After last week’s argument about the British rebate and the Common Agricultural Policy at the European Union (EU) summit, Tony Blair has set himself up as the champion of “New Europe”.
He is going on about the wonders of the “Anglo-Saxon economic model”. The truth is that British workers work the longest hours in western Europe, retire with the lowest pensions and have some of the highest rates of child poverty.
Blair is allying himself with the right in Europe. He hopes that the Social Democrats will suffer defeat at the hands of the Tories in Germany and that French president Chirac will be replaced by an even more enthusiastic free market supporter.
In rejecting Blair’s dream of bringing US-style economic and social policies to the EU we should not rush to line up with some of Blair’s opponents.
The EU is a club for the rich which benefits the multinationals. The Common Agricultural Policy is not concerned with subsiding Greek olive growers, but lavishing handouts on agri-business.
In France and Holland people voted overwhelmingly against a European constitution which read like a hymn of praise to the market and which promoted greater militarisation.
As we gather in Edinburgh and Gleneagles to protest against the G8 leaders we need to join together with our sisters and brothers of the European radical left to spell out what an alternative, and better, Europe could look like.
George Bush renewed his sabre-rattling against Iran with a vitriolic attack on the conduct of the first round of the country’s presidential election last week.
His hypocrisy reveals a lot about what he and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice mean by democracy. In January they held up the sham elections in US-occupied Iraq as a model.
Now Bush slams the Iranian election, even though participation was higher than in Iraq or the US. Unlike in Iraq, Iranian electors had the advantage of knowing the candidates’ names.
Of course, the vetting of candidates by unelected elites is one reason why the Iranian election is far from genuine democracy.
But the US elite use more sophisticated techniques to accomplish similar ends. Big business controls the two parties to ensure choice is restricted to its candidates.
It’s not the lack of democracy the US has a problem with in Iran. It’s the refusal of most Iranians to bow to US interests.
That’s also why the US has repeatedly tried to overthrow Hugo Chavez, the popular Venezuelan president who could lay claim to the strongest mandate of any premier in the world.
Children born into poverty in Britain are less likely to escape from it than 25 years ago. Research by the London School of Economics has found that social mobility in Britain lags behind that in many other European countries.
The huge expansion in numbers going to university has also overwhelmingly benefited “those from richer backgrounds”. This record will not be one Blair will be trumpeting as he tours Europe boasting of Britain’s achievements.
Pride is a protest