Press Release on Pro-Europeanism of Gordon Brown's government

News Release

Friday 3 November 2006

Speaking in Hull today (3 Nov) former Europe Minister, Denis MacShane, says that he was confident that a Gordon Brown government would maintain the UK’s full engagement in the European Union. Recent statements by ministers, including those close to the Chancellor show a stepped-up commitment to Europe. Previously divisive issues like the Euro and the Constitution were no longer on the agenda. Instead, the next generation of Labour ministers were making the argument for enhanced EU cooperation as a political priority for the UK under Labour. MacShane contrasted this new Labour pro-Europeanism with the further embrace of UKIP style anti-Europeanism by leading Conservatives, including party leader, David Cameron.
Extract from Jean Monnet Annual Lecture at Hull University, 1800h Fri 3 November 2006
It is time to begin sketching a new chapter in the history of Britain’s tortured relationship with the rest of Europe and the treaty organisations of the European Union.
Like the long-lasting fight over free trade in the 19th century the struggle over whether to be fully in Europe or to move to the exit door remains a symbol of two visions of Britain – open or closed, engaged or isolationist, nativist or internationalist, frightened of the foreign or confident in our British genius to offer leadership – in the 21st century.
Winston Churchill quit the Conservative Party at the beginning of the 20th century over its relapse into splendid isolation and its choice of tariffs and protectionism.
Today, under David Cameron, the Conservative Party has gone firmly back to what has always been the fatal attraction for the Tories – the view that our country can disconnect from the historical development of the continent and defy the new economics of open trade, open borders and the sharing of power with other nations.
Mr Cameron has surrendered to the worst of the anti-European elements in his party. He has pledged to break links with sister political parties in Europe. He relentlessly criticises any initiative to make Europe work. He has promised a sledge of referendums on any new treaty change – even if it is new treaty which guarantees a British Commissioner his or her place at the Commission after 2009.
Far from confronting the UKIP-BNP xenophobic hostility to Europe, Mr Cameron panders to such Euroscepticism. At the Tory Party conference, the biggest crowds were at meetings calling for withdrawal from Europe and Mr Cameron had never sought to exercise any discipline over his MPs who parrot the UKIP-BNP line against Europe.
By contrast, there is a remarkable change in the approach of Labour ministers to Europe.
David Milliband has called for an Environmental Union, an EU to tackle the important challenges laid down in Sir Nicholas Stern’s report.
John Reid, is urging his fellow EU interior ministers to cooperate more on combating supranational crime and terrorism.
The Treasury minister, Dawn Primarolo, argues that more not less EU is needed to deal with the massive fiscal frauds that cheat taxpayers of revenue which should go to government to do good things.
On foreign policy, it is clear that Britain’s voice is infinitely stronger when our ideas and policy are co-joined with other EU nations.
The EU is spending €6 million and sending 300 observers to the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is just a small example of how Britain working within the EU can have a real presence on the ground in this key country and to support good democratic practices.
Britain alone would have neither the resources nor reach to contribute to this kind of unpublicized but vital foreign policy work.
Europe’s soldiers are now engaged from the shores of Lebanon to the frontier mountains of Pakistan in the new front of seeking to help the democratically elected governments of Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan deal with what the former German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer rightly calls the new totalitarianism of jihadi fundamentalism.
The Treasury Minister, Ed Balls, has come out this week firmly in favour of Europe. ‘On the economy, the social dimension, the environment, and foreign policy, Europe is going to play a bigger role in the future,’ he declared.
The early part of the Labour government was distorted by a debate over joining the Euro and then over the constitution.
I argued consistently, if sometime maladroitly to the great joy of the anti-European press, that the issue of the Euro was a red herring as in my judgement as steel constituency MP there was never the remotest possibility of the UK entering the Eurozone given the economic differences between the UK and the major Eurozone economies.
After the Euro question, for too much of this century the argument was focused on the need for a European constitution. Jack Straw wrote a famous essay for the Economist calling for a constitution for Europe. The paper depicted him in a cartoon as a new Benjamin Franklin, equipped with his quill pen, writing the new Philadelphia document that would bind Europe together.
I am sure Mr Straw would now be the first to declare that the years spent working on a giant document with its foolish title of constitution. As a minister I refused to use the term ‘constitution’ in Parliament or in correspondence.
Now the contentious issues of the Euro and the full-blooded constitution are behind us.
So practical politicians like Ed Balls, David Milliband and John Reid can craft a new European politics.
As Ed Balls told the Fabian Society in an important speech, alas unreported, this Wednesday, "In 2006 the sensible mainstream view is pro-British and pro-European – a hard-hedaed pro-Europeanism which puts out national interests first but understands that we are stronger by co-operating with our European partners… Whether on the single market or other critical issues like the environment, world trade, security, immigration, enlargement or the wider foreign policy we know that the only way to get the best deal for Britain is by working with our European partners."
This modern assertion of the centrality of Europe to Britain’s future from a leading figure in the next generation of Labour politicians is welcome and timely.
It builds bridges beyond the simplistic and crude pro or anti Euro, for or against the Constitution arguments which are yesterday’s debates.
It shapes a new progressive alliance which embraces Britain’s global trade destiny, as well as with other political forces, including pro-Europeans in other political parties who reject the soft Ukipism on offer from William Hague and David Cameron.
It means that the next era of European work will focus on showing that common European policy must be citizen-focused and demonstrating real delivery in the new areas of concern like the environment, crime, terrorism and adding a social dimension to the pressures of the post-national economy.
It is a Europe that does rather than a Europe that talks about itself.
The new approach from British ministers will be welcomed across the broad spectrum of parliaments and governments in the new Europe of 27 sovereign nations that agree to work together within the European Union.
I also believe that the new engagement with Europe we see from today’s ministers chimes with the arguments of the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso. In an important speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs last month, Mr Barroso reinforced this new approach by British ministers when he said:
"The UK's role in developing Europe is a vital role and the UK can take pride in its contribution. And yet it sometimes seems reluctant to do so. This may be because of your native modesty. But it will never work as a means of convincing the British public of the need for Europe. You will never persuade people to support an organisation which sometimes you pretend does not exist.
"The UK will always have influence in Europe. Its size, its economic power and its international networks will ensure that. So the question is: does the UK want to shape a positive agenda which reflects its own agenda, or be dragged along as a reluctant partner? Does the United Kingdom want to continue to drive from the centre; or return to sulking from the periphery?"
Mr Barroso is of the same political family as David Cameron but it is a new generation of Labour ministers who want to "drive from the centre" rather than the clear Tory choice of a "return to sulking from the periphery."
What I think we are hearing is a new engagement with Europe as Britain and the Labour Party prepares for a change of leadership. I am confident that as Labour prepares for a Gordon Brown premiership the pro-Europeans in Labour can be confident that the post-Blair Labour government will stay firmly committed to UK’s membership of the European Union and firmly supportive of enhanced European cooperation to meet new challenges.

The Hidden Conservatives: article on Henry Jackson written in 2006

This article explains Denis MacShane’s support for the pro-labour, pro-environment, and anti-Stalinism that helped form the late Senator Jackson’s politics.
The Hidden Conservatives

Political commentators are making a mistake when they assume the David Cameron is trying to borrow the tactics that propelled Labour to power in 1997. The superficial similarities between Tony Blair and David Cameron are obvious but Cameron has no Gordon Brown, nor Robin Cook, nor Mo Mowlam able either to think hard and strategically or to reach out empathetically to connect with British voters a decade ago in a way Labour had not done since 1945.
The real example Cameron wants to follow is that of George W Bush who invented "Compassionate Conservatism" as the only way to ease the Clinton New Democrats out of office.
In 1999, after a visit to Washington I wrote a memo for Tony Blair under the heading "Why George W Bush Will be the Next President." It was not rocket science. Bush the junior was touring America talking the language of blacks, women, the poor, Hispanics and making sure on every platform he was flanked by new Americans.
Even today, the presence of Condoleeza Rice sends out a powerful signal at a time when the idea of a woman foreign secretary or one with an ethnic background is unthinkable for European governments of left and right.
Even in office Bush has been more Keynsian than a true follower of Milton Friedman. The massive expansion in public spending and hiring of government employees under Bush is without precedent in American history.
Will the Tories go that far? Can they bury Thatcherism in the way Blair, Brown and Cook buried the Labourism that permitted short bursts in government followed by longer and longer periods in opposition?
As the Conservative seek inspiration from the United States they copy Republican cross-dressers in more and more ways.
One example is the effort to cast the former US Senator, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, as a kind of closet Cameronite. To be sure, Jackson was opposed to Soviet totalitarianism. He moved an important amendment which forced US trade policy towards the Soviet Union to negotiate the emigration of Jews and others who wanted to escape to freedom.
But Jackson’s most famous fight was with Henry Kissinger and the American conservative realists who believed in doing business with totalitarian regimes rather than confronting communism ideologically and politically.
Jackson was a big government Democratic Senator from one of the more liberal and progressive states in America, the north-east pacific state of Washington, home today to more left-wing bookshops in the US than any other state.
He was a strong supporter of American labour and worked closely with the manufacturing unions whose members produced Boeing planes in Seattle where he lived in a working class district.
Jackson’s biggest achievement was to force through legislation against President Nixon to set up the National Environment Agency and make environmental impact assessments a legal obligation on companies. US big business hates them as much as they hate Jackon’s beloved labour movement.
Jackson drew much of his ideological inspiration from the pro-labour, pro-environment, high-taxation, strong-government but anti-communist politics of Nordic social democracy. Nordic trade unions ousted or marginalised communist and shop steward militancy in the 1940s.
Today’s Tories are impoverished ahistorical creatures. They cast around for inspiration from the United States and alight on a figure like Jackson who was ready to intervene to promote democracy and use US power to that end. But he wanted government to intervene to promote green policy, to back workers and unions and to use its power to promote social justice.
If Cameron and his Notting Hill Tories really want to be followers of Scoop Jackson they have a long way to go. And of course they do not. Their secret bible is the new book by the young Tory ideologue, Douglas Murray, "Neoconservatism: why we need it." Murray makes the case for military intervention to defend democracy and freedom.
One of his heroines is the neo-con granny, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who was one of the main philosophers of neoconservatism after it took root in US policy circles 25 years ago. But when Professor Kirkpatrick faced her first big challenge as Ronald Reagan’s neo-con Ambassador to the United Nations, namely the invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands her reaction was to side with the fascist junta not the people who suddenly lost their freedom.
She was to be seen in New York going to Argentinian diplomatic parties at the UN to support dictatorship provided it was a right-wing dictatorship. And this is the problem with neoconservatism. It is usually one-sided in turning a blind eye to dictators like the torturing thug who runs Uzbekistan if he offers support for some other crusade.
Douglas Murray wants a true muscular neoconservatism to take over today’s Tories. His book argues for the NHS to be privatised, Britain to quit the Council of Europe, massive cuts in public services and Britain to move to the exit door of the European Union. Other than on the last point, Cameron is leading the Tories, at least in formal declarations, in the opposite direction of seeking to get into the same Guardian-BBC bed as the Lib-Dems, and much of Labour.
Hence the Cameron conundrum or David’s dilemma. He wants to Americanise the Tories in the sense of making them more Jacksonite or able to imitate George W Bush’s compassionate conservatism as shaped to win in 2000. But Jackson was a greenish union-hugger whose anti-communism wanted the US tax-payer to pay ever higher taxes to promote freedom. Bush’s conservatism had led to deficits and public spending Labour dare not dream of. A new Toryism for Britain waits to be born. Despite the genuflections to Washington it is unlikely to find true inspiration from across the Atlantic.
Denis MacShane is Labour MP for Rotherham and was a foreign office minister 2001-2005. He is addressing the Henry Jackson society in Cambridge later this month.

Iran crisis 2006: 'Send an Ambassador not ultimatums to Iran, Mr Bush'

This article was published in the Independent in 2006

Send an Ambassador, not ultimatums, to Iran, Mr Bush

There is something of 1914 in the air. The Greys and Poincarés fret as the wheels of conflict trundle inexorably forward. The Iran crisis brings together every world problem: nuclear weapons in the hands of theo-cons who want to exterminate Jews; the economic future of China; and, above all, the inability of a world system or its most powerful state to impose a solution.
Instead of plodding through the rituals of UN Security Council debates with a drift to war, can the United States offer a grand bargain that would transform Iranian politics? It happened three decades ago when America also faced an ideological opponent whose leaders preached hate of the West and threatened a key US ally across the straights of Taiwan.
Yet in one of the boldest strokes of 20th century diplomacy, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, neither of whom to be accused of liberal soft power modishness, transformed America’s and the world’s relationship with China.
Diplomatic recognition may seem a fuddy-duddy response to a world problem but a decision by President Bush and his imaginative Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice to re-establish diplomatic relations with Teheran or seriously to make the offer would have a transformative impact on the Middle East.
America broke off diplomatic relations after the 1979 overthrow of the Shah and the hostage taking in the US embassy in Teheran. Now is the time to send an Ambassador to Iran – why not Bill Clinton for the first 12 months? - and initiate a new policy of trade, travel, tourism and mass contact between the people of Iran and the West.
Iran has vibrant politics, a growth rate that matches that of China, and seven out of ten Iranians are under the age of 30. This generation wants an end to the whippings, executions of adolescents and endless fear of arrest. Finding a way of engaging with this Iran with its huge pride in Persian history and culture is a priority. Iran sponsors terrorism but has maintained peaceful relations with Turkey for over five centuries. Were not for endless meddling by Britain and then America in the quest for oil in the last century Iran could now be en route to being a normal Muslim state like Malaysia or Turkey.
It is not just the West’s fault. Iran has created its own status as the diplomatic pariah of the region. Teheran does not recognise Egypt and of course shuns diplomatic relations with Israel. The failure of Arab and Muslim states to have diplomatic relations with Israel is a further example of making diplomacy the enemy of progress rather than using state-to-state relations to tackle intractable problems.
Only Jordan and Egypt have full diplomatic relations with Israel. As a FCO minister I attended pointless EU conclaves of ministers from Mediterranean countries. As I listened to Arab foreign ministers droning on and their Israeli opposite number being as unhelpful as could be I asked out loud why the Arabs did not recognise Israel and have some of these debates in Tel Aviv, Damascus, or Algiers.
Like the child who said the proud emperor was naked, Arab ministers looked in horror at any suggestion that their rejectionist diplomacy was counter-productive. There is no need to concede an ounce of your opponent’s position to enjoy the benefits of diplomatic recognition. France continued to have a functioning embassy in Berlin during the long years of German occupation of Alsace Lorraine.
One of the best things Robin Cook did was to recognise North Korea in 1998 at a time when North Korea was a pariah state. It meant Britain had access, in a way few other powers did, during key developments in the Korean peninsular since then.
Opening embassies in Tel Aviv would still allow Arab League states to sustain all their demands on Israel – an evacuation of the occupied territories, a shared capital in Jerusalem, as well as Israel working collaboratively with Palestinians for the creation of a viable state of Palestine.
The old mantra that diplomatic recognition follows after everything else has been settled reverses priorities. In the 1950s, West Germany’s Hallstein doctrine, named after Adenaur’s foreign minister, Walter Hallstein, held that Bonn would refuse relations with any country that recognised the communist German Democratic Republic.
Willy Brandt became Germany’s Foreign Minister in 1966, recognised the German Democratic Republic, and started the process of hollowing out communism from within. Can the United States copy Brandt and drop its politics of non-recognition of Iran? Have Bush and Rice the same vision as Nixon and Kissinger? The Iranians need America as a partner, not an enemy. Washington should play this card before tragedy takes over.