Friday, May 07, 2004

Will America be bad for your career?

A rather good article in the Telegraph by Boris Johnson:

Just remind me, I said, turning to a colleague and friend, what is the case for this war in Iraq? You voted for it. I voted for it. We both spoke in favour of it. We both saw the merits of sticking with the Americans. We both believed that it was a good idea to get rid of Saddam.

But is there not a time when we have to admit, in all intellectual honesty, that our positions have been overwhelmed by countervailing data? How on Earth can we now defend what seems - admittedly at some distance - to be a total bloody shambles?

"Oh come off it, mate," he said, because he is not only a hawk, but has a keen and impatient mind, "don't be so wet. You want a single big argument for the war? The key point is that people are no longer being tortured in jails in Baghdad. That's what we have achieved."

Well you can guess the rest of that story. Personally I've always been doubtful of Johnson's hawkish credentials, but whether it's intellectual conversion or coming out it doesn't matter. There is a rising generation of intellectual right wingers who are still wedded to the Atlanticist truisms of their parent's generation. It's understandable, if not brave, after all Maggie's still alive and to question that generation's political beliefs may put this generation's inheritance at risk. As Michael Howard's elevation, less than three year's after William Hague stepped down, the old generation still have some pull.

However do people like Michael Gove, Daniel Hannan and Andrew Rosindell really believe in the Atlantic partnership? My bet is that they do, but for how much longer? Remember that Maggie herself played a prominent part in the 1975 Yes campaign for remaining in the EEC and pushed through the Single European Act. On Cold War logic alone a United non-commie Europe was sensible (remember that EEC opponents like Enoch Powell doubted the very existence of a Cold War, and as for Tony Benn...) and as the Cold War cooled down right wing Euroscepticism stoked up.

It could be quite quick, it could be quite slow, but Atlanticism will not always be the majority faith on the right of British politics. The first stirrings, like Boris Johnson's piece above, are already out there. And this should be a warning for the generation of wannabe Tory politicians and opinion formers in the wings. Don't be too attached by ideas such as the Anglosphere or Atlantic trading blocs.

By all means espouse the orthodoxy, as your predecesors espoused staying in the EEC in the 1980s, just be prepared to change. There will be a time, probably sooner than you think when Atlanticism is espoused in the Conservative Party by a few people with strong family or business links with America, ideological libertarians and a few assorted misfits and nobody else. Don't think it can happen? Well look at the state of the pro-European faction within the Conservatives - who are they? A few people with strong family or business links with America, ideological centrists and a few assorted misfits...

After all how many young bright energetic pro-Europeans are making their way to the candidates list and a safe seat now?


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