When in 1981 Greece joined the EU perhaps there was a whoop of joy from the office of the then MEP Jacques Delors, 'another one in the bag'. A long time ago getting countries to join in this grand plan was akin to a child collecting Dinky toys, the more the merrier. It was the same when later on the single currency was created; problems? Oh never mind! We will sort those out later. It was always principle first practicalities later.
The euphoria, a good word to describe the creation of anything related to the EU, was apparent. So a long list of weak and dodgy countries some unable to meet important criteria, others unwilling and some both, made up the numbers. Only recently did Delors say what he thought about it all. But not a peep from him or any of the other euphoric people, the motley crew who without question support the EU, at the time all this was happening. Did they know and keep quiet or did they not understand? This is important. For the study of history, you would have thought, is only worthwhile if you can learn from it so as not to repeat mistakes.
Which brings us bang up to date. What mistakes have been made in the last few days by the EU leaders?
It had to happen. In the Barnsley Central by-election the coalition has hit the floor and what they have to face is that there will be rejoicing. And no, not only from the supporters of Labour. From the outset the coalition has not satisfied grassroots supporters of either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats. It's ducking out of the issue to pretend that, as the LDs and Conservatives stood as separate parties, the result is a disaster for only the LDs who lost their deposit. For they are, the rest of the time, part of 'the coalition'. They are together in victory and defeat. Nor will it do to point out this is a northern town with all the usual tendencies of political tribalism.
What is the point of the EU? A simple question you may think, but it all depends who you are speaking to as to the answer you get. Politicians such as Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandelson could give you an answer and it would explain how it saved them from the scrapheap for, as an employer of the rejects of democracy, the EU has an impressive track record. This is one of the reasons why the political class love the EU so much. In the UK you start with being interested in politics at university, hoping to 'get noticed'. You will certainly stand a good chance of being indoctrinated into the 'benefits' of the EU by the teaching staff and syllabus content. Then there are student exchange programmes, what fun, study abroad etc. Then if it all works out well you could work for an MP.
It's been wall-to-wall Clegg, as for the LibDems, their time has come. But Nick Clegg and his party should be careful. Not so long ago Peter Mandelson dominated the media. In this case the exposure for Mandy did not always benefit Labour, as a result many in the Labour Party became resentful. He never did anything for the greater good and the party faithful knew it.Tony Blair may have insisted that his party "learn to love" Mandy, but to no avail and now they are both loathed by the party faithful and country alike. It's the LibDem conference in Liverpool but this explains only some of the publicity for Clegg. For the man and his party are being given the long hard look; are there problems ahead? Probably yes.
"Are we nearly there"? The cry of the bored traveller who has not kept alert on the journey, disappointed to be still on the train but not at the destination. When Nick Clegg, with an almost child-like approach, asked us to say which laws we wanted him to magic away he had not been more then half awake.
Perhaps like a child on the way to the seaside he had nodded off, lulled by the motion, and had dreamt all was well. Poor man! His plan was for us to direct our attention to the pettiness of government, he would do the rest. What happened was that many people, well aware a lot of government is awful, said they were more than happy to let this stand, for a while. But what they would really like would be for large chunks of legislation that have come from the EU to be removed first. Clegg, as an ex-MEP, had only himself to blame for this pratfall. Is this the sort of mistake the Deputy PM should be making?
However, the devoted EU supporter is always of the opinion that the UK public is further on than 'nearly there' when it comes to the EU. They like to think that 'the journey', the act of acceptance, is over. We have arrived and we are all so happy with out lot.
William Hague, or some journalists on his behalf, tried something similar.