David Cameron paid the price for his years of courting the Eurosceptics in his party ths week, reports Shamik Das.
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• David Cameron paid the price for his years of courting the Eurosceptics in his party ths week.
In Parliament, 81 of his MPs – including 50 from the class of 2010 – defied him to vote for a referendum on European Union membership, while in Europe he was sidelined, with President Sarkozy particularly scathing.
He can hardly have been surprised.
Cameron won the Tory leadership in 2005 in part because of his pandering to the Tories’ anti-European base; instead of confronting them back then, he caved in, making the insane pledge to split from the mainstream European centre right to join the far right ECR grouping, described by Nick Clegg as:
“Nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes.”
His constant anti-European rhetoric in the years since, even after becoming prime minister, have led his party’s backbenchers, old and new, to believe he’s one of them, their anger and ‘betrayal’ apparent in Monday’s debate and vote. This is a disaster he has brought down upon himslef.
Cameron’s Little Englandism is also to blame for the contempt with which he was viewed by several of Europe’s leaders, our allies unimpressed with his meddling in the eurozone crisis after years of talking down the single currency and talking up renegotiation of our relationship with the EU.
As Ben Fox wrote on Left Foot Forward this week:
“President Sarkozy’s anger with Cameron’s self-righteous hectoring at the weekend summit talks reflects French and German resentment that nearly half of the €440 billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – which has so far stemmed the worst effects of sovereign debt default on the banks – has been guaranteed by Germany and France…
“The referendum vote has poured salt on the Tories’ existing European wounds and will strain the tensions in the coalition. But at a time when EU leaders are locked in summit negotiations on the future of the euro area, this domestic rebellion is also a national embarrassment to Cameron.
“It will particularly concern the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy who are anxious to start work on treaty changes for the single currency.
“Given the high probability negotiations will soon begin on a treaty change for the euro area, has the vote strengthened Cameron’s hand in demanding new opt outs and derogations? Probably not.”
He’s in the worst possible position, distrusted by his own party, dismissed by his fellow leaders, a man light on detail, heavy on showmanship, seemingly incapable of the strong leadership needed in these serious times.
• To the deal, then, thrashed out in the early hours of Thursday morning.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has described it as a “comprehensive package” that confirms Europe “will do what it takes to safeguard financial stability”.
The key points of the deal (pdf) are: private banks holding Greek debt will accept a 50% loss; the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is to be boosted to €1trn; and banks have been told to recapitalise by €106billion.
So, will it work? ‘Possibly’ and ‘unlikely’ are the two takes we’ve had on Left Foot Forward in the wake of the deal.
First, to Ben Fox in Brussels, who writes:
“After nearly two years and 14 ‘crisis’ summits, all of which failed to prevent the Greek debt crisis getting bigger and more expensive, observers could be forgiven for being a tad cynical.
“It would have been hopelessly naive to expect the latest summit to produce all the answers, especially given the summit of finance ministers, which was expected to take place yesterday and today, was cancelled.
“The best to hope for was general political agreement and, on that score, EU leaders have taken several big steps in the right direction.
“However, this analysis has to come with a big disclaimer. Following every previous summit during the crisis EU leaders have been rightly criticised of doing too little too late. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance those criticisms are valid for today’s deal.”
“EU leaders are getting closer with every summit to finding a lasting solution, but unless a lot more detail is produced in the next few week this deal ain’t going to hold with the markets for more than a couple of months.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet.”
While George Irvin, writing tonight, warns:
“The latest euro deal won’t work; the markets initially rejoiced at the news Europe has finally reached a deal; but give them a few hours or days, and we’ll find them in a grimmer mood as reality sets in – just like after the July 21st package…
“The bottom line is that because Germany has once again rejected the principle of the ECB acting as lender-of-the-last-resort, what we are left with is an undercapitalised, risky and probably ineffective EFSF insurance company.
“Centre-right governments in Germany, The Netherlands and other northern European countries continue to serve up reheated ‘Washington consensus’ ideology according to which Central Banks must focus exclusively on inflation targeting.
“Only the ECB has the firepower to destroy the vicious circle created by the bond markets, namely, that by driving up borrowing costs because of default fears, they raise the probability of default actually happening.
“At the moment, the ECB is hesitantly buying bonds to prevent meltdown. Were it to announce it would guarantee all new sovereign bonds, or better yet, issue its own jointly guaranteed bonds, the downward spiral of the eurozone could be reversed overnight.”
Will it work? We shall see…
• It was revealed today that the pay of FTSE 100 directors rose almost 50 per cent in the last year. Fifty. Per. Cent.
The obscene rise, at a time when millions are struggling to survive, has been roundly condemned, and is sure to increase support for the anti-capitalist, anti-greed protesters camped outside St Paul’s.
As Duncan Exley wrote today on Left Foot Forward, these vulgar excesses damage the whole economy:
“As the BBC pointed out, this is well above the average pay settlements of 2.6% for private sector workers (i.e. average employee pay is falling in real terms, because CPI inflation now stands at 5.2%).
“Nor is this a new phenomenon. The equivalent data last year (pdf) showed that FTSE directors’ total earnings were boosted by 55%.
“These pay rises are bad for business and bad for the economy, not only because of the PR damage they unfortunately inflict on business in general, but because such high pay rises damage the performance of companies and the economy.”
“This is a great opportunity for the government to put in place polices which ensure that corporate pay practices are in the best interests of companies and the economy, by recognising that the whole workforce, not just the board, are important for successful business.”
While Will Straw points out:
“The extraordinary news about top bosses’ pay this morning is just the latest in a series of reports this week highlighting huge disparities in the pay prospects of the top one per cent and the remaining 99%.”
“It found pay for the top 1% had growth 279% from 1979 to 2007 compared to 65% for the next 19%, just 40% for the next 60% and a pitiful 18% for the bottom 20%.
“Concerns about the inequity of pay deals are not just the concern of the protesters now occupying sites in 348 cities around the world…”
Those who have the most are getting more, as the poorest in our society suffer and suffer and suffer under George Osborne’s cuts. This report is just the latest proof that we aren’t “all in it together”; if ever the protesters camped outside St Paul’s needed more motivation to continue their fight for fairness this is it.
Progressive of the week:
Reverend Giles Fraser, who resigned yesterday as canon chancellor of St Paul’s in protest at the church’s potential forceful evicition of the anti-capitalist protesters camped outside.
Explaining his decision, he told today’s Guardian:
“My red line was about using violence in the name of the church to clear people on. It has been very peaceful, the camp, and I feel that the church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence…
“I could not countenance the idea that we would have the sort of scenes we had at Dale Farm done in the name of the church on the steps of St Paul’s.”
“Jesus is very clear that the love of money is the root of all evil… Jesus wants to point us to a bigger picture of the world than simply shopping.
“The interesting thing about the protest camp for me is that St Paul’s is very, very good at doing the grandeur and otherness of God. You can do fantastic sermons in it about creation, mystery, otherness, grandeur. But Christopher Wren’s forte was not Jesus born in a stable, the sort of church that exists for the poor and for the marginalised…
“Money is the number one moral issue in the Bible and the way the Church of England goes on you would think it was sex. It’s easily the number one issue in the Bible… but how many sermons do you get about that? Very few.”
Indeed. Contrast the Reverend’s selflessness with the vain, ignorant individual below…
Regressive of the week:
Tory rent-a-gob Louise Mensch, who made a complete fool of herself on Have I Got News For You last Friday by saying the protesters camped outside St Paul’s foregoed the right to protest because they drank Starbucks coffee or used iPhones. A ridiculous claim torn to shreds by Ian Hislop, Paul Merton and Danny Baker, as you’ll see by watching the clip here.
As Alex Hern wrote on Left Foot Forward:
“The fact is, we live in a mixed economy, where state and business interact, and where it is impossible to survive without interacting with both. Admirable as self-sufficient hermits may be, for the vast majority of us, there is no opt-out from this economy.
“Using the products of capitalism does not disqualify you from criticising its effects.”
Evidence of the week:
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report, ‘Trends in education and schools spending’ (pdf), which revealed education spending will be slashed by more than 13 per cent over this parliament, the sharpest cut since at least the 1950s.
For more details, including graphs illustrating the severity of the cut compared with the 4.2% real terms rise under the last government, see our report here.
The World Outside Westminster by The Grapevine’s Chris Tarquini:
As GOP heavyweights Rick Perry and Mitt Romney tear each other apart with various television and online advertisements (see our article here), the story still dominating the Republican field is the rise of businessman and former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
Cain is currently sitting first in the Real Clear Politics ‘Poll of polls’ after the collapse of support for Texas Governor Rick Perry, who now sits in third place at an average of 10.5% with some polls showing him with as a little 6% support.
Perry’s demise is being seen as the results of a string of poor debate performances and a ‘gaffe’ on immigration when he accused those who opposed Texas’s college in state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants as being “heartless”; not exactly conservative policy.
Cain, meantime, seems to have little organisation on the ground, though his grassroots support, interesting life story, and connections to billionaire right-wingers the Koch brothers is leaving some to argue he may not be as fragile a frontrunner as some believe.
Whilst President Obama starts a political assault on the candidate his campaign believes is the true frontrunner, Mitt Romney, there is good news amongst the gloom of his poll numbers. Gallup’s Daily tracking poll has Obama’s approval/disapproval rating at 43% and 48% respectively.
Whilst still not being ideal they are an improvement for the politically besieged President as it marks an improvement from the even more horrendous numbers he has been getting lately. Despite this ‘good news’Obama is still losing in a head-to-head match up with ‘Generic Republican’, however with the clear flaws in the Republican field his opponent may be anything but ‘generic’.
Outside of the US the world was shocked by the death of former Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi. Following a huge NATO bombing campaign co-ordinated with rebel attacks the Gadaffi fortress town of Sirte finally fell and despite arguments he may have fled the former despot was caught alive.
Whilst the events that followed have yet to be clarified it is clear Gadaffi was shot dead by what appear to be rebel forces, despite conspiracy theories to the contrary. As NATO draws its bombing campaign to a close the success of the rebels is encouraging further uprisings already in progress in countries like Syria.
As progress is made in eurozone negotiations, major leaders admit they have more work to do to finalise what an eventual deal will look like; however, while investors’ fears were partly allayed by the results of recent talks there has been a different in focus in one of the central countries at the start of the crisis, Ireland.
Back to Africa and and South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA) has elected its first black leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko. The party gained 24% of the vote at the last election but has largely been dominated by white politicians in a country where whites make up only 10% of the population.
Despite criticisms of being “window dressing” for the party she has dismissed the claims, arguing as a young black person she understands the youth that make up such a huge part of South Africa’s population.
Ed Jacobs’s Week Outside Westminster:
In a typically defiant speech to the SNP faithful in Inverness, Alex Salmond told delegates at the party’s annual conference:
“The days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do or what to think are over. The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future.”
“Today, we are announcing that the independence referendum campaign is starting. We will work as hard as possible in an unprecedented national campaign to secure the majority ‘yes’ vote for a sovereign independent Scotland.”
And in an exclusive article for Left Foot Forward, one of the leading candidates for the leadership of Scottish Labour, Ken Macintosh, argued that privatising the railways had been a bad decision.
Calling for a properly integrated transport strategy for Scotland he wrote:
“The privatisation of our rail system is widely accepted now as one of the most ill-conceived, ineffective and impractical decisions of the Conservative administration of the 1980s.
“The decision to create a fragmented series of operating companies was supposedly taken to promote competition but has simply produced a frustratingly complex and expensive rail system across the UK completely lacking in transparency and accountability.”
As Ireland went to the polls to elect a new President, there were calls for Sinn Fein’s candidate, Martin McGuinness, to reveal what links he, as a member of the IRA, had with Colonel Gaddafi.
Speaking to the News Letter, Norman Baxter, who headed the police investigation into the 1998 Omagah bombing, argued:
“I think one of the real questions Martin McGuinness should be answering to the Irish people is what was his knowledge of the IRA’s relationship with Gaddafi?
“As a senior member of the IRA at a time when IRA members were attending training camps in Libya during the 1970s, what was his role in the IRA/Libya relationship? Did he attend a training camp in Libya?”
Meanwhile, speaking ahead of an attempt by MLAs to scrap a plan to charge students from England, Scotland and Wales higher tuition fees than those in Northern Ireland, the UUP’s Basil McCrea, chair of Stormont’s employment and learning committee, explained:
“On the one hand I will be asking Sinn Fein what they would think if it was the other way round and students from the Irish Republic were being forced to pay £9,000. And to the DUP I will be saying it is totally discriminatory when the fact is we are using the taxes we get from the rest of the UK to subsidise our own students and then charging theirs more.
“I would also be warning that the other parties need not expect there will not be a backlash about this from Westminster.”
There was a stark warning over a funding crisis facing Welsh universities this week as Professor Richard Davies, chancellor of Swansea University, told the Western Mail:
“Undoubtedly, we (Welsh universities) have been significantly underfunded for some years and there is a danger that, if this continues, it will damage performance.
“There is no reason why it should have damaged performance so far and we can manage things for the short term. But it does mean you invest less money in the university estate and don’t have the flexibility to spend money on new initiatives because money is so tight.
“We mustn’t present too bleak a picture here, as we’ve managed very well, but continued underfunding is unsustainable and you can’t work forever on a shoestring.”
On a visit to China, meanwhile, first minister Carwyn Jones hailed a new trade agreement between Wales and China.
Speaking from Beijing, he said:
“I am delighted to be here in Beijing on my first official visit to China as first minister. The UK and China have agreed to double the amount they trade by $100 billion by 2015, and I am here to make sure Wales benefits from this.
“Our aim as a government is to continue raising the profile of Wales in China. We have a ‘can do’ attitude. With a population of just three million, we are small enough to be personal and attentive – but our attitude and spirit enable us to compete and win against some of the stiffest competition in the world.
“We provide an ideal platform from which to serve the wider European market.”
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