Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Declan Ganley and the need for nuance

When Declan Ganley first started to appear on the scene with his Libertas party/pressure group a few years back – not to be confused with UKIP defector Robert Kilroy-Silk’s Veritas party – it was all too easy to dismiss it as another rich man’s vanity project.

My problem with it – as detailed back in 2008, when Ganley turned his anti-Lisbon Treaty campaing organisation into a party ahead of the 2009 European Parliament elections – was primarily that its aims were so damned vague that its policies seemed little better than populist platitudes. But as I wrote then, on the whole, I agreed with a lot of what was being said and hoped my suspicions were unfounded:

” I hope I’m being unfair in doubting them. If Libertas is what it professes to be, it could be just the medicine that the EU needs to fix the ongoing stagnation and rot. But when it comes to EU reform organisations, far too many have turned out to be little more than anti-EU talking shops in disguise for me to accept this as face value just yet.”

Since then, Libertas’ failure at the ballot box and Ganley’s continued vocal criticism of almost all things Brussels have made it easier than ever to dismis him as yet another shouty eurosceptic – and it’s not like we’ve had a shortage of these of late. I had him written off as another Open Europe – the pretend think tank whose mission statement about EU reform I actually agree with almost completely, but which in practice works primarily to confirm the prejudices of eurosceptics, not to develop the constructive alternatives to the current EU model it purports to. Where I started off hoping to agree with Ganley, instead I’ve ended up arguing with him on Twitter as if he were an Irish-focused Nigel Farage.

But now Jon Worth – newly able to speak his mind now he’s no longer hoping to get selected for Labour’s European Parliament list for the 2014 EP elections – asks us to think again about Ganley. Give him a second chance. And he makes a good case:

“debate about the future of the EU needs people like Declan Ganley. He advocates radical and uncomfortable reforms of the EU as the only way out of the Eurozone debt crisis. He is neither a pro-European nor a Eurosceptic in the classic sense. He poses complicated questions that urgently need answers, and he’s starting to propose some answers of his own.”

One thing’s for sure, we need some fresh thinking. The faux europhile/europhobe division’s been false for years – and most of the national-level parties and politicians have for too long treated the EU as a sideshow distraction, not worthy of serious thought or attention. Too often they have been happy to use it as a scapegoat or an excuse – and in far too many cases to see it as a threat to their personal political power rather than the promise of a better future for their people that it was always supposed to be.

The reason the EU is in its current mess is thanks to the small-minded unoriginality and self-preservation instincts of its political class. And why? Simple – as Jon found when trying to pander to the powers that be in the Labour party, established political organisations abhor independence of thought and originality of proposed solution. But what they hate more than anything is nuance – the suggestion that there may be shades of grey, that nothing is ever as simple as a yes/no.

We need more nuance in EU debate, and have done for years. Is Ganley the man to bring this forwards? It’s still far too early to say. But I’ll tell you this much – it’s all in the details. Because that’s all the EU is: a collection of details. There hasn’t been an overriding vision for decades – which is precisely how it has become so lost and confused.

All of which could be taken as a mission statement for my return to blogging – more details, more nuance, more challenging of my own prejudices as well as other people’s. That is, after all, why I started this place up all those years ago. Because that’s what the EU debate needs.

Is it time to jump into bed with Ganley? Not quite. But it’s worth serious thought, if only because he’s one of the few involved in EU politics whose views I can’t entirely predict. This is a very refreshing change.


  1. Ganley’s both right – and wrong – by my view. There is a rule which says that: “every complex problem has a simple solution – and it’s wrong” : because complex problems need complex solutions.

    Unfortunately we can’t undo Maastricht. That’s when the rot set in: EU leaders didn’t like the idea of a centralised Commission (unelected but non- partisan) telling them what to do. These leaders wanted to rule – and they weren’t giving away power to anyone!

    Unlike Ganley, I believe the fiscal compact is a good start; no more than a start, though. The Eurozone musty be more closely integrated (centralised even!). But the counter-party is that, for a start, Commissioners should be elected. Not sure how, nor whether that would require a treaty change, but it would be a first step on the path to change the EU back towards the original form of a democratically responsible organisation.

    • Agreed – Ganley’s got good and bad points to make. But it’s still interesting and refreshing to see so vocal a critic of the way the EU’s been operating coming out with constructive suggestions for change that involve greater integration in some areas in conjunction with increased federalism in others. If it wasn’t for the fatuity of so much EU debate in the UK, sizeable numbers of eurosceptics should be doing the same – calling for federalism. But sadly this appears to be the least understood word in the English language – at least where Brits and Europe are concerned…

      Maastricht as a starting point may be fair – but I can’t help feeling that that particular treaty has been much misunderstood by pretty much all subsequent political leaders. It did, after all, introduce the concept of subsidiarity, which should have enabled the devolution of power away from the centre, yet it’s always blamed as the start of ever-increasing centralisation of power with the Eurocrats. I see it as a treaty that could and should have introduced greater subtlety to the EU – an option to move away from one size fits all, except on the key points – but instead it’s just led to more confusion and resentment.

      (Then again, the problem with subsidiarity has always been the vagueness of the concept – talk of decisions being taken “at the most appropriate level” will always lead to disputes about precisely what that level might be. So perhaps you’re right to blame Maastricht after all…)

  2. Pingback: What You Can Get Away With (Nick Barlow's blog) » Blog Archive » Worth Reading 57: And every one of them a baked bean

  3. Yey, more Nosemonkey!