Tuesday 14 February 2012

Social Europe: Worth fighting for - The Results

Ahead of our ‘Social Europe: Worth Fighting For?’ conference on 25th February the Fabian Society conducted a membership survey on the EU to find out if the views of our traditionally pro-European membership have shifted.

The results, in many ways, were as expected. Our membership remains overwhelmingly pro-European but, in tune with the country at large, our members are also starting to move further towards the Eurosceptic side of the argument. This is especially the case when questions about widening the UK’s involvement with the project and of democratic accountability are asked. This is underlined by eight out of ten Fabian members believing the EU lacks democratic integrity and only one in five being able to name all their MEPs.

First the good news for our pro-Europeans, a North Korean-esque 94 percent believes that the UK should not only remain part of the EU, but that we as a people benefit from continued membership. EU-led changes such as relaxed border controls, free trade and even the single currency were all cited as reasons for optimism about what the project has accomplished.

When asked about which policy areas should see deeper integration with our EU partners the picture becomes more mixed. There is clear support for deepening our ties when it comes to tackling climate change (78 percent), employment rights (70 percent) – surely a victory for Trade Union campaigning there - and security and defence (64 percent).

The most important issues for Europe to cooperate on
There was less enthusiasm, but still a majority, for home affairs. A signal that, while Fabians see the benefits in areas where we are already integrated, increasing numbers are wary of deepening ties. 53 percent wanted more integration on issues like social affairs such as health and 54 percent on crime and justice, a 20 point gap from our top rated issues.

The real Achilles heel for the European project continues to be what anti-EU campaigners call the ‘democratic deficit’ in its institutions. When asked if it was thought voters had enough power over the EU an astounding 78 percent said no. As if to underline this point we asked how many of our members knew who all their MEPs were and only a paltry 22 percent could name them all (56 percent said some and 22 percent said none).

Given that Fabian members are both very engaged politically and overwhelmingly pro-European these are shocking numbers and questions about Brussels democratic element have to be seriously asked.

Do you know who your MEPs are?
Our MEPs lack of cut through isn’t a new phenomenon and there are questions for all of us who work in politics. A quick straw poll of the Fabian office revealed just one staff member who could name all his MEPs (a far lower percentage, it has to be said, than Fabian members managed), and he previously worked for an MEP.

Without a recognisable public face the charge of ‘faceless Brussels bureaucrat’ becomes impossible to refute, and easy shorthand for any anti-EU campaigner looking to score cheap points in a debate. The EU can’t dissolve the electorate and elect a new one so it needs to look at itself and work out the fairest (and most engaging) ways of making decisions in future. Without it even our Fabian pro-Europeans will continue their drift towards Euroscepticism.

You can view the full survey results here

There are still a few tickets available for "Social Europe: Worth Fighting For?" on Saturday 25th February. Visit the Fabian Society website to get yours today.

Olly Parker is head of Partnerships and Events at the Fabian Society


George CA Talbot said...

A neat summary of an interesting poll but I challenge your diagnosis of the anti-EU drift. For three decades after World War Two, Western Europe managed capitalism well with a Christian democratic version of the secular welfare state in Britain. But under pressure for more freedom from the US, supported by many on the Right, it changed. Free capital, the euro and free labour restored true, international capitalism the inadequacies of which led to Soviet communism and Nazis fascism before the War. In a phase, freemarketeers took over.

Keynes foresaw this and designed his Clearing Union to keep current accounts in balance and ensure capital served its people. Then national governments could manage their economies. This required a supranational currency, controls on capital and restraints on trade. But the euro is international, controls on capital are no more and free trade is idealised. And things are turning nasty, as happened a century ago.

I attribute these failings to ignorance and immaturity in politicians and the electorate that could be traced back to amoral, fact-based education and the idealisation of human nature by the Enlightenment. I doubt more democracy at the EC level will fix this. I see the destruction of a culture by self interest, or if you are religious, by the devil.

André Barata said...

Read this request please :