Don’t let your slightly racist gran be the only one to take on Europe’s silent coup

Article originally published in Red Pepper in April 2011.

She’s lovely really.

She has a painting of her you did when you were six framed in the kitchen, and however old you may be now, she still keeps Mars bar ice creams in the bottom freezer-bit of her little fridge for when you pop over. And the baby-blue and lemon-yellow Marks & Spencer’s golf shirt with three sailboats on the pocket that she sent you in the post last year for your birthday is now just quaint and endearing instead of the mortifying sartorial disaster similar gifts had been when you were thirteen (mainly because now as you live in your own flat, your mum can’t force you to wear it in public).

It’s just those slightly racist comments your gran makes from time to time that irk. All right, completely racist comments.

‘It’s terrible! Did you hear? Romanian gypsies are eating our donkeys! I tell you, ever since we joined the common market, waffle, waffle, nativist ignorant waffle, Churchill would never have waffle, waffle…’ But you’re only there for the weekend, so you zone out from most of it or politely disagree, but you try not to make too much of a fuss.  Continue reading →

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Brussels’ new pontiff

Article first published in Red Pepper in January, 2010.

It was a shame that Tony Blair was not appointed the first European president. I really did want Tone to get the gig – if only so I could throw a shoe at him. Apart from that, my interest in whether the prize was won by the former Labour leader – or, for that matter, by whichever other personage the European Council, that secular version of a secretive papal conclave, came up with – was acutely limited in comparison with my frustration that it was a secretive papal conclave doing the deciding.

From the pacifist anti-Blair flutterings of the Guardian’s Comment is Free web pages to the swivel-eyed Belgo-phobic fulminations my grandad takes as gospel in the Daily Express, most commentators across the union have lamented that the man who ultimately was installed, Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy, is a political dwarf. The same goes for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s new foreign minister.

Of Van Rompuy, the blimpish Express headline yawped: ‘Britain ruled by a Belgian? You must be joking!’ This was followed by spitting, wholly fallacious philippics at ‘his crazed plans for building a European superstate and … ambitions for a massive new taxation offensive.’ They are missing the point: it’s not who wins the crown, it’s who is doing the anointing that matters.  Continue reading →