Tuesday, 30 August 2011


A term used to describe those claiming to be that which they most definitely are not! Autonomous Mind, Richard North and I have been posting lately on this subject, using the statements of those who claim they are. Only a few days ago, in response to an article by Patrick Hennessy of the Daily Telegraph, I posted this. Not actually having seen any list of these 70 supposed 'eurosceptic' Tory MPs, I am forced, as a starting point, to refer back to this list supplied by Conservative Home. So, using the website TheyWorkForYou and the ConHome list, let us have a look at the voting records on matters EU.

As the above list appeared under the heading "Euroscepticism will triumph in the Conservative Party. It's just a matter of time.", presumably these MPs are counted as being Eurosceptic because they rebelled against further bail-outs. In fact, ConHome even makes the point that there are different kinds of Eurosceptics, so it would perhaps be as well if we look at the meaning of the word 'Eurosceptic'.

Originally assumed to mean anyone against membership of the European Union (or any other of its preceding guises), it is worth looking at the word in depth. Euro = abbreviation of European; sceptic = not convinced, having doubts about; ergo those MPs classified as being anti-EU are in fact nothing of the sort. If in fact we are to talk about anti-EU Conservative MPs then one can do no better than look at the Better Off Out website on which are listed just 7 names: Bone, Carswell, Davies (Philip), Hollobone, Nuttall, Percy and Reckless. (I wonder why the names of Cash and Redwood are so obvious by their omission?)

Whilst I have linked to the website TheyWorkForYou, I have to make the point that their classification of whether an MPs voting record is for, against, or what may possibly be consider as 'sitting on the fence' is, to a certain extent, skewed. If one looks at some of the MPs in the list above, the classification is based on just 4 voting attendances. Any classification is further skewed when, for example, one considers that given to David Nuttall - and his appearance on the Better Off Out list. David Nuttal voted for the acceptance of the European External Action Service, yet one has to ask the question if he believes in this country being better off out of the EU, how can he vote for a further expansion of EU power? To take yet another example, John Redwood, he is classified by TheyWorkForYou as having voted strongly against further EU integration - yet on his latest blogpost he is advocating a semi-divorce, hardly what one would call the view of a supposed Eurosceptic? In view of these examples you will understand my reasons for not having added to the list above, MPs such as Priti Patel or George Eustice.

It would seem to me that not only do we need to redefine the term 'eurosceptic', but that we also need to redefine just who amongst our MPs really is anti-EU!


Anonymous said...

As always, it is about the amount of money that is available for politicians to spend. The larger the agglomeration of money, the greater the political power for patronage and self-aggrandisement.

Thus in the order of things, the EU is top of the league, while national governments come in a poor second, for they have to get permission from the EU to even formulate their own budget.

But the times they are a changin. Over the pond, Rick Perry has come out openly against big government.


The tipping point provoking the libs' worst nightmare was contained in Rick Perry's speech announcing his candidacy to be the Republican nominee for president. Perry proclaimed his mission was not to make government more accountable, effective, or efficient -- that's standard issue bromide from populist reformers. No, Perry was bold enough, and as his critics will assert reckless, to suggest government should be irrelevant -- his words "as inconsequential to your lives as possible", (This is just Direct democracy). This may be the most radical anti-government posture since Calvin Coolidge, leaning on the likes of Lord Acton:

There are many things the government can't do, many good purposes it must renounce. It must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people.


The movement across the pond, and particularly if Perry becomes president, will have effects on this side as well.

The tide is turning.

PeterCharles said...

I think you and the others you mention are making the mistake of assuming eurosceptic has a precise meaning, which, being a political word, it of course doesn't. Once again we have the old political ploy of using language that is easy for everyone to interpret as agreeing with their own prejudice.

Someone who believes the EU is fatally flawed and our only hope is to withdraw would obviously class themselves as a eurosceptic, but so would someone who thinks the EU and complete federalisation is the only possible way forward but thinks the process to achieve it is flawed. The only people that can not be considered eurosceptic are those who believe it is the perfection of political governance and the processes are working well.

Using such language is standard political fare because it allows the political class to mire debate in endless circles that get nowhere, the unbelievable part is that they can still get away with it after 40 years.

Anonymous said...


The EU sceptics in short, are those who will forever sit on the fence. If there is any real indication that we are going to leave the EU, they will immediately remind us that they were always against EU membership, hoping thus to be rewarded. However, till that day dawns, they will sit on the fence.

Martin Cole said...

You had it in your Twitter headline - "Anti-EU"

Accept the EU as the enemy, by definition you are then anti-EU.

Let's face it the EU is not your friend under any circumstances a reasonable person could firesee, in Britain it is therefore our enemy, as are false, so-cllaed Eurosceptics.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP111: you make fair points in both your comments.

PC: If language is to have any relevance in communication then surely should not words have a precise meaning?

At the outset I do believe eurosceptic meant what it is assummed to mean, ie against eu membership as I said.

Personally, I don't care whether we use Withdrawalist or Anti-EU to describe those opposed to EU membership, but that attitude does need defining and defining closely to avoid further confusion. As I said those claiming to be opposed also need to be closely defined.

MC: See above, but I have to agree, Anti-EU says it all does it not?

PeterCharles said...

"At the outset I do believe eurosceptic meant what it is assummed to mean, ie against eu membership as I said."

Quite so, but that was when it was introduced by the media. When the political class, of which most political columnists are a member, co-opted the term it then became imprecise because they made it so, using it to include all examples of EU dissent however meagre, not just those wanting out. Thus William Hague's in Europe but not run by Europe becomes an expression of robust scepticism, which it is not, of course, in any meaningful way. Politicians never say anything precise, it is anathema to them. They may well appear to and if you do not listen carefully you will often think they did, but they don't. This is why they are so hard to hold to account in interviews or get a straight answer out of.

By pointing out that the list of 70 or whatever are not really eurosceptics you are simply falling into the semantic trap, they don't even have to respond because while what the likes of John Redwood say is, on this issue at least, utter rubbish most people who listen to him will take it as being soundly reasonable and indicative of his eurosceptic credentials and you simply end up in circular arguments with other eurosceptics, which suits the government and the EU just fine.

cosmic said...

The Conservative Party is very clearly determined to go along with EU integration and the likes of Carswell, Cash and Redwood, represent a minority view in the party which is struggling to gain traction, or are stage Eurosceptics, however you want to view it.

I think the answer is that if Redwood or Carswell of someone with a similar view is your MP, they are worth voting for without agonising too much over their ideological purity with regards the EU. I would say they've done a bit more than make the odd anti-EU noise.

The fact that Redwood and Carswell make some good points does not mean that the Conservative candidates in general are worth voting for in GEs and in particular Euro elections. These people become Judas Goats only in so far as they tempt people to confuse their views with party policy and vote for Conservative candidates who are pro-EU or willing to drift along with it.

Anonymous said...

WfW wrote: PC: If language is to have any relevance in communication then surely should not words have a precise meaning?

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”

The last sentence says it all.

With dues to Lewis Carroll.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

PC: 1st paragraph: accepted and agreed. 2nd paragraph: Maybe so but I will continue to hold them to account. Eventually one pinprick will elicit a response....... anyway I am not a eurosceptic, I am Anti-EU!

c: They may have made some noise - what I want to see is some action to demonstrate that they are men of principle!

Last paragraph: agree

DP111: Thanks for the lesson in English Literature...... :)

Anonymous said...


You are too kind.

Keep up the good work. Its a pleasure reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

PS: Speaking of sceptics sitting on a wall.

Did not Humpty and Dumpty sit on a wall...

and not even the King's horses etc.

Sitting on fences is not a good idea.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP111: Thanks for the extremely kind comment.....

cosmic said...


The EU is part of a bigger problem, big government with excessive regulation and various policies which are going to collide with reality, financing with ridiculous levels of debt, mass immigration and a suicidal energy policy. Get rid of the EU then we make the others easier, there's no point pretending that the EU is the whole problem. The mindset of geovernment in the UK is the bigger problem.

Westminster is comfortable going along in this rut and the populace has been conditioned to accept it.

It isn't going to be changed by people at Westminster, or who want to be at Westminster, coming up with good ideas. The inevitable collision with reality will change it.

That's why I think agonising over who's a real Eurosceptic is a little misplaced.

I agree the term 'Eurosceptic' is unfortunate, as it's too vague, but once these labels become established, they are hard to shift.

TomTom said...

Interestingly enough Merkel's Coalition is headed for collapse. German voters are sick of Merkel's apostasy and treachery. Her Foreign Minister will need to resign soon; he has already resigned as Leader of the FDP but is a walking disaster.

The collapse of the CDU frightens the CSU sister party in Bavaria which is flirting with EuroScepticism as the basis for a breakout from Bavaria to become a national party to harvest the votes lost by the CDU.

They are all frightened of new parties to the right mopping up the voters Merkel has lost through her Socialist Unity Party (SED) types of Block Party.

In short, what Cameron has done here has failed disastrously in Germany where many call for a Geert Wilders or look to Thilo Sarazzin as Men of Principle to LEAD.

It would be interesting if Marine Le Pen could win the French Presidency, then much would begin to change in Europe. Britain is a bit player and hanging on to the Eu rather like a life raft, because it lacks LEADERS and has androgenous boys in its political parties in place of experienced men

WitteringsfromWitney said...

DP111: Agreed, sitting on fences is a tad dangerous, you tend to get one of the pointy bit right up the @rse!

c: You make some good points but I cannot agree with you that pointing out the misuse of 'eurosceptic' is a waste of time or misplaced - help change it, help make people aware!

TT: Could not agree more with your comments, but the chance of MLP ousting Sarkozy is remote, the 'circle'' would never allow it to happen! Mind you, if it did happen..... Wow!