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Wednesday 1 April 2009

Wheelered Out The Door

Like poor old Dusty Bin, Stuart Wheeler has been rejected by the Tory Party. He can’t say it wasn’t coming to him, and neither can he have any complaints. You want to support UKIP? Fine. Just don’t expect to remain as a member of another party at the same time.

David Cameron knows that he must be not only decisive, but consistently so. Having dealt with Derek Conway and Giles Chichester, he had no alternative with Wheeler: anything that smacks of “a party within a party” summons up visions of Militant, and Neil Kinnock faced them down. To appear less strong and decisive than Kinnock just would not do. That is all there is to it. Those who have been accusing the likes of Iain Dale (and there is no blogger greater than he) of having some kind of other agenda on this issue miss the obvious point: Dale has been following politics, particularly Tory ones, for long enough to know that Cameron would have Wheeler expelled. He was therefore in a win-win situation: he could call for Wheeler’s head, knowing that expulsion would follow, then be able to say that he told us so. Job done!

But however decisive Cameron is, the E-word, and the spectre of UKIP, continues to hang over the Tories, aided and abetted by the screaming Europhobia of the Murdoch and Rothermere press. You want examples? Let’s pick a Euro-issue, any Euro-issue ... I know – Working Time Directive! 48 hours? How dare those foreigners tell us how many hours a week we can put in?

Of course, the 48 hours is not an EU diktat. Nobody is being told they can’t work more than 48 hours a week - if they want to. And there’s the rub: this is about personal freedom. So where’s David Davis when you need him? Fancy a byelection on a freedom issue, Dave? You wouldn’t want to come over all inconsistent, just because it’s a Euro-issue, would you?

But, say anti-Europeans, there’s more to it than that. What about all those unelected bureaucrats? What indeed. So we’ve started to put the Civil Service up for regular election, have we? We haven’t? So what makes our unelected bureaucrats different to the ones in Brussels?

Third time lucky, Eurosceptics? Here’s another common idea: we’re drifting into some kind of uniform Euro-state. If so, then riddle me this: in Germany, your income tax is collected by what we would call local government. After Margaret Thatcher’s vindictive demonisation of local government in the 1980s, and the subsequent centralisation of power – maintained by all her successors – there is little likelihood of the UK going down that road.

The idea of strong regional identity has also been pursued in Spain, and during its period of EU membership. I will return to matters Anglo-Spanish (in a European context, of course) later.

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