7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018

'Undemocratic' EU needs to be tamed

The famous 40th anniversary of the May 8, 1968 storming of the Parisian establishment by the revolutionary students came and went like a damp squib. No Daniel Cohn Bendick here. But, in 1968 real issues of freedom were being addressed across Europe.

Now it is more sulky objections to Sarkozy's proposal that the students and public sector work a little harder. Hardly a moral imperative to protest in favour of doing nothing.

The old joke rings true; 'How many people work in the EU?' 'Oh about 30 per cent says the businessman, the rest are paid by the state'. So they are too feather-bedded to do a "68".

The lack of serious protest in the face of increasing undemocratic, bureaucratic controls is strange, As Bill Bryson said 'It is interesting for an American to see the richest countries in Europe enthusiastically ceding their sovereignty to a body that appears to be out of control and answerable to no-one.' And so despite votes by the French and Dutch the amended, but essentially unchanged European constitutional treaty is pushed through by the political and bureaucratic classes. The last chance is down to Ireland, as a referendum cannot be avoided under their constitution. So come on you Irish, show some rebel spirit and save Europe from the new commissarat.

May 8, of course, is also officially Victory in Europe Day. Every village had its parade with flags and medals to the War Memorials, with a speech by the mayor followed by aperitifs in the village hall. In Britain, who with its Empire, did most of the fighting, it passed almost unnoticed. A poignant comment on the vibrancy of the two cultures. So France claims the victory for when the Allies liberated them. Good for them.

France has shown clever leadership with its unwavering strategy to shape Europe to its interest while Britain has sulked in the corner to its detriment. As Sarkozy made clear when he and Merkel removed their support from Blair's candidacy to be Europe's first president, because Britain is not in the Euro, nor Schengen and invaded Iraq, there are now two classes of European members. Those committed to common policies and integration and those not.

Britain needs to face this reality and either move to associate status, like Norway regaining sovereignty but retaining trade access or embrace fully the EU. And influence its policies. This is a major opportunity for the UK Conservative Party, but on my recent visit no-one seemed interested in Europe at all.

From the moment I landed in Birmingham to when I left a week later from Bristol, everywhere there was great anger as the whole country seemed in a state of shock at the cyclical downturn in the housing market.

Now, I'm no property magnate, far from it, but I've bought and sold a few houses in my time, so the big surprise to me is that all these pundits in the media and the banks were caught by surprise.

Throughout last year, from the prime minister to economics pundits, self-serving nonsense was talked about no downturn but a 'flattening'. Well, that would be a first in economic history. A cycle is a cycle, and if the peak is boosted by reckless inflationary monetary policies by governments and banks the downturn is going to be painful.

Of course, history is a non-politically correct subject in the UK these days but it has its uses, and not just for national pride in victories hard won. One thing it shows is the housing cycle, since records began, mostly runs from 15 to 25 years. Remember 1974 or 1990 anyone? The recession is just beginning, so get used to it.

Driving through the idyllic Cotswolds and on through rural Northamptonshire's well kept stone villages and rolling green countryside to Fotheringhay, where Mary Queen of Scots lost her head, nothing of this shows, partly as farming is benefiting from a cyclical upswing as commodity prices rise.

If you want to see a piece of old England affected neither by urban sprawl nor yobbery, the South-East Midlands is as good as anywhere.

As was our next destination, the vibrant historical Norman market town of Abergavenny, made famous firstly by being burnt by Owain Glyndwr's uprising against the Plantagenets in 1404, but more peacefully by Marty Wilde's 1968 number 1 hit 'We are all going to Abergavenny'. The classic hospitable Angel Inn in the middle of town is the place to stay. It was just over half an hour on a picturesque train journey through the unspoilt Usk Valley to Cardiff's Millennium stadium to watch Munster's steely victory over stylish Toulouse.

By the end of the month we were back in the Gascony described as the 'New Provence' by The Sunday Times, as the French retreat to the South West from the Tsunami of Russians taking over the Cote d'Azur.

The last evening of the month was spent peacefully listening to the pure voices of the Bordeaux College's Choir in Cadillac's medieval church singing soothing traditional songs. Calm, so much more positive than anger.

France could teach New Labour a thing or two on preserving culture, community and traditional values.

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