I meant to blog on this yesterday, when I first read it on the BBC Website, but events have conspired to delay it until now. The article is taken from an interview in the FT with the Shadow Foreign Secretary.
The Great Waffler, William Hague, has said that under the Tories Britain would pursue “close” ties with the US, and expressed concerns about the EU’s direction. Now, I have my own reservations on the EU’s direction, but I suspect that myself and Mr. Hague have slightly different thoughts on the matter.
The inference that the Conservatives have made what he calls a “strategic decision” not to pick a fight with Europe from the off suggests that they would love to indulge in a little Euro-bashing, but can’t afford to given the political landscape.
He blames the financial crisis for diminishing the UK’s infuence in the world, conveniently sidestepping one of the major events which opened the nation to criticism from all quarters, namely the country’s support for the invasion of Iraq. Of course, it’s sheer coincidence that the Tories supported the invasion too, invalidating it as a political bat with which to beat Labour. Economic policy, on the other hand, is a favourite line of Conservative rhetoric at the moment, even if they are hopelessly confused about specifics.
The reason that the UK’s economy is suffering is because we have moved away from being an economy that produced things, and become an economy that relies too much on The City to use financial jiggery-pokery to make it seem as though the economy’s growing, whereas in fact the only growth is in share prices. Dr. Paul Cockshott has published an excellent critique of the current financial situation over at Though Cowards Flinch (the comments sections of the two posts on Keynes are particularly enightening).
However, Hague pins the blame on Labour’s over-borrowing while its been in power. While this has impeded any government attempts to intervene in the current situation, it is not a cause of the economic situation. Germany has functioned reasonably well with a sizeable budget deficit for years now, and Greece would have been fine if its credit rating had not been downgraded, thereby increasing the cost of borrowing.
Hague maintains that if Labour triumphs, Britain will be taken “backwards towards a Seventies-style model” in terms of economic policy, but his refusal to cooperate with Europe will move Britain back to a foreign policy which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s – obsessed with international prestige and a global superpower status despite the challenges it faces, to the detriment of other, far more important issues.
Britain, as a nation of 60 million, has vast disadvantages just in size when it comes to competing economically with the big boys, but the Tory obsession with maintaining the UK’s place in the sun could lead to a Britain that is isolated from Europe, and overly-reliant on a United States that, economically and politically, is increasingly marginalised on the international scene.