Friday, December 05, 2003

MacShane the Mouth busts loose

The new Europe minister, Denis MacShane, has launched a rant demanding the resignation of Romano Prodi on the grounds that he is spending too much time preparing his return to Italian politics. Whilst Macca has a point, it's alarming that he went off like this. No.10 has now officially disowned the member for Rotherham's brain fart - but I wonder how much conviction was in the denial? After all, Tony Blair has spent much time and effort making nice with Silvio Berlusconi - not the kind of company a socialist should be keeping, but what's that got to do with him? - and Prodi is his arch enemy. Was MacShane's indiscretion an exercise in Prodi-prodding intended to divert Berlusconi from the Italian proposals on the European constitution that we don't like? Not that Prodi's tenure has been a gem - he was once described as a man who never risks popularity by changing his ideas, and a stony conservatism has been in evidence on the Stability Pact, institutional reform and much more. All his proposals to the Convention on the Future of Europe were dominated by the house ideology of the commission - more centralisation, more commission power, "an economic government", less rights for ministers or the European Parliament. They could have been written in 1961.

But - importantly - it might not be so bad, even if it was official. Perhaps they're trying to keep things dragging on until the handover to the Irish presidency. After all, does anyone really want Berlusconi to take home his Second Roman..oops..treaty in time for the elections? On the content of the Treaty, I'm beginning to think it would have been all much better if we could have skipped the IGC - as predicted, the text everyone thought was great and only needed tinkering with has been mangled until practically everything is up for review. That is of course hindsight. What answers? On the principle of eliminating the unnecessary, the whole debate about a reference to God should be kicked into touch. It makes absolutely no difference and is merely an annoyance - surely a concession waiting to happen. On the voting weights: this is the only real issue left on the agenda, once the flimflam is gone. I personally think the flimflam removal might clarify the issue somewhat - surely the Poles could be met halfway as a concession in exchange for dropping the godbothering clause?

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