Are Mandelson, Alexander and Clarke the best pro-Europeans can do?

Are Mandelson, Alexander and Clarke the best pro-Europeans can do?

Henry G Manson on those FOR the EU

This week we’ve seen growing numbers of politicians past and present suggest that they’d be prepared to vote for Britain to leave the European Union in a referendum. Public opinion is currently leaning towards exit. The Prime Minister has declared he wants Britain to remain within the EU on new negotiated terms, but his own party is so divided that he can’t be relied upon to make a passionate case for this. So let’s look at the campaign wants to fight to keep Britain’s role in Europe.

The ‘British Influence’ campaign was launched in January this year. It’s funded entirely from the private sector. Its three front men are Lord Mandelson, Danny Alexander and Ken Clarke. They are a peculiar choice. All three are associated with the failed campaign to get Britain to join the Euro and all three come with notable baggage. 

Tony Blair once said that New Labour’s modernisation wouldn’t be complete until the Labour Party learned to love Peter Mandelson. It’s still waiting. Mandelson is associated with the worst excesses of New Labour, has a well cultivated reputation as a Machiavellian schemer and is disliked by Labour supporters and trade unionists. Mandelson’s support for David Miliband in the Labour Leadership contest caused two previously wavering MPs to Ed Miliband’s campaign. Having been European Commissioner, government minister and member of the House of Lords, Mandelson is seen as part of the Establishment the public are so wary of and disenchanted with. His recent remarks that the last Labour government ‘sent out search parties’  to increase immigration suggest a man that is out of touch with the public mood. Politics is increasingly in issue of trust. Does anyone in the UK actually trust Lord Mandelson about anything? 

Danny Alexander is a Cabinet Minister in a Treasury team implementing austerity policies. While George Osborne keeps his own profile down it’s often Alexander that is wheeled out to justify the latest unpopular cut. His party has seen its political support collapse since forming a Coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. Alexander may even struggle to keep hold of his own parliamentary seat. Previously Alexander’s experience included five years working at the Britain in Europe campaign. Given the organisation’s comprehensive failure to successfully make the case in positive economic times with a popular Prime Minister in support, it is hard to see what can be achieved now.

Ken Clarke is the most popular of the three however his decision to describe UKIP as ‘clowns’  backfired when his own party decided it needed to show the party and its supporters greater respect. Clarke is well in the last stages of his political career that would have arguably led to greater success had he not been so at odds with his party over his pro-European beliefs. Like the UKIP leader Clarke is one of few national politicians you see comfortably having a pint. But his best times are behind him.

The campaign to keep Britain in the European Union was always going to be tough. At a time when politicians are mistrusted why on Earth would you gamble on three politicians representing your cause to the public? The decision to make Peter Mandelson and Danny Alexander in two of the front men for the campaign already looks spectacularly ill-judged.

‘British Influence’ does not look to be equipped to deal with the very real economic, social and political insecurities and anxieties many voters are experiencing right now.  If Nigel Farage were to handpick his opponents I’m sure both Mandelson and Alexander would be top of the list. If this is all the pro-European lot has to offer then I’ll be expecting a sizeable vote for an EU exit when the time comes.

Henry G Manson

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