Annihilation of Nick Clegg a disaster for europhiles

As if Nick Clegg hadn't made a big enough laughing stock out of the pro-EU case, along comes Michael Heseltine taking europhile buffoonery to an entirely new level

Farage has fried Clegg for breakfast
the commentator
On 3 April 2014 09:18

Who said "bring on the clowns"? In fact, if it wasn't for the comedic value of watching the pro-EU crowd making such complete and utter fools of themselves the antics of Clegg and company would be enough to drive you to distraction.

At least the mainstream media was less inclined at this week's debate to call Nigel Farage's demolition of the deputy prime minister "a draw", though there remained a smattering of death-to-my-credibility types who were sticking to their guns. The two polls handed victory to Farage by 69-31 and 68-27. In other words, Nick Clegg was annihilated.

What on earth was he playing at? What possessed him and his advisors to think that a seemingly endless tirade composed of personal insults would impress anyone? And what was that joke? "If I’m the leader of ‘the party of in’, he’s the leader of the party of Putin!”

Get it? (IN and Put...IN.)  Yes. It's that bad. The two things Clegg appears to have forgotten here are that 1) No-one over the age of five is going to be impressed by that, and 2) you can't vote in Britain until you're 18.

If the gags were bad, the substance was even worse. Essentially it came down to Clegg accusing Farage of wanting to turn the clock back to a bygone era. This is worth dwelling on because it gets to the heart of the europhile delusion, the belief that supranationalism represents the future, with national democracy having been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Michael Heseltine, in his own inimitably catatonic style, has been banging a similar drum. This week he told the New Statesman that Britain would definitely be joining the euro. "Oh yes, one day, one day," he said. "We have resisted all these European ventures in my life. We tried to keep out in Messina in 1955 [the conference that led to the creation of the European Economic Community]."

That, after all, is the way history is going. Or rather, not.

There are several gaping holes in the argument. Here are two of them.

First, supranationalism is not new in Europe. In fact, it is one of the oldest and most damaging ideas in European history. In different incarnations it has been tried many times before. If you could summon up the ghosts of the Papacy of the Middle Ages, the Habsburgs, Napoleon, they'd take one look at Brussels and offer you a knowing smile: Been there, done that, they would say.

And they'd be right. The modern European project is just another pan-European, imperial venture. It couldn't be less novel if it tried.

Secondly, supranationalism is most definitely not the way of the future. Don't take our word for it, just listen to what the economists and political analysts are saying. Heard of the BRIC countries? That would be Brazil, Russia, India and China who are projected to join the United States as the leading powers in the world.

Notice something they have in common? Come on. Tell us NIck. Tell us Michael. Yes indeed. Yes, yes, indeed. Every single one of them is a nation state. Not a supranational entity in sight.

And here's a closing thought, not unrelated to the above. If you're going to adopt a patronising tone, you'll only pull it off without people hating you if you really are as clever as you think you are. But Nick Clegg, Michael Heseltine and company just aren't.

They're the dim kids at the bottom of the class, in no position to patronise anyone.

The great advance from these debates on Europe is that an ever increasing proportion of the British people now understands that. Unwittingly, Nick Clegg may have done us all a favour.

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