I see that Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, has been stressing how the UK can’t negotiate aspects of our relationship with the EU in the event of a democratic referendum in the UK. I wrote a few days ago about my bemusement with the whole business of what Europe’s top guns are up to, but Herman’s (he lets me call him that) comments have got me going all over again.
Herman’s experience of national leadership comes from his role as Belgium’s prime minister for an 11 month period. He wasn’t actually elected, you understand, but then in any case gave up what most Belgians might mistakenly imagine to be the ultimate role of national leadership to take up his present appointment. Indeed, for much of the last 5 years, Belgium hasn’t actually had an elected government, including over a year without a government at all. If ever a modern European country has shown complete contempt for democracy, Belgium is it.
Mind you, Belgium has competition. I’ve Googled ‘Is Italy a Democracy?’ and, apart from an obscure 2008 Martin Jaques essay about Berlusconi (who was actually elected), Italy’s described in all the usual ways; ‘democratic republic’, etc. But, hang on, Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, and his entire government are unelected. Moreover, unelected president Napolitano wants Mr Monti to stay on as Italy’s unelected prime minister AFTER the coming elections.
Or what about Greece, where the natural solution to the economic crisis there was an unelected prime minister? And let’s not forget that when Britain entered the EEC in 1973, most present members weren’t democracies at all – and that includes Spain, which was still a military dictatorship under WW2 mate-of-Hitler’s General Franco; who was no doubt on nodding terms with the military dictatorship which ran Greece at the time.
Lectures from Herman and the Eurocrats on ‘How Democracy Works’? Give me a break.
I blogged a few days ago about
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