Friday, June 03, 2005

Even more exciting, they had proportional representation

Attentive readers may spot some similarities between today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News and an earlier posting on this blog.

Different tunes

Parliament is in recess, so we begin with a quiz. Which is the only constituency where the sitting member has been defeated at each of the last three general elections?

While you are thinking about that, we will discuss what the Eurovision Song Contest says about the difficulties facing the European project. You may remember that Britain’s representative was Javine. She sang “Touch my Fire” but got her fingers burnt.

For Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Germany – the largest contributors to the European Broadcasting Union – occupied the bottom four places in the voting.

In our case it’s tempting to blame Blair’s foreign policy. As Terry Wogan put it: ''We've invaded too many countries and nobody likes us anymore.” But something more profound was at work. Something not even the ruthless block voting of the Baltic and Balkan states can explain.

It is that the heart of Europe has moved east. You could tell that from the Eurovision entries. When Britain’s was chosen we probably thought we were daring to pick a song with a Bollywood sound. There turned out to be nothing daring about it. Poor Javine was lost in a crowd of eastern sounds, led by that Moldovan granny and her drum.

Which means we are going to have to reconsider what Europe means to us. For a couple of generations it represented a more civilised way of life. They had subsidised public transport, sane labour relations and adventurous sex lives. Even more exciting, they had proportional representation.

This Europe to which Liberals owed allegiance, which convinced them that, despite appearances, they were the party of the future, was the Europe of the six original Common Market members. That Europe no longer exists.

What we see instead is a more diverse and interesting Europe. Yet it scares some, as the prominence of Turkey in the French referendum campaign shows. You also wonder how long Western voters will be happy to go on funding it – or the song contest, for that matter.

And the quiz? The answer is Taunton, where David Nicholson lost in 1997, Jackie Ballard in 2001 and Adrian Flook in 2005. The new MP for Taunton is our own Jeremy Browne, and House Points has every confidence that history will not repeat itself.

No comments: