It was interesting earlier on today, watching a video of Nigel Farage giving Tony Blair a public dressing down in the European Parliament, at the end of the British Prime Minister's period of office of the Presidency of the EU, reportedly in 2005. Clearly not very happy at being publicly rebuked over his handling of Britain's interests, good old Tony tried to make light of the attack launched by Mr Farage, but very quickly responded angrily by pointing out to the UKIP leader that Britain and Europe were now living in 2005 and not 1945; and that Britain and its European partners were all friends and allies now, not bitter enemies and adversaries, as Mr Farage might have them all believe.
Presumably the entire tenet of Mr Blair's response was that keeping your eyes fixed to the road ahead, looking to the future; and not looking back, is and was entirely the right way to govern our country, a political philosophy that his Conservative counterpart, David Cameron, clearly shares with the former Labour Leader. In all likelihood, it will also be the same philosophy that will inevitably be pursued by future political leaders, be they Ed Miliband, Theresa May, Michael Gove, Ed Balls, or any of the other countless unimaginative morons that the British people are forced to choose from now, or in a few years time.
Quite why Mr Blair was so dismissive and rudely alarmed about the "past" per se' is hard to understand, when you consider that it is often history that informs us. Unlike the future, which can be uncertain, threatening and obviously unknown, the past is clearly marked and completely understood, allowing us to learn from previous mistakes; and create pathways to a much brighter future. "Failing to learn from past mistakes, condemns us to repeat them" said George Santayana; and Winston Churchill, so the fact that Tony Blair, a politician whose long term political legacy and reputation deteriorates by the day, advises us to ignore the past, perhaps speaks volumes about the wisdom of his personal thinking. Bearing in mind that it was his administration that deliberately set out to gerrymander the entire British population, by flooding the country with low wage migrants from the EU, sacrificed part of Britain's European rebate for absolutely no purpose; and involved this country's armed forces in bloody conflict for no apparent gains, suggests that Mr Blair was the very sort of person who should have looked backwards, if only to avoid the very sort of abject screw-ups that he lead the country into.
Of course, Tony Blair's principle argument was that we, the British people, should see our European neighbours as our allies, our friends, our trading partners; and that we should be prepared to make substantial sacrifices, in order to help them create the European "Shangri-la" that had been the continent's dream since 1945 and that everyone can benefit from. The question is of course, how much do the Greek people feel they have benefited from their EU membership, or Ireland, or Portugal, or Cyprus now that their countries are entirely dependent on the financial goodwill of their European neighbours and the IMF? How much do Spain's millions of unemployed workers feel they have benefited from the influx of low paid migrants and the shattering collapse of their construction industry? How much do Cypriot savers feel they have benefited from membership, after having some of their hard earned money taken away by Europe? How much benefit have British workers gained from the EU, especially those men and women whose jobs were lost after Bombardier failed to win the contract to build train carriages, or the Ford Transit workers whose jobs were transferred to Turkey, which isn't even a member of the EU?
Such events are hardly likely to build a collective spirit amongst European neighbours, or indeed their disparate peoples. History teaches us that, assuming of course that unlike John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron our leaders choose to look backwards every now and again, if only to ensure that we're not likely to get smacked up the arse by a danger we were completely unaware of, or to make sure that one of new European friends isn't ready to stab us in the back, as and when it suits their own particular nationalistic purpose. Sadly though over the past few decades we've been unlucky enough to have lumbered ourselves with a series of wholly myopic Prime Ministers, who have been so focused on following Europe's yellow brick road to a federalised union that they've missed the fact that the road is fast running out and we're heading towards disaster.
One of the UK's biggest trade union's is reported to have commissioned a secret report that bemoaned the increase in right wing political parties throughout Europe, including UKIP in mainland Britain, which the author regarded as a potential danger to their own left wing agenda. Clearly though, it never occurred to the author to ask the most obvious question to his own conclusions....why? Why has there been a worrying increase in sometimes radical right wing political parties in continental Europe; and why have other less radical parties, such as UKIP in the UK, suddenly found their memberships booming? After all, it's hardly a difficult question to answer, provided that such authors, commentators and politicians can actually be bothered to look backwards, into Europe's earlier history.
Widespread unemployment, poverty, political indifference and the offer of easy solutions are popular topics for a needy national population, especially one that feels threatened or aggrieved by a bigger near neighbour, who they have had problems with before. Sadly, it makes a bad situation even worse if that bigger near neighbour happens to be lead by another one of those myopic political leaders, whose sole concern appears to be their own national interests, rather than those of smaller, less affluent neighbouring states. It could well be argued that countries like Germany and France have not only benefited from their much more developed economies, but also from their own nationalistic tendencies, which sees them intentionally protect their own natural resources, workforces, industrial capacity and higher living standards, at the expense of their poorer continental neighbours.
It is perhaps worth considering that some of the bloodiest and most brutal ethnically based armed conflicts to have taken place since World War II have occurred on the European continent, so any suggestion or belief that modern day Europe is somehow too "civilised" or settled for such events to happen again is totally absurd. Europe is awash with various ethnic groups, who are only too happy to blame their misfortune on someone else, particularly if that person, or people happen to be the subject of some long standing antipathy. Even some seventy years after the end of World War II, there remains significant intolerance of Germany and its peoples, despite the fact that Germany has completely repudiated any suggestion that it might once again take up arms against its continental neighbours. The trouble is, as recent events have shown, bitter long lasting memories from seven decades ago can quickly resurface when apparently arrogant German politicians begin throwing their political weight around, whether that be with a cheque book as opposed to a gun. As Hans Frank noted during his trial for war crimes "A thousand years will pass and still Germany's guilt will not have been erased.", which will undoubtedly prove to be true, regardless of how much good successive German leaders do in Europe.
One wonders just who is being more naive, the politician who believes that further economic and political integration is the answer to preventing future European conflicts, or the politician who believes that strong independent nations, backed up by their own force of arms, is the right solution to maintaining peace and tranquillity on the continent? The Bosnian War that raged between 1992 and 1995 cost the lives of an estimated 100,000 people and put paid to the suggestion that the European Union is or can be a breakwater to any sort of ethnically inspired military aggression. As has always been the case since the Second World War, ultimately it was the assembled might of NATO that helped bring sanity and redress to a conflict that had both territorial and religious differences at its heart.
On more than occasion and following on from various European conflicts, British politicians have regularly depleted the ranks of our armed forces, in the mistaken belief that peace would reign from that point onwards, only to find that within a generation or so that the country was forced yet again to recall its fighting reserves to rescue Europe from yet another of its own military follies. Another return to radical right wing nationalism in Europe might be some years away, but the more European Union fails to deal with the real impact of its failing political experiment, the greater the chance that struggling countries will begin to lose patience with Europe and its more mainstream leaderships, preferring instead to follow the voices of nationalistic intolerance, because as we all know, for a struggling indigenous population, it's always someone else's fault. We've already seen incidents of foreign migrants being attacked by local people in a number of EU states, as well native citizens being attacked and killed by legal and illegal immigrants; and that's within a comparatively short time scale. Currently, Romanians, Bulgarians, North Africans, Turks and others are commonly being blamed for everything that goes wrong in particular countries, whilst other states, including the UK are finding that both racial and religious intolerance are on the rise, with off-duty soldiers being butchered and mosques being attacked with improvised explosive devices. And these are still early days! No great radical right wing message, or leader, has yet emerged to consolidate all of these disparate nationalistic groups, as was the case during the 1920's and 1930's when Europe last tore itself apart with unrestrained nationalist fervour; and we all know how that ended up!
Surely, it must be obvious to most European politicians that none of the continent's native races play that well with one another? Our shared histories prove that and no amount of gerrymandering native populations, creating European identities, enacting new laws, usurping national Parliaments, or creating false hybrid cultures is going to change or alter each country's latent nationalism. Tony Blair and his crooked cohorts may well have bought into the fairytale future of Europe, ostensibly for their own financial and political benefit, but ultimately each of Europe's sovereign states are made and shaped by their individual histories; and no amount of refusing to look backward, refusing to learn from such events, will ever change that.