian settlement to restructure the UK economy and in doing so laying waste the industrial heartlands of Britain.

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