Magazine article The Spectator

Lady Thatcher's Views May Be Unmentionable -- but She Has Plenty of Support from Gerhard Schroeder

Magazine article The Spectator

Lady Thatcher's Views May Be Unmentionable -- but She Has Plenty of Support from Gerhard Schroeder

Article excerpt

POLITICS

Lady Thatcher's book may not have fallen stillborn from the press, but the extracts from it about the European Union in this week's Times have created nothing like the stir they would have done only a short while ago. The Conservatives' inglorious tactic of declining to say anything whatever about it worked. Most Conservatives agree with most of what Lady Thatcher says, but it has frankly been rather a relief, since Iain Duncan Smith took over the leadership, to be spared a continuous and fantastically repetitive argument about Europe. The subject is calculated to drive anyone who cares about the liberties of this country into a rage, and the last thing the people of this country want to see is a large number of angry Conservatives, or even a small number of angry Conservatives. Mr Duncan Smith's people know that until they regain credibility on other issues, they cannot bore on about Europe. Their time is better devoted to finding worthwhile things to say about crime, health, transport and other domestic subjects where the government is floundering.

So it is encouraging for the Conservatives that the great work made so little impact, even though it was the vote to ban foxhunting which helped, as Jo Moore would have said, to bury it. The party will need to talk about Europe again, but in a less aggressive tone of voice: one that is tolerant of dissent both from within the party and from beyond. If the Danes are worried about the EU because they think it will destroy their welfare state, or the French because nobody speaks French any more, or the Germans because Brussels wants to stop them running their own industrial policy, the British Eurosceptic should be happy to make common cause with them.

It so happens that the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is just now very angry indeed with the European Commission. He is the most important member of the European club, he pays the lion's share of the bills, yet the club secretary, some Italian josser called Romano Prodi, has the cheek to tell him how to run Germany. Mr Schroeder can be charming to just about anyone when he tries, and is always grateful for late-night company with whom to crack open another bottle of red wine, but he made his way in politics as a loner and is good at mashing up functionaries who presume to stand in his way. Journalists who attended the background briefing given by Mr Schroeder at last weekend's EU summit in Barcelona were nevertheless astonished by the vehemence with which the Chancellor laid into the commission, headed by Mr Prodi.

The EU is only solvent because soon after becoming Chancellor Mr Schroeder agreed to bankroll it until 2006, but, as he said in Barcelona, he won't be making that mistake again if he's still around the next time the EU comes cap in hand. The commission has repaid his largesse by telling him he is running too large a budget deficit. Oblivious to the pain caused by Vodafone's takeover of Mannesmann, the commission seeks to sweep away the protection which German companies enjoy from being bought up by Americans and other foreigners. It wants to forbid the huge public investment which, the Chancellor says, is still needed in the former East Germany. It undermines the German car industry by trying to subvert its monopolistic practices, and, what is more, a Swedish woman who is environment commissioner is trying to destroy the German chemical industry. …

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