Dead Men Left

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gordon Brown: work longer for less money

I've mentioned it before, but the happy left-liberal thought that, by tying Britain closer to the EU, this country will be pulled to the left is little more than a reassuring myth. Far from pulling Britain leftwards, the British government has, for decades, acted to pull Europe to the right: a supposedly internationalise left-liberal Europhilia turns out to be alarming parochial, privileging minor (if any) social gains in the UK over a baleful neoliberal backwash across the continent.

The debate over the Bolkestein directive showed just how pernicious an influence the British government and senior British officials are in the EU, persistently advocating greater "liberalisation" and further extensions of the rule of the market across the continent. These are delivered in hectoring style, with guardians of the Anglo-Saxon model wagging fingers at slovenly Europeans and their recidivist attachment to the welfare state, employment protection, and free education. Gordon Brown, that supposed "left-wing" alternative to Blair, is no better than Peter Mandelson in this regard:

Gordon Brown will today vow to resist moves to impose shorter working hours on Britain and will attack the economic management of the European Union...

He will say: "Britain must and will promote labour, product and capital market reform in Europe. And in our presidency of the EU we will push forward our proposals to liberalise the single market and make the European economy more dynamic...

"Our proposed agenda will be labour market reform, so we will resist the opt-out to the 48 hour week being removed, and product and capital market liberalisation, so you have access to European markets."

...followed by a trumpeting of New Labour's many economic achievements that curiously neglects stagnating investment (PDF) and R&D expenditure (PDF), a yawning productivity gap, unsustainable private borrowing and a massive current account deficit.

The British Left needs to develop and propagate a serious critique of the EU and its institutions. This is becoming an urgent task: if we are to challenge both the xenophobia of the Euroscpetic Right, and the blind Europhilia of the liberal left in the coming years, we need a coherent and credible programme on which to do so. The French campaign against the new EU constitution should act as a role model for us all.