Regular readers will be pleased to learn I wasn’t executed for bringing drugs, or pirate DVDs, into Singapore. I spent a couple of weeks in the weirdo socialist-consumerist city-state; and a few days in Malaysia, which boasts the world’s most laid-back Muslims, where we took a very rickety sleeper train through jungle highlands to reach the beautiful, secluded Perhentian Islands; a couple of days among the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia; and a few days in Thailand, which is always one of the world’s most welcoming countries and, happily for us, refuses to involve foreigners in its domestic squabbles. In other news, I’ve also been working on and off at the House of Lords, which is usually pretty soporific, but something newsworthy happens every 400 or so years.
Anyway, you’ll be relieved I’m back home just in time to share my thoughts on the forthcoming European Parliament elections. As on various other issues, I am broadly Eurosceptic more for practical than ideological reasons. The MPs’ expenses revelations which have provided so much entertainment lately are small bier compared to the high-speed Brussels gravy express. The EU’s farming and fisheries policies (which take up the bulk of its budget) are well-documented catastrophes. Almost everyone wants free trade with Europe, and almost everyone is glad we were able to offer former Soviet Bloc countries aid and trade in return for democracy and human rights, but almost no-one wants the political and legal superstructure that has come with it. Amid the torrent of articles reminding us just how bad the 1970s were, and insisting there was no alternative to Thatcherism, bear in mind what a fraudulent failure her European policy was. The rebate demand was a shoddy diversion from the evaporation of sovereignty, the acquiescence into ever greater union, which she did nothing to stop.
So, although the Conservative position on Europe might seem reasonable now, their record isn’t exactly trustworthy. I certainly can’t vote in an EU election for any party so duplicitous (Labour) or dogmatic (the Lib Dems) as to oppose a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Neither am I sold on the Europhile SNP, who would have us quit sterling and join a currency run by a manufacturing giant with a completely different business cycle. We would no longer have the option of inflating ourselves out of debt, of devaluing our currency to boost exports, or of realigning interest rates to boost demand or cool inflation. Even if you take the nationalist view that these rules are dictated by London anyway, they are at least dictated for the needs of an economic cycle to which Scotland is inextricably attached. This wouldn’t be the case in the Euro: how could Scotland, with low interest rates set by the EU, have avoided an Irish-style housing bubble and subsequent crash? I’m not a doommonger about Scotland’s independent economic prospects generally (alternative energy has magically replaced oil overnight as our future source of great riches, but the case is much more convincing when applied to Scotland than to Britain as a whole), but on the currency question I’ve yet to be convinced. In fact I’ve only very rarely heard anyone from the SNP defend the pro-Euro policy, so perhaps it’s something they’d rather not talk about. Salmond was asked about it at a talk I went to recently, and replied that he had always favoured more monetary and fiscal stability. But surely any stability would be greatly at the expense of flexibility. Is there any debate on this within the SNP? Is there a wing of the party which supports pegging to the pound, or having our own currency altogether? If any SNP fans are reading, please educate me.
I’m slipping off topic: the Euro’s not on the agenda in this election. Giving Labour a final boot in the balls before their crucifixion on the Appian Way out of Downing St next year is on the agenda, so the myriad smaller parties – UKIP, the Greens, No2EU – look like good protest votes to suit the new anti-politics mood.
The BNP aren’t a good protest vote: they’re the only party left that are even worse than New Labour. Their constitution specifically prohibits anyone other than “indigenous Caucasians” from joining. That they haven’t removed this clause, to break through as a mainstream anti-immigration party, shows what they really stand for. As Nick Griffin said, “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that 6 million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into lamp shades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the earth is flat. I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie and latter witch-hysteria.” He should really team up with the Islamic fundamentalists. And what would his electorate make of him trashing the creation myths of WWII? I’m all for free speech, but I’m more offended by crimes against history than I am by their censorship: so in the case of denying something as undeniable as the Holocaust, I’m inclined towards the (modern) German position.
Anyway, I can’t think of anything more irrational or inhuman than discriminating against individuals or groups on racial grounds, whether the old-fashioned way or by affirmative action. It shouldn’t be a crime to judge people on the basis of their beliefs, such as that Muhammad ascended to Heaven with the archangel Gabriel from the Dome of the Rock on the back of a winged mare, or that man coexisted with dinosaurs in 4004 BC, or that gays and adulterers should be stoned to death, or that women should be neither seen nor heard, or that the Holocaust didn’t happen. You can nail your colours to the mast, but not to your skin, as it were. So voting for the BNP – and giving these knuckle-dragging thugs a seat in the European Parliament – will do nothing but strengthen the state-sponsored industry that exists to exaggerate the BNP’s threat. See Peter Hitchens for fine expositions of why even right-wing little Englanders should reject the BNP.
Ideally I would like to vote for a party that combined Green views on the environment with UKIP views on immigration. The two are perfectly related: I no more want to live on a concrete island of 70 million people than I do on a boiling world of 9 billion. Liberal democratic capitalism can’t continue to grow much beyond the level of resource depletion we’ve now reached without destroying the planet, and human civilisation with it. This century we’ll either have to reduce the scale on which our existing system operates or invent some new one. Either way, population control globally and nationally seems a sensible place to start. Unfortunately most on the right seem convinced that because lefties noticed global warming first the whole thing must be a lefty plot. It isn’t, but a lot of right-wing commentators are doing their best to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ‘green left’, meanwhile, don’t believe in things like national borders or cultural differences. This is a pity, because their insistence (with the full support of the pro-business right) on mass immigration and cultural segregation has created, in Britain and Europe, a huge and growing section of society with archaic, extreme and in many cases medievally conservative views. (I don’t know how many British Muslims they asked in this survey, but it’s telling that none of them thought homosexuality was morally acceptable.) This probably wasn’t what they had in mind, wracked with postcolonial guilt forty years ago, but the road to Helmand is paved with good intentions.