Magazine article The Spectator

Alive, Alive, O!

Magazine article The Spectator

Alive, Alive, O!

Article excerpt

Radio

I have noticed recently how the Conservative party has suddenly become interesting again. Whenever I switch on a news and current affairs programme I seem to hear someone discussing the party's leadership, policies or internal affairs. After nearly two years of sneering the media have realised that the Tories aren't dead but very much alive. More so, in many respects, than on-message Labour. This might not be sufficient for the Tories to win the next election but it suggests a strong recovery is underway.

Things can only get better, I thought to myself, as I listened to The Westminster Hour on Radio Four on Sunday evening. The first two items were about the Tories and Europe and the selection of Conservative candidates for the next general election. The presenter, Andrew Rawnsley of the Guardian, interviewed Lord Howe about his support for the two Tory MEP candidates who are standing in the European elections on a pro-single currency policy against the party line. It was a longish interview and Howe trotted out his standard guff about Europe. He wanted to see a `return to Euro-sanity and Euro-wisdom', and hoped the Tory party would `rejoin the human race', as he put it, by taking a more positive approach to European integration.

Not for the first time have I thought that a BBC interviewer had once again missed an opportunity to question closely a Eurofanatic about why the single currency and a federal Europe were so desirable. It hardly ever happens or it doesn't when I am listening. No doubt somewhere on a radio programme Howe and others like him have been asked why it is so important for the British people to lose the right to influence a government's national economic policies at the ballot box but I have yet to hear it. If a country's economic policies are decided at European level it won't in future matter whom we vote for. Lovely for the politicians, of course, but a huge loss in direct democracy for us. And yet issues like these are rarely raised with the Howes, the Kenneth Clarkes the Heseltines. Instead, Europe is discussed in terms of party splits, particularly when Tories are interviewed.

Rawnsley, for example, concentrated on Howe's disagreement with William Hague over Europe, attempting to show that the former foreign secretary would be supporting the two breakaway MEPs at the expense of the official candidates. …

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