Speaking Truth to Cameron on the Eurozone Crisis

Much of the traditional British media seems to be wilfully missing the political story that lies behind the attempts to save the Eurozone from itself. The Right wing media is banging a Eurosceptic drum, replete with pictures of assorted loonies burning EU flags. Meanwhile much of the liberal press would rather bury any argument altogether about the future of what is now – undeniably – a ‘two speed Europe’, behind a horribly outdated argument that those who dissent or ask difficult questions, must somehow be ‘little Englanders’.

In the past few days, two Labour politicians have emerged to tell a few home truths. Former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, in an appearance on ‘This Week’ has called for a referendum on an expected new EU Treaty for fiscal union that is likely to be unveiled in December. Prime Minister, David Cameron and his Chancellor, George Osborne have ruled this out – in the process running a coach and horses through their Manifesto commitments. Meanwhile, Labour's Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, speaking on BBC Newsnight from New York, criticised plans for an EU financial transaction tax, while saying he is in favour of an international financial transaction tax. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor has just struck political gold, although it will take a few weeks for the rest of the media to catch up. His intervention causes huge problems for David Cameron and George Osborne who through their own vacuity cannot stop an EU financial transaction tax designed to part empty the offers of the City of London into the Eurozone debt hole. Ed Balls’ case though for an international financial transaction tax is the best bit of news for Socialists in a generation.
The debt crisis in the Eurozone, coupled with the need for urgent closer political and financial integration to save it is a huge issue. In their different ways both Johnson and Balls are picking their way through this minefield. Of course it would have been better had Labour not ordered its MPs into a three lined whip march into the lobbies with David Cameron on the EU Referendum vote (more Labour MPs voted with Cameron than Tory MPs).  But as this great drama develops, it is vital that Labour not only acts an Opposition, but also presents coherent arguments that are pro-European, without being necessarily pro the EU bureaucrats who got us into this Single Currency mess in the first place. The late John Smith was a pro-European, who believed that public consent was vital. It is why he asked Labour MPs to vote against the Maastricht Treaty every step of the way, in turn causing terrible problems for John Major’s Government. Ed Miliband should take a leaf out of former Labour leader John Smith’s book. It was certainly not very sensible for him to say, as he did, that those who support an EU referendum are ‘barking’, given that a majority of Labour voters – 61% in the last Guardian newspaper poll – want just that.
Johnson and Balls are thinking and speaking outside of the box, and deserve praise for doing so. I should say that I would have rehearsed some of these arguments in front of the Brussels branch of the Labour Party, having been asked along by one of their members. But I have just been told by their Executive that on reflection they have no speakers slots ‘until the middle of next year’. Since I have been speaking to members of the Brussels branch for over twenty years, and since I know how difficult it is for them to find speakers willing to come over, I can only assume that their heads are firmly inserted in the sand and I have been banned.
Hopefully this attitude isn’t shared elsewhere in the Labour Party, as it is all too reminiscent of some of the older controlling features of the New Labour years. So far, the Left in Britain has been slow to get its head around the crisis in the Eurozone – and the response needed. Johnson, Balls and many of the others who have begun to speak up and offer an alternative are on the right track.
Mark Seddon’s book ‘Standing for Something – Life in the Awkward Squad’ is available here.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less