“You wait till he gets elected. Then you’ll see what a proper Conservative he is,” say all the Kool-Aid drinkers who seem to infest the comments section of any blog when you try to point out this self-evident truth.
To which I reply: by his deeds shall ye know him. Never mind all those rumours you hear about how secretly virulently anti-Europe he is and how passionate he is about the environment: the story I’m about to tell has the virtue of being true and effectively scuppers both.
Did you know that under three successive Tory leaders – Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, and Howard – it was official party policy to pull out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)? This is the iniquitous EU arrangement – negotiated under the auspices of the beyond-dreadful Ted Heath – whereby the fishing rights to Britain’s territorial waters (once the most fish-rich in all Europe) were divvied up among the European Community member states in return for what benefit to British interests no one has ever fathomed.
The CFP was a disaster socially and economically, for it has all but destroyed our fishing industry and deprived 22,000 fishermen of their livelihoods. But it was an even greater disaster environmentally. Every year, thanks to the EU’s ludicrous quota system, billions of fish have to be chucked back dead into the sea. Furthermore, it has led to the overfishing not just of British waters but (thanks to bribe money paid to sundry Third World basket cases) of most of the coast of West Africa (save Namibia), to the point where, like the Grand Banks, fish stocks will probably never recover.
If ever there was a EU policy worthy of negation it was the CFP, which is why the Conservative party was committed to pulling out of it unilaterally. At least it was till Dave Cameron took over in 2005, at which point – true the spirit of his soul-mate Ted Heath – he surreptitiously shelved the project.
When I crossly pointed this out to a Cameroon Conservative the other day, his defence was that Dave was of a mind that his party had to pick carefully where to fight its battles. If he was going to confront the EU, he wanted it to be over economic and working directives, rather than over fish.
I suppose the Kool-Aid drinkers will see this as an example of good old Tory pragmatism. I see it as moral cowardice marinaded in dishonesty and slily served with a subtle pinch of hypocrisy. When something is as manifestly wrong in every way as the CFP is, surely the right thing to do is take a stand against it. It’s all very well wittering on about how Green the Conservatives now are, but – unlike some problems I could name which begin with “Anthropogenic” and end with “Global Warming” – overfishing represents a clear and present danger to our ecosystems.
I’m afraid it’s precisely this kind of spinelessness which explains why some of us find it so hard to be enthusiastic about the prospects of a Cameron administration.