Sunday 24 April 2016

"None other than Margaret Thatcher"

To quote David P. from an earlier comments section about Nick Robinson's Europe: Them or Us, Part Two:
I'm finally watching this now, and I see that this episode's theme is "It's Thatcher's Fault!" A whole lot of energy placing blame squarely on her shoulders, and painting her in a rather bad light. Nobody said it outright, but the subtext was that Thatcher handled it all badly and was a bit of a hypocrite. Nice touch showing Nigel Lawson describing one speech as xenophobic. It possibly even caused her downfall. 
I find it curious that Robinson's approach is to convince Right-wingers that the EU is not only something conservatives can support (Churchill introduced the vision, what's your problem?), but the two main reasons it might not be as beneficial as possible for Britain are: It's the fault of Little Englanders that Britain wasn't in from the beginning, and Thatcher is to blame for eroding national sovereignty, so conservatives can't really complain about Socialist Europe. Never mind that Eurocrat after Eurocrat featured kept saying that the money paid into the EU isn't really Britain's money, it's theirs.
That was very much my impression too. And to show why, here's Nick Robinson's commentary in full - from Mrs. Thatcher's arrival in power to the signing of the Single European Act, with all the "It's Thatcher's Fault!" bits highlighted:
So, who was it who would sign up to the changes which transform the Common Market? None other than Margaret Thatcher. Now seen as the Euro-sceptic's pin-up, she was staunchly pro-European when she first came to power.  
Dublin was Mrs Thatcher's first big summit. She arrived with a demand for what became known as Mrs Thatcher's Billion, the gap between what Britain paid in and what we got out. Broadly speaking, for every £2 we contribute, we get £1 back. That leaves us with a net contribution of £1,000 million next year to the community, and rising in the future. Some saw this as a sort of late entry fee for joining the European club after its rules had been drawn up. Mrs Thatcher complained that Britain, along with Germany, was footing the bill for everyone else. Her fellow leaders didn't much like being lectured by the new girl.  
The response of the European smoothies was far from diplomatic. The summit went from bad to worse. 
The leaders gathered for a glum photo call. Dublin had set the tone. From then on, year after year, summit after summit, the budget row rumbled on. Again and again, Mrs Thatcher would insist that Britain should get our money back. Eventually, five years later, in Fontainebleau, she swung that famous handbag and did get a rebate of some of her billion, but at what cost? 
It was not, though, an idea from the French or the Germans that would turn Margaret Thatcher against Europe. It was, ironically, an idea that emerged from her very own handbag. She wanted to make it easier for companies to do business across Europe, to turn the Common Market into a single market. The problem was, that would involve watering down the power of governments to block, or veto, proposals they didn't like. The grand ambition of a Europe without frontiers had become logjammed. Countries were looking after their own, protecting their industries not respecting the rules. At national borders, cash was king. 
Margaret Thatcher's ambition was not just to do away with coffee money, but to lift all other barriers to free trade.  
The man in charge of securing the powers Brussels needed to enforce and police the single market was the European Commission's new president, Jacques Delors, a French socialist. For Delors, a single market was just as much about the rights of workers as business - the message he would take to Thatcher's enemies in the trade unions.  
But it was another Delors plan that would outrage Mrs Thatcher's supporters. He wanted to revive the idea of a single European currency. (Sun headline: Up Yours Delors) Ironically, he'd been backed by her to be the top man in Brussels, but theirs was a relationship which quickly soured. After one summit in London, she wouldn't let him get a word in edgeways.  
To keep Delors and his grand schemes under control, Thatcher sent one of her own Cabinet to Brussels. Arthur Cockfield was a former taxman. Thatcher thought he was a pen pusher, who would be prepared to do her bidding, but Cockfield went native, backing his new boss, Jacques Delors, instead. He explained to Thatcher that the single market meant harmonising VAT. 
Delors's plans where the most significant changes to the European Community ever made. Back then, there were only ten members at the table. Now, there are almost three times that number. But what they, what she, agreed in Luxembourg, didn't just expand what Europe did, it limited any country's veto power to block it by expanding so-called majority voting.  
She swallowed hard and signed up, but how would she persuade her MPs to do the same? Simple - brief reporters that nothing much had changed at all.  
The law enacting the transfer of so many powers from Westminster to Brussels, the Single European Act, was rushed through the Commons at top speed. The debates lasted just a few days, many MPs scarcely knew what they were voting on.  
For decades, opponents of Britain's membership of the European club have claimed that it involves sacrificing our sovereignty, giving away the power of Parliament to decide what's right for us. Over just six nights, it was the House of Commons itself which voted to surrender the British veto on proposals coming from Brussels on a wide swathe of policy. And whose lead were they following? Margaret Thatcher's.


Christopher Booker, at the Sunday Telegraph, argues that Mrs. Thatcher was deceived and that the evidence for this has emerged since the series this series was so closely based on: 1996's The Poisoned Chalice. He contends that Nick Robinson & Co. ignored that here.

And he also argues that Nick Robinson & Co. also misused The Poisoned Chalice by omitting a vital interview (and watching it for myself, yes, that bit did get dropped).

Here's Mr. Booker:
The second treaty, already planned in the mid-Eighties, was that signed six years later at Maastricht, transforming the European Community into the “European Union”, with its own currency, foreign and defence policies and, again, much more. Not only did Robinson say nothing of all this, but he tellingly omitted a remarkable interview in The Poisoned Chalice with Jacques Delors, who recalled how, on becoming president of the European Commission in 1985, he proposed “three themes: a common defence policy, a single currency, a change to the institutions which would lead to political integration”

As with the first episode of this much-admired series, where the much-liked Nick Robinson & Co. presented Churchill as 'the Father of a United Europe, history does seem to have been re-written somewhat here to make Mrs. Thatcher 'the Mother of the European Union'.

Quite why this has been done I'm not sure, unless it really is to try and convince Conservative-voting types to get behind the EU because the EU is a fundamentally Churchillian/Thatcherite invention.

Is that what's going on here?


  1. I can't decide if the narrative is supposed to be that the EU is fundamentally a product of the ideas and deeds of Conservative heroes, so people on the Right should have no problem getting behind it, or if we're meant to understand that the EU's problems that are making so many Brits want Out are actually the result of poor decisions and actions by Conservatives, and you shouldn't make those mistakes again by voting Out. Any claim that Robinson is simply presenting the historical facts as they were/are and leaving the viewer to make their own decision can now be dismissed.

    I don't know enough about all this to know if Booker is just saying that because his opinion is that Thatcher was deceived and it's not her fault, or if it really is what happened and Robinson wanted to suppress that notion. His article didn't really help me there. Also, if it's really true that Heseltine and Howe plotted to get rid of Thatcher just because she was trying to prevent Britain's absorption into the EU collective, it could be seen as them betraying their country as much as stabbing her in the back. I certainly wouldn't be convinced to side with Remain on this basis.

    Either way, it's pretty clear who this is all aimed at, and it's not Labour supporters or even the undecided.

    1. A lot of this is a confuse-a-cat strategy. As long as the pro-Remain media can sow enough doubt,fear, confusion, and muddle people are far more likely to vote Remain on the grounds of "better the devil you know" or "Winston Churchill and Thatcher were in favour of it - can't be all bad".

      It's amazing what the BBC chooses not to cover. Anyone remember the "deal" Cameron claims to have struck and which is the basis of his absurd claim to have "reformed" the EU. Never mentioned. Nor is there any focus on why Cameron called this Referendum in the first place. Nor is there any focus on Cameron's absurdly contradictory claim that he is quite prepared to stay as PM and negotiate our exit if we vote Leave.

    2. Good point. Robinson's rehash did show the bit about Wilson having the same non-result from attempting to renegotiate, with claims that this proved Europe couldn't be reformed even then. Yet Robinson didn't immediately point out that Cameron had the same problem, even when showing the footage of Cameron stating that he would hold a referendum after his renegotiation.

  2. I mentioned on another thread that Robinson was on the left wing Ken Clarke wing of the Tory Party back in the 80s. This is typical Clarke stuff. It's not untrue as such (Thatcher was a naive negotiator), but it is untrue by omission of a load of other stuff.

  3. You could tell it was a cut and paste job from the late 90s with that "xenophobic" comment from Nigel Lawson.
    He would surely regret the use of THAT weasel word straight from the EU lexicon of esperanto social text...Lawson is one of our greats still, and knows now what Thatcher could only feel in her gut back then.
    Trust the BBC to dig THAT one out...backfires though.

  4. In the late 1980's Nigel Lawson was Chancellor. Two Financial Times (or it might have ben Times) journalists interviewed Mrs. Thatcher and during the course of thge interview asked her when it had been decided that U.K. monetary policy was to shadow the Deutschmark (i.e. peg the £ to the Deutschmark) in anticipation of joining the ERM, the pr-cursor to the Euro. She responded that it was not U.K. monetary policy and certianly had not been agreed. To institute such a policy a Cabinet paper would have to been presented to Cabinet and then extensive discussions would take place before a decision was reached. None of this had been done.The two journalists then produced graphs showing that the pound had been pegged against the Deutschmark for two years and that interest rates had been adjusted to maitain the sterling/Deutschmark exchange rate. The graphs were categorical proof that this policy was being impemented. Nigel Lawson was then sacked by Mrs. Thatcher and replaced by John Major.

    Christopher Scopes

    1. It's even worse than I thought. Your comment prompted me to find and read this (pdf file):

      Page 2 of the file (marked p 42) says that Lawson continued to push for joining the ERM even after the problems of pegging the exchange rate became obvious. Then of course the ERM went south. Isn't that where Soros made his fortune betting against sterling?

    2. Soros? You mean the Soros who Daniel Korski - currently leading the Remain campaign from No 10 - worked for? Small world eh?


    I have been sceptical about the BBC EU Referendum Reality Check from the start. Should the BBC be setting itself up as the arbiter of truth? I think the answer is no. But it has. I thought, initially that it would be focussing on quanitifed claims. But not so! It includes plenty of opinion pieces...including this which is still up there and being linked to:

    Referring to the EU-Turkey migrants deal it states:

    "Under the plan, all migrants arriving in Greece would be sent back to Turkey. For each Syrian sent back, a Syrian already in Turkey would be resettled in the EU, but only in countries that voluntarily take part in the resettlement scheme."

    This is completely wrong. The EU keeps bona fide Syrian Asylum Seekers. It returns only those who are not bona fide asylum seekers and then has to take an equivalent number of bona fide Syrian refugees from Turkey. So what they have done is keep up there an inaccurate BBC Reporter's prediction of what the deal would contain and continue to link to it. So much for "Reality Checks"!

    1. Another indictment is that there is so far not a single mention of The Obamessiah's threats. They've parsed Gove's statement to death, dealt with Boris, and just now put up something on Theresa May's claims from yesterday about immigration controls. No prizes for guessing which bit of low-hanging fruit they chose, or their 'verdict'.

      Yet the biggest story for Remain in the last week is left untouched.

    2. Good point, David. If they are going to arbitrate on opinion, then you couldn't get a more fatuous opinion than that of a lame duck President opining about future trade deals on which to arbitrate!


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