"We must build a kind of United States of Europe...
If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its’ three or four hundred million people would enjoy."
Winston Churchill – British Prime Minister (1940–45 and 1951–55)
(In a 2002 BBC poll of the "100 Greatest Britons", Churchill was proclaimed "The Greatest of them all" - based on approximately a million votes from BBC viewers.)
In the past two months there hasn't been a single sunny day in London.
The constant rain, chilly winds, and lack of sun, make everyone a bore: grumpy, and complaining about “this, that and the other”. This moody and dreary climate, eventually permeates into one's core and one's personality.
As a result the widespread “culture of complaining” is an increasingly discussed matter in British society, and recently drew a barrage of criticism from Prince Charles:
Complaining has become so much a part of daily life, it no longer has any meaning. One may complain about his local pub, but always visit it nonetheless. One may complain savagely of one's political party, but vote for it anyway. One may complain about a certain Union, but support it nonetheless."It seems to me that a degree of this criticism [towards public services in the UK] stems from a culture which is nowadays too often concerned with complaining..."
So let’s look beyond the casual (and sometimes fun) moaning. Let's look at the actual opinion of the people. Let's look at the facts. Let's dispell the myth and put the record straight.
Most of all - let’s look beyond the populist rhetoric in the speeches of politicians, and see their actual policies and plans.
Below is a concise list of the actual policies of all of the main British political parties, following which are precise statistics on the recent elections and the actual opinions of the British voters, and finally there are the official stances of the most powerful lobbies.
A. The Government:
The current coalition government is formed of two parties, the Conservative party, and the Liberal Democrat party.
“The Government believes that Britain should play a leading role in an enlarged European Union...
We will continue to be an active and activist participant in the European Union”
– conservatives.com – official site of the Conservative party
- libdems.org.uk - official website of the Liberal Democrats
“The EU is the world’s largest and most liberalised economic bloc, giving British businesses access to a huge free trade area, boosting jobs and growth at home, attracting investment in the UK and opening up new business opportunities around the world...
EU action makes a big difference to improving the lives of British citizens.”
The opposition is led by the Labour party. The Labour government was in power between 1997 and 2010.
David Milliband - Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010"In the Labour Party, we resolved our bout of Euro-phobia in the 1980s. We took on the disease, rooted it out, and became a strong, modern party as a result. It was of a piece with our social, economic and politics reforms. In Government it has delivered higher living standards, better working conditions and a stronger political voice in the world for the British people."
A. Votes for the major parties
Despite the strong statements above (, or in some cases, perhaps, because of them), these three parties received well over 3/4 of the votes of the British public (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/results/general_elections/uk-general-election-2010)
Together the three major Pro-European parties received 88.1% per cent of the votes of the British public.The Conservative party received36.1% of the votes becoming the most popular party and forming the Government together with the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats are traditionally the third largest party. at the last national elections they received 23.0%
The Labour party received 29.0% of the votes in the latest elections.
B. The Euro-skeptic vote
Although there are a large number of well-known, and very active Euro-skeptic parties, which promise an immediate referendum on the EU and withdrawal from the Union, the British public still chooses to vote for the parties which have a clearly Pro-european stance.
Actually the Euro-skeptic parties didn’t even make it to parliament. The most successful by far - UKIP, barely reached 3.1% of the votes in the latest general elections. (The second most "successful" - the British National Party (BNP) received 1.9%. There are no other Euro-skeptic parties above the %1 mark)
2. Industry and Business
But perhaps the most avid, outspoken and active sectors calling for closer ties with Europe, and a stronger voice for Britain in the EU, are the British businesses and the British industries:
“...businesses want the recriminations to stop while the UK moves swiftly to secure our influence in the single market. Forty per cent of UK trade is with the Eurozone economies and thousands of jobs depend on it. The Coalition Government must re-double its efforts to ensure that the UK is not put at an economic disadvantage.”
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) “the voice of business”- the UK's top business lobbying organisation.
And so, once we understand that underlying trait of the national psychology - the "culture of complaining", we can begin to understand that pointing out the issues of a certain matter, "moaning" about it, is more of a national pass-time, and healthy criticism, rather than a dislike of the matter.
Once we move beyond the semantics, the moaning, which has become so common that it has no meaning, and beyond the loud, populist rhetoric of some politicians, we can see the facts, the policies, the plans.
And all of them, from all the major parties(, from the left wing, from the right wing as well as from the centrist ones), from the business and industry, and from society have one clear aim. In the words of the great British hero and European Federalist, Winston Chruchill "Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family"