For Europe's sake stop the Tories
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 4 May 2010
One brutal statistic brings home what Estonians really think of Britain. According to the British Office of National Statistics (ONS), more than eight times as many Latvians or 38140 registered workers and almost 13 times as many Lithuanians 57620 have emigrated to Britain in the last five years as have Estonians – 4520.
Clearly more than any other country in the region, Estonians don't dig Britain. They don't rate it as a place to live, work and make money; and they don't care about the British election.
The challenge therefore is to convince you that this coming election really does matter to Estonia.
What many Estonians don't realise is that far from being weak, in decline, with it's glory days behind it, Britain is strong, getting stronger and increasing it's influence in Europe and the World. To find out how and why, read on.
The man who becomes the next British Prime Minister could do a lot of damage. He could destroy the British state; there is a real danger of that happening. He could destroy the European Union; there is more than a slight possible of that happening. Ultimately he could destroy the world, …..at the press of a button. Still think the British elections don't matter?
Let's assume none of the candidates, Gordon Brown, the current prime minister (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) are not going to lose their mind and decide to use Britain's formidable array of strategic ballistic Trident nuclear missiles, though what to do about Britain nuclear arsenal has been on the agenda for the first time in a generation; this still leaves the question of how this election could effect the EU, international relations and Anglo-Estonian relations on trade and immigration.
First let's look at how the system works. Under the British constitution there has to be an election every five years. This is not written down anywhere, it's just convention. In Britain a government can dissolve parliament and call an election at any time. It has been known for elections to be held one after the other in quick succession when no-one was happy with the result.
The ruling party will usually call an election if it thinks it will win, after three or four years. The fact this government waited the whole five is an indication they don't fancy their chances.
British voters vote for individual candidates in 650 constituencies across the country. Each of the major parties will put forward a candidate in each constituencies. The party who gets the most constituencies, wins. The leader of that party, who himself represents a constituency, is then asked to form a government by the Queen.
The Conservatives, also called Tories, are the equivalent of IRL with one significant difference, they are anti-European. The Labour Party are technically the equivalent of the Social Democrats but in recent years, both in opposition and in government, they have pursued more right-wing policies including waging war in Iraq. The Liberal Democratic party sit with both Keskerakond and the Reform Party in the European Parliament. They are a liberal party but have co-opted some of policies you would expect from the left, including higher taxes for the wealthy, free education at university level and consistent opposition to the War in Iraq.
There are also many minor parties, some even win seats, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Merkel and Sarkozy fear the Tories
The Conservatives may be centre-right but the prospect of a Conservative victory fills Europe's other centre-right leaders with dread. If they get into power it means trouble.
As the Economist March 31 states, in the modern Conservative party: “almost the only divide is between those who dislike the EU but think it would be better to stay in, and those you want to leave.”
The Conservatives have even refused to sit with other centre-right parties in the European Parliament because of their “federalist” ambitions.
Last year David Cameron was talking about a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a treaty Britain had already ratified it. Although he has now abandoned this idea, many in the party would like to re-negotiate not only Lisbon but all other existing treaties including the Maastrict treaty, the founding document of the EU.
The Conservative party rank and file want to destroy to the Euro. They don't just want Britain to not join it, they want to destroy it. Their vision of a Europe is a loose free-trade organisation like the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) which includes Canada the USA and Mexico.
The Labour party are broadly committed to a stronger Europe but have been circumspect about joining the Euro.
The Liberal Democratics are the most pro-European party they would hold an immediate referendum on joining the Euro. This of course means educating the British people on what the European Union is all about.
Up until now the engine room of Europe has been Germany. With 80 million people, it is by some margin Europe's largest economy. It has traditionally provided the financial muscle and the moral fibre to keep the EU going. Germany's central position in handling the Greek crisis is continued proof of this.
Demographers believe in the next 30 years this situation will change. Largely due to immigration, Britain's population is expected to increase from 60 to at least 80 million by 2051. It is expected to increase to 65 million by 2016 already, according to ONS figures. Germany's population, like most other countries in Europe, will shrink in the same period.
London has overtaken New York as the World's most important financial hub this decade according to the Global Financial Index, it is far ahead of Frankfurt. Despite current setbacks, due to it geographical proximity to continental Europe and the East coast of America, many analysts believe it is likely that London will pull ahead in the future.
Britain is still the World 6th largest manufacturing economy, but it has made more of a switch to a knowledge economy than Germany has been able to.
All this means that Britain, and this is a first, is in the process of becoming Europe's single largest and most powerful country in 20 or 30 years.
The trouble is Britain is a country where; if there isn't outright hostility towards Europe, there is downright ignorance among the political elite.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based think-tank, explains that in Britain: “People can get to the top in the media, business and the City without knowing anything at all about the European Union. Parliament is full of people who are proud to have little or no understanding of the EU.”
The prospect of Tory Britain as Europe's main bread winner is a potential for disaster. Europe needs strong leadership not need pigheaded, ignorant, Eurosceptics
Get out and stay out.
The British don't go in for self-promotion, there is no talk of a “British dream” but it isn't a bad place to live. The country offers a high standard of living to people to those who are doing well, like the USA and Canada, and a generous social security system to those who are not, like Sweden.
When this information became common knowledge, everywhere except Estonia it seems, it was like the California Gold Rush. In countries like Poland and Slovakia everybody and their sister moved to Britain. It was mass migration on a scale never before seen in British history.
Back in 2004 the British Home Office predicted that 50,000 people would settle in Britain when the eight accession countries including Estonia joined the EU.
In the end over a million people legally immigrated and half that number again off the books.
Put another way Britain increased it's population by more than the population of Estonia in a couple of years.
The new immigrants didn't just settle in big cities. Every town, every village, every hamlet, has seen its share of newcomers.
Now with the recession, the backlash is in full swing. The gutter press are full of banner headlines about “Eastern Europeans” rampaging through the streets, raping woman, smashing shop windows and taking British jobs. Eastern Europeans including Estonians get lumped into one category in Britain.
How central the issue is to this election was illustrated last week. Whilst out canvassing on the streets, Gordon Brown expressed what he really thought of an old lady when he thought his microphone was switched off. She had complained about Eastern Europeans “flocking in ” to the country.
“That was a disaster, the woman was a bigot,” Brown said to his aide.
The Prime Minister was criticised for being two-faced, but it could be argued the incident showed him in a good light. He is someone who doesn't like prejudice, not only as part of his public persona but privately. It's a shame therefore whatever he may feel privately, Brown has pandered to xenophobic sentiment by talk of “British jobs for British workers.”
However it is the Conservative party who would actually pursue xenophobic policies if elected. They want a cap on immigration. This would initially apply to people from outside of the European Union. There is no reason to suppose this policy would not be extended if it became clear that it wasn't working. This would make it more difficult for Estonians to live and work in Britain, if they are so minded. It would also create bad feeling if rights are suddenly taken away which Estonians currently enjoy.
To protect and defend
All three main political parties are committed to maintaining the British presence in Afghanistan. Britain has already withdrawn from Iraq.
David Cameron, Conservative leader, is known as an Atlanticist with strong personal ties with the Republican party. All the same, cost-cutting brought on by the recession, means Britain will find it difficult to engage in American-led foreign adventures to the same extent that it did under Tony Blair.
Conservatives would veto any attempts to build an effective European defence force. So if the Tories get in don't expect any beefing up of Estonia's defences.
What all this means is the Tories are bad for Estonia. They would slow down European integration they would make the EU weak and ineffective, if things got really bad and there was no co-operation they might even try to break it up. They would make life difficult for Estonians living in Britain and Britons living in Estonia and they wouldn't defend Estonia from foreign enemies.
A Labour government means things stay the same.
The Liberal Democratic are the best choice. They would strengthen Europe's defence, bring Britain to the heart of Europe, support the Euro and stamp out xenophobia, or try to.
Unfortunately the situation is like this. The Tories could win, Labour probably won't win and Liberal Democrats are never going to win.
The Liberal Democrats despite being second in the polls have only 62 MPs in the House of Commons out of a potential 650 MPs. Britain uses a winner takes all system, so the Liberal Democrats will come second or third in constituencies all over the country and not win that many seats.
It's not all sad though. The most likely result is that no party will get an outright majority. This is called a hung parliament.
The British people don't particular like the Conservatives, they have long memories and though they may be angry at Labour for failing these last two years; they haven't forgiven the Tories for the total mess they made of the economy in the early 90s.
Although it's not one of the main issues, the British people don't trust the Conservative's policies on Europe. The Tories are still known as the “nasty” party.
By rights the Conservative should be in government if they come out on top, but the two other parties are ideologically, morally and even personally more at ease with each other on whole range of issues.
There hasn't been a hung parliament since the 70s, so the truth is nobody knows what is going to happen. British politics doesn't have a culture of coalition government. There could even be another election in a few months.
Britain is heading assuredly into uncertainty and that can't be a good thing for Britain or for Europe.