Sunday, May 23, 2004
24-1: The Odds on being convinced Blair is a Eurosceptic

The latest meeting on the European Constitution will take place tomorrow. The unresolved issues: the system of voting in the Council of Ministers (including the use of qualified majority voting) and the number of Commissioners per Member State remain issues in search of a consensus.

The European Commission has also retreated in the face of specific threats to gain control over the oil and gas deposits of Member States. Whilst this posed a visible extension of control from Brussels to a strategic interest of the United Kingdom, their climb-down may not be the triumph for the SNP trumpeted by Alex Salmond. Visibly minor concessions to help New Labour in the run up to the European elections may be provided in return for dilution of the "red lines" after June 10th. If this is the case, a "triumph" for the fishermen may be on the cards in the next two weeks.

New Labour will need all the 'triumphs' that they can get in Scotland. An interview with the head of Scottish Labour's MEP list, David Martin, provides anecdotal evidence that events in Iraq are a primary concern with voters and that they have undermined support amongst female voters. Since Blair gained support from women voters in 1997, overturning this traditional Tory advantage, such a psephological turn must be viewed as extremely worrying, especially if it were to have an impact in the General Election.

With this uncertain and hostile landscape at home, it is telling that tomorrow's meetings will not concern itself with the battles taht we are told Labour is fighting on our behalf. The foreign ministers meet tomorrow to thrash out a deal on voting, where a compromise has been reached: raising the population threshold for agreement so that Spain and Poland can rest assured that the troika of Britain, France and Germany could not form a 'blocking minority'. Tomorrow, Britain will just be one of the 'Big Three', although our govt wants us to see them at the heart of Europe defending Britain's interests, 24 to 1.

(22.55, 23rd May 2004)


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