But here is Lord Blair, holding forth about Britain and the European Union, The UK should Shape the Future of Europe, not Withdraw from it 12/04/2012 (speech of 11/28/2012). We should remember he that the main thing the pro-Europe Tony Blair did for the EU during his long stint as Prime Minister was to divide its members in a major way by acting as "Bush's poodle" on the Iraq War, joining the conservative governments of Spain and Portugal to be Europe's leading cheerleaders for the invasion to get the non-existent "weapons of mass destruction."
A devout devotee of the neoliberal gospel, Lord Blair illustrates that really bad ideas can and sometimes do spread across the Atlantic, in this case the "Grand Bargain":
So the flagship policy of Europe is listing dangerously. As I have said before, to save it, I believe, requires a kind of 'Grand Bargain' approach rather than incremental steps, in which Germany agrees, effectively, to some form of mutualisation of debt; the debtor countries carry out profound structural reform; and the ECB stands fully behind the bargain. There are some signs this may happen. But even if it does, Europe will suffer for some time to come. ...Like the American version of the much-discussed Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this one is aimed at impoverishing the people of countries like Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal for the benefit of (primarily) Germany. This is what "profound structural reform" actually means.
So the real issue for us should be: what type of EU? And here there is no doubt that Europe needs fundamental, far reaching reform. Many of those reforms are precisely what the UK has been arguing for, like reform of the social model. It should be pointed out that these reforms are partially being made. Spain's labour costs have declined substantially since the crisis began. Italy has grasped crucially important reforms in areas like pensions. Greece has cut spending by a bigger amount proportionally than any country in Europe since the War.
Like the tax side of the American "Grand Bargain" scheme, the revenue side of Lord Blair's is pretty weak. I assume that what he means by "some form of mutualisation of debt" means that the eurzone has to recognize that Greece is never going to be able to pay back the debt load they current have and still have any kind of half-decent economy, so Germany is going to have to eat a bunch of losses. But that's going to happen anyway. His endorsement of Germany Chancellor Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel's brutal austerity demands is the only real substance to that suggestion.
Lord Blair can earn healthy speaking fees at One Percenter gatherings with blather like the following: "Changes to the labour market, pensions, welfare and the way the State operates are necessary in all Western countries for reasons of demography, technology and external competition. The European social model has to change radically for Europe to prosper." All of which means weaken unions, cut wages, increase unemployment, remove worker protections, cut government services, and let Grandma eat catfood.
Lord Blair realizes that Britain outside the EU is likely to suffer a relative loss in power. But he really offers nothing in terms of the kinds of changes, like creating a full political, budget and transfer union, that would be necessary for a truly vital, well-functioning EU. Britain's foreign policy subservience to the US, of which Blair was fully supportive as Prime Minister, prevents it from being a true EU partner. The US has a foreign policy of global dominance or global hegemony, and part of what flows from that is preventing the rise of a "peer competitor" to the US, which the EU at least once had the potential to be. As long as Britain is nothing but a servant of the US in foreign policy, if a sometimes annoying one, they will continually push to keep the EU a weaker union, one that can't deal with the kind of problems the currency union is now facing.
The Labour Party that Tony Blair headed is officially Britain's social-democratic party. Blair's One Percenter outlook as the former Labour Prime Minister and party head illustrates some of the severe problems its much smaller sister party in Greece, PASOK, is currently having. Already badly battered in the last national election, PASOK now is polling down around the five percent level. John Psaropoulos describes in Socialist Schism Could Weaken Government The New Athenian 12/04/2012 how PASOK is steadily shrinking even before any new elections:
Pasok suffered the loss of six MPs on November 7, who were expelled for voting against a package of painful austerity measures amounting to 13.5bn euros. One more departed later. It is now down to 25 MPs from 33 after the June election. ...The European social democrats have proved themselves very ill-prepared to take political advantage of the political conditions of a depression. Even in France, where François Hollande's Socialist government took power campaigning against austerity and demanding to renegotiate Frau Fritz' fiscal suicide pact, then promptly once in office proposed a nasty austerity budget and approved the fiscal suicide pact with any attempt to renegotiate it.
The socialists' fortunes have gone from bad to worse since they ceded power to a technocrat interim prime minister last November. In back-to-back elections last May and June they took 13 percent and 12 percent of the popular vote, respectively, in a steep tumble from 44 percent in 2009.
Tags: angela merkel, austerity economics, eu, euro, european union, france, françois hollande, greece, tony blair, neoliberalism