Former Europe Minister Denis McShane has a letter in today’s FT, in response to an article by Malcolm Rifkind in the paper on Wednesday.
Some familiar MacShane themes:
“The idea of ‘moderate’ euroscepticism advanced by Sir Malcolm is rather like being a ‘moderate’ unilateralist in the debate over nuclear weapons or a ‘moderate’ anti-American. The difference between euroscepticism and anti-Europeanism is a semantic fiction.”
…Sounds like a reheat of his previous mildly hysterical claim that "Euroscepticism is a misnomer. What we are actually taking about is hatred of Europe and a sense of superiority… I'm afraid we have got a dark streak of xenophobia and racism in our mentality. Anti-Europeanism allows it to get a lot closer to the surface”.
Also some peculiar new claims:
“David Cameron has moved today's Tories further away from Europe than any of his predecessors.”
Eh? More sceptical than IDS or Michael Howard? Hasn’t he just binned a load of their previous pledges, e.g. on unilaterally pulling of the CFP? MacShane also includes his usual spiel about how being critical of the EU will make the Tories unelectable:
“until the Conservative leadership, not backbenchers, take on the Tory anti-Europeans in the same manner Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and John Smith vanquished Labour's eurosceptics, then we must judge David Cameron's Tories by what they say and do and not by what Sir Malcolm wishes his party to be.”
Er… quite apart from the fact that euroscepticism doesn’t have the same role for the Tories as nuclear disarmament did for Labour, this strikes us as kind of off-the-pace even in terms of what is happening within Labour. Opinion within Labour (and the Lib Dems) is now past the high water mark of the starry eyed, everything-Brussels-does-is-great mentality which MacShane represents. It’s not yet clear exactly what approach Gordon Brown will take when he makes the move to No 10, but given his past positioning on Europe, it is highly unlikely to be a mere continuation of Blairite policy. So come next year MacShane is likely to find himself writing a lot more manic green-ink letters to the FT…