Sunday, September 28

EU Denial

.....................................................The British political classes including commentators and lobbyists are in denial, determined to ignore a reality and carry on as if it was "business as usual". They all still behave as if London is still the centre of government of the UK ; is not.
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It is point that the edtor of this dear Blog has made many times particularly when he was a very active person (which he may well be again) in that large small business organisation the Federation of Small Businesees.
The dynamic of this EU denial is actually quite subtle - absolute refusal to come to grips with the reality, acknowledgement of which would then require an acceptance that the UK government had in many policy areas become a marginal backwater of very little importance.

Intrestingly what is happening at what used to be central government level happened many years ago in local government in the UK shortly after the 1973 local government reorganisation. Unappreciated by many, this reorganisation was accompanied by a major "reform" of local government management, heralded by the 1972 Baines Report, a yellowing copy of which still resides on my bookshelf.

The key element of this was the creation of super-departments with chief executives who acquired a huge tranche of delegated powers, making a vast number of decisions that were hitherto reserved for councillors, to be discussed and debated in committees and full council. At a stroke, the bulk of local government shifted from political control to managerial governance. Councillors became, on many issues, largely redundant and council meetings were stripped of their true meaning.
The response of the councillors was interesting. Instead of dealing with the deadly dull but vitally important issues of council management, they devoted more and more time to party political bickering, with heated debates about political issues which often had no relevance at all to council business. Council meetings became theatre – hugely entertaining at first, if for no other reason than for their novelty value. Soon enough though, the novelty palled as we realised that so much of this was empty posturing.

The politicians were left to bicker amongst themselves, largely ignored by the electorate who knew instinctively that their mouthings were devoid of meaning.

The equivalent of their Baines Report for national government was the Treaty of Rome and the subsequent treaties, which gradually stripped them of many of their powers and turned political government of the UK into managerial governance, centred on Brussels.The transition is not yet complete, as there are some policy areas which do remain as "competences" – in the modern jargon – of the London government, but most of the power has gone elsewhere.

A graphic illustration of this comes with yesterday's Environment Council in Brussels, which has produced a 26-page communiqué, stuffed with detail, agreeing initiatives of enormous importance to our daily lives, many with multi-billion price tags and timetables for implementation stretching into decades. It is well worth having a look at the document, just to appreciate the vast range of issues it covers.

Some of this was elaborated upon by environment commissioner, Stravros Dimas, in a speech yesterday to a conference in Brussels. Yet, despite the importance of the issues covered, such was the dullness and the lack of any personality recognisable to the British public, that the only media coverage I can find was in the official Chinese press agency Xinhuanet, and that was only a partial account.
On the eve of the Conservative Party conference, the British political Journalists are far too busy to care. They are preparing themselves for the theatre, analysing and dissecting the personalities and readying themselves to write yards of extruded verbal material on their speeches.

If one were to ask any one of them to identify the person in the photograph above, many of them would not have a clue. Yet, Stavros Dimas, as environment commissioner, is probably one of the most powerful politicians in Europe (and thus Britain) using powers delegated to him by the Single European Act in 1984 when, with the approval of Margaret Thatcher, "evironment" became an exclusive European Community competence. Few though, have ever heard of him. Fewer still would recognise him.

That fact though is so hideously uncomfortable and unpalatable that there will be no mention of it at all at the Conservative Party conference next week; such is the nature of British Political Subjects these days.


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