Friday, December 16, 2011

Why was Cameron wrong?

David Cameron is now enjoying a bit of a popularity wave at home because of his veto on an EU-wide agreement on deeper fiscal union between the Euro countries. English press is trying to project this as a Cameron versus Sarkozy game, and quite explicitly equating Sarkozy, who isn't a very tall man, with Napoleon, the other French who had a poor opinion about the Brits. The British public feels good about staring down the French, and sees this as cheap politicking by nasty Sarkozy, which has put our dear David into a corner. In a sense, Cameron's articulation skills may have saved him one more time.

However, while it is easy to mistake articulation for achievement, the drift away from Europe, which is now manifesting itself into cross-channel rivalry yet again, is a disaster for Britain. For a start, we don't live in the age of Napoleon, and a global financial crisis is indeed gathering momentum. Once this happens, it will indeed spare no one. What Cameron has effectively done is to attempt to protect the misdemeanours of the British banks and other financial institutions, and by doing so, sacrificed the interests of millions of British workers and small business owners, who need to make things and sell them.

Cameron's vision of Britain is possibly that of a small island which can turn into a safe haven for banks and people with money, but Britain is still a powerful country full of ideas, great manufacturing companies and real industries. In short, Britain isn't Cayman Islands, upon whose model the Tory party may want to shape Britain. It can't live in isolation, and isolation it will be when the Europe turns its back because of British up-in-your-face exceptionalism, which Cameron so vulgarly displayed in Brussels.

The other fundamental shift one has to deal with is that the time of self-interest as the main driver of progress is somewhat over, and we have somewhat decisively entered the age of cooperation. I am aware that the jungle version of industrial capitalism is being touted to the new developing countries like India, but that's more like pushing an out-of-date technology which had its day in the sun in the West and now must be exported to the poor colonials who will lap up our throwaway bits.

All over the developed world, however, 'social' is the buzzword. Even David Halpern, Prime Minister's adviser, is a big enthusiast of 'social capital', the value that emerges out of cooperation between people. David Cameron's pet scheme of Big Society is all about stepping out of narrow self interest, but it seems that his convictions don't go much beyond the rhetoric. He is happy to pursue a strategy determined by national self-interest even when the world is literally at the brink, and the fact that his actions are informed by his own requirements of survival makes it look even more petty.

In the end, a quote that gets attributed to Hillary Clinton (but I believe it came from someone else), "The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation”, sums up Cameron's attitude. Indeed, in these difficult times, we are in desperate need of statesmen.

Finally, to sum up, Bob Edwards says it all - "Now I know what a statesman is; he's a dead politician. We need more statesmen."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Suprio,

How about the lobbying by France and Germany to reduce the importance of City of London?

I am sure Cameron has done a mistake for narrow self interest but some of the countries in the Euro Zone have no serious financial regulations. Is that what let Cameron do this.

Since the Europe is divided now, do you think the financial capital is going to move away from London to New York, Middle East or Hong Kong.

Regards

Jerin

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Hi Jerin

Thanks for dropping by.

What the Eurozone countries were attempting to do is to bring great fiscal discipline, and embed this into the European treaty. This would have needed Britain's vote, but would not have necessarily imposed the conditions which were only applicable to 17 Eurozone countries.

So, Cameron's veto had exactly the opposite effect: He was effectively trying to block the Eurozone countries from moving towards greater financial integration.

The City of London has become a place of unrestrained speculation, and the French and the Germans know that without effectively curbing the behaviour of the bankers based in London (many of them in London branches of their own banks), they can't bring in effective control over their own financial markets. What the Europeans are trying to move towards is something that needs the cooperation of all, and Britain and America have been blocking such worldwide efforts. This is because Cameron and his friends want the banks to operate unrestrained, even if this bankrupts most of the other people, as it has so far.

I am not sure the financial capital will move elsewhere, given that the British and American banks control the money anyway. However, that's not a bad thing: There is a divergence of the real economy and the money economy, and we are possibly at the point when any country is better off trying to make things and build real businesses rather than inviting the faceless bankers to suck the lifeblood out of their own economies through unrestrained speculation and backroom dealings.

Supriyo

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