Magazine article The Spectator

Crisis? What Crisis?

Magazine article The Spectator

Crisis? What Crisis?

Article excerpt

It was good to wake up to the news on Monday morning last week that the French had rejected the EU constitution, though depressing to hear Peter Mandelson on Today, at his slimiest, suggesting that the French might have to 'revisit' the matter, to keep voting, that is, until the EU gets the result it wants. We kept being told that the European Union would be in crisis if the vote was 'No', but that morning the birds were still singing, the goldfinch continued to dance against the window pane and the newspaper arrived on time; nothing much seemed to have changed. What they meant, of course, was that the Eurocrats would be in crisis, which is a completely different thing and much to be welcomed by the rest of us.

Nor did the public seem bothered, judging by the morning programme on Five Live, presented on this occasion by Phil Williams. Listeners called to say how pleased they were with the result; one said he'd been too young to vote in the 1975 referendum on whether or not to stay in what was then misleadingly called the Common Market and thought younger generations in Britain should have a say in a referendum on the constitution.

Such was the obvious pleasure of the Five Live listeners that Williams was forced to appeal desperately, 'I can't believe that nobody out there is in favour of this [the new constitution], so if you take a different view I'd like to hear from you.' A Eurofanatic did step forward to tell us that it was a dreadful day for Europe, blaming a 'petty-minded bunch of xénophobes'. Mystifyingly, he added it was the 'sort of atmosphere that I fear created two world wars in the last century'. You have to wonder about these people sometimes. Studio guest, Europhile Professor Andrew Scott of something called the Europa Institute at Edinburgh University, said the constitution meant that 'national parliaments would be consulted directly and on some issues they would be able to hold up a yellow card to the Commission and say ... we don't like this legislative proposal, please go and think again'. Well, well, I thought, how very nice of the Commission to consult us and then deign to reconsider. The man in Brussels knows best.

Matthew Parris indulged in some nostalgia for the days when driving a car was known as 'motoring'. He and his producers Nick Patrick and Ivan Howlett drew from the sound archives a picture of the early days of motoring until its height of popularity with the family saloon in And Grandma in the Back Seat, last week on Radio Four (Saturday). …

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