March 25, 2004
The British Conservatives' Transatlantic MalaiseBy Michael Morris
For Americans who may not be aware of this fact, Tony Blair, the British PM, is not a Conservative. It is perhaps easy to think of him as one, considering his steadfast support for President Bush, and his determination —— much to the disappointment of half the British population —— in committing British troops to the Iraq War. The truth is of course, that Tony Blair is the leader of the Labour party, whose traditions are steeped in Socialist dogma. But this does not make him a Socialist — because as many have noted — he is an ideologically enigmatic leader.
On the one hand, he has been a highly articulate and determined defender of the Transatlantic Alliance. On the other, he has been just as bullish in his belief that the
The most recent episode in this ongoing battle between the British pro—American and pro—EU camps was played out very publicly last weekend during the now infamous Spanish elections. The EU won that round and the tug—of—war continues.
So what about the British Conservatives? Where do they stand on the question of
Being a natural Conservative in the
While both Churchill and Thatcher based the foundation of their foreign policy on a strong transatlantic relationship, a sizeable minority of Tories today are clearly looking eastward to the EU for
Before we concentrate on the pro—EU Conservatives, it is important to make it crystal clear that the majority of British Conservatives are supporters of the Transatlantic Alliance, and highly suspicious of EU motives and final objectives.
The current Tory opposition leader, Michael Howard, is clearly pro—American — as is most of his inner cabinet. He is known to be a Euro—skeptic. Currently, Howard is dithering about how much pressure to bring to bear on Tony Blair over the handling of the Iraq War. Considering that he voted for the war in Parliament; we must hope he is not trying to emulate John Kerry's precarious flip—flopping tactics in order to embarrass Blair further. Howard is a formidable lawyer and good orator — skills that could be put to good use in defending the transatlantic alliance.
Another group of Tories are also Euro—skeptics, but are 'pulling a Gerhard Schroeder'. They are relatively harmless, but won't speak up too loudly for the transatlantic alliance — simply because they fear doing so would not be a vote winner. It may be spineless behaviour but unlike the pro—EU Tories, they are not anti—American.
In the context of a threat to the transatlantic relationship, the pro—EU Tories are the strategically significant group. Their ranks are filled with passionate Europhiles such as Chris Patten MP (The EU's External Affairs Commissioner), Kenneth Clark MP, and Michael Heseltine MP — (tellingly) the Patton played a major role in bringing down Thatcher's government from the inside.
They may be Conservatives — or so they say — but their aspirations for the EU are very similar to those of pro—EU Socialists of which there are greater numbers. Most of these pro—EU Tories belong to 'The Tory Reform Group,' a small but powerful Europhile faction of British Conservatives. Their website doesn't appear to have been updated since last spring, so perhaps their reform is losing momentum.
Michael Heseltine MP has been a pro European for a very long time. While superficial to EU policy today, he's a great example of British Conservative wide—eyed enthusiasm for the EU. He is best remembered for insisting on lumbering the British tax payer with the 'Euro—fighter' project.
For those of you not familiar with this great success story in European defense collaboration, some background may be required. The 'technologically advanced' Euro—fighter, now known as the Typhoon, was designed 20 years ago and was to be built jointly by
Well, we now have a sexy looking fighter—jet — with a couple of tiny problems. These babies can't carry air—to—air or precision—guided air—to—ground weapons. One has to wonder how a mistake such as that wasn't discovered within the double decade development cycle.
This Euro—fighter project has snowballed into such a catastrophe that Geoff Hoon, the current British defense minister, is on the verge of scrapping the whole deal. He has been told that delivery of 177 of the weaponless fighters will cost the British taxpayer an additional $50 billion. So Michael Heseltine's great European foray has cost a shed load of euros and we don't have a Euro—fighter. We've got a white elephant.
Chris Patten, on the other hand, is very much involved in the EU's current foreign policy strategy. We'll come back to this in a moment because it clearly demonstrates how a British Conservative, on behalf of the EU — seems perfectly willing to drive a wedge into the American and British strategic partnership.
If you recall, Chris Patten was in charge of
These days, Chris Patten is very busy initiating and driving forward an integrated EU foreign policy, which for all intents and purposes appears to be anti—American. In the absence of pro—EU Tory criticism of his handling of EU foreign policy, one must assume that Conservative Europhiles are fully signed up to his EU agenda.
The conflict between
Only recently, the EU was the leading financial supporter for the recent case at
The EU's support of Arafat, as championed by Chris Patten, may be an attempt to damage US strategic interests in the
It's a remarkable policy in that it hasn't made life any better for the Palestinians and it has only given Arafat's corrupt Palestinian Authority a false sense of security.
Of course, there are also the other EU initiatives in
It's bizarre that all of these EU foreign policies operate under the drive and guidance of a British Conservative. So, the idea that an aggressive EU has to be based on a Socialist model is plainly incorrect. Conservative Europhiles share the same dreams as all the other Europhiles, regardless of political affiliation.
There is obviously a genuine passion burning for
Why have some British Conservatives given up on the 'special relationship'?
Perhaps they resent the fact that
But it's hard not to suspect that Conservative Europhile motives are partly driven by a fear of being left behind in the power stakes. It's as if these Conservatives are suffering low self—esteem from a nationalistic perspective, and feel that the
to maintain a path independent of Continental socialism.
The Transatlantic Alliance is, after all, the cornerstone of what has come to be known as the Anglosphere. Putting modesty aside, the Anglosphere is now all that stands between modernity and a descent into medieval barbarism. Despite American dominancem the Anglosphere is and always will be a product of British political history. If
Michael Howard, leader of the Conservatives, needs to use his pro—American majority to sideline the Europhile Tories, and more importantly, do all he can to stop them from getting hold of
Michael Morris is our London Correspondent
Michael Morris is our London Correspondent