When 'no' means 'yes' in eurospeak
Published in: Daily Mail
Like some mythological femme fatale, the government is going to tell the British people today that 'no' really means 'yes'. The Chancellor will tell the Commons that his famous five economic tests for joining the euro have not been passed. But he will do so, it seems, as the lead part in a spectacle of euro-fervour that would make a Billy Graham convention seem half-hearted.
Gordon Brown said yesterday that he and Tony Blair would both now be putting the pro-European case and sweeping aside 'anti-European prejudice'. A supporting chorus of ministerial noddies will no doubt be telling us how great the euro is and how committed they all are in principle to joining it.
It's so great, indeed, that we are not going to sign up to it. But the fact that an exhaustive Treasury exercise has concluded it is not in this country's economic interests to join is merely, it seems, an irritating procedural detail to be overcome in short order.
The one thing that is not in our economic interests is for such uncertainty to be prolonged. Yet that is precisely what will now happen. For Mr Blair is desperate to keep the prospect of joining the euro alive.
Hence his protracted row with Mr Brown over allowing a further window of opportunity. We may know today whether we will definitely/probably/possibly have yet another Treasury assessment/referendum paving bill/other declaration of euro-intent, before the next election/next year/in the next five minutes.
This is because Mr Blair believes he can persuade the public to love the euro. For the real test that hasn't been passed, of course, is the political one. A weekend poll showed 61 per cent of people opposed to joining, with a mere 29 per cent in favour.
This is hardly surprising, since one would have to have the acumen of a snail in hibernation not to realise that Britain is doing just great outside the euro, thank you, and that this country needs to be locked into a rigid, sclerotic economic and monetary system likes it needs a hole in the head.
No matter. Mr Blair believes that this only goes to show the British people have been brainwashed into Thinking Wrong Thoughts by the tabloid press. All it needs is for him to start making what he calls the 'patriotic case for Europe', and the British will wake from their deep sleep of unreason with cries of joy as they realise that they really do love losing their power of economic self-government after all.
So today marks the start of the great softening-up process, to make the public believe there's no point fighting the euro because it's inescapable. Having lost the argument, Mr Blair intends to have his way by creating the illusion of inevitability through strumming a background riff of enthusiastic euro-preparation.
The reason for his obsession is that European union lies at the very core of Mr Blair's political vision. Fantastic as it may seem to lesser mortals, he genuinely believes that he can transform the EU from the corrupt, despotic project that it actually is into an open, democratic, market-oriented body of nation states - led triumphantly into these sunlit uplands by Britain.
Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, people who have read the actual words of the treaties, listened to what the Eurocrats are saying and understand the power politics of Europe have concluded that this vision is pure, undiluted surrealism. And this resistance has been made far stronger by a number of factors Mr Blair didn't bargain for.
The first is the massive eruption of fury over the proposed EU constitution. People have understood this means the end of the United Kingdom's power of self government and the effective demise of the nation. In the grip of his obsession, Mr Blair cannot spot the absurdity of trying to dismiss the constitution as a 'tidying-up exercise' while simultaneously boasting that the government is heroically beating off the threats it poses to this country's interests.
He has also been hoist by his own petard. Frantically pushing for a referendum on the euro, he is on the weakest possible ground in refusing a referendum on the even more far-reaching EU constitution.
The second factor which has wrong-footed him is the Iraq war. For the controversy over Saddam's invisible weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has destroyed his credibility. The claim that he lied to the country has stuck, and will do further damage to his case for the euro.
This is a striking irony for those eurosceptics who believe the case for war was sound, and that the current furore is evidence of a collective lobotomy.
The reason for the government's debacle over WMD is that it was guilty of a spin too far. Its second 'intelligence' dossier on Iraq was a sloppy document which included information that was plagiarised or downloaded from the internet.
Now Alastair Campbell has acknowledged to the head of MI6 that this included material which had 'not met the required standards of accuracy'.
Unlike the government's first dossier about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, however, this had not been approved by the Joint Intelligence Committee. It was instead a rogue piece of political spin, cobbled together by a special unit set up by Mr Campbell.
Nevertheless, both the dossier and Mr Campbell's acknowledgement apology are now being used to make the false and demonstrably ridiculous claim that the government's whole case for war was based on lies.
The reason the government hyped up the argument in this way was because it had a big problem. The public simply wouldn't accept that the legal case for war was the absence of evidence that Saddam had abandoned his WMD programme.
The British also didn't see Iraq in the same way as did the US after 9/11. The Americans realised then that unless the west urgently de-fanged the Arab and Islamist nexus of terror - in which Saddam was a key and cunning player - it would be a sitting duck for more such outrages.
No doubt concerned by Arab and Muslim reaction to such an argument, Mr Blair never made this case to the British people. As a result, the public remained unconvinced of the justification for war.
This vacuum, plus the self-evident hype and spin, created widespread mistrust -- fertile ground for the incendiary charge that Mr Blair sent soldiers to war on the basis of a systematic deceit. Thus the Prime Minister fatally undermined a case that was perfectly sound.
The result of that - along with the lies spun about the EU constitution and a host of other matters -- is that people won't believe him over the euro. Nor should they. For to say the euro is not a constitutional issue and that opposition to it is based on xenophobic prejudice is indeed a lie.
The irony is that by falsely accusing Mr Blair of waging war on the basis of a massive deception, the pro-EU, anti-war lobby has made it much more likely that the public will conclude he is lying to them over the euro, to which they will remain staunchly opposed.