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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The spirit of ’68 lives on at LSE

Extraordinary scenes at the London School of Economics last night. Peter Sutherland, ex-EU Commissioner and Chairman of BP, was physically stopped from giving a long-scheduled public speech on European foreign policy by a handful of undergraduates wielding “Out Sutherland!” banners. They blockaded the stage and refused to move, to the almost violent frustration of the audience, eventually forcing the lecture to be given elsewhere, almost an hour behind schedule.

Sutherland has recently been appointed Chair of the LSE Council and it seems not everyone is happy about it, on the grounds of BP’s environmental record, and a feeling that “big business” is in danger of jeopordising the LSE’s “social science and Fabian origins.” Someone has posted photos of the protest here.

Eventually, in his long-coming speech Sutherland talked about the need for a “stronger and more integrated Europe”, arguing that single member states cannot be “effective or even relevant” acting alone on the world stage. His justification? “Eurobarometer polls across Europe, including the UK, highlight strong support for “more Europe” in foreign and security policy.”

Only yesterday we suggested that the Commission uses its Eurobarometer polls as a propaganda tool to justify new integrationist policies, as it emerged that it had delayed releasing a poll which found a drop in support for a common EU energy policy. On the pretext that “European citizens clearly expect the Union to use its substantial influence to protect and promote their interests”, he argued for QMV in foreign policy-making, an EU foreign minister, the creation of a European diplomatic services, a legal personality for the EU, and the end of the rotating Presidency role in foreign affairs – all elements of the rejected EU Constitution.

The whole tone of Sutherland’s speech – the undemocratic, press-on-regardless mentality – was just as much a throwback as the protesting students.

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