Those of you who said that it was impossible to separate retail banking from investment banking, you could always have taken it up with every mutual building society, by law. As of December, you could always have taken it up with Her Majesty's Government, led by your own beloved Conservative Party, to which you owe either tribal allegiance as soi-disant Tories or ideological allegiance as Blairites rallying to Blair’s Heir. And as of today, you can take it up with Her Majesty Herself.
Thanks to those much-maligned figures, the conservative Democrats such as Glass and Steagall, that separation existed in America throughout the period when she first rose to, and then occupied, global economic pre-eminence. But then along came the Clinton creature. The stage is set to entrench our own Glass-Steagall yet further by legislating for the whole of retail banking, apart from those public stakes, to be turned into a network of mutual building societies. The trick with the Conservatives has always been to make them think that it was their idea. As we see today.
Although the Cabinet Minister responsible is to be Vince Cable. Yesterday, he called for significant repatriation of power from the EU. Hitherto, mild to strong Eurosceptics have kept quiet within the Liberal Democrats. They have probably assumed that they were a tiny minority. But I bet that they are not. In fact, I bet that they are not really a minority at all. And now, they have to make legislative and executive decisions.
Vicious campaigners though they very often are, Lib Dems believe profoundly in the election, sensibly or otherwise, of everyone who exercises any sort of power. In absolute openness and freedom of information, prudent or otherwise. In the highest possible degree of decentralisation and localism, appropriate or otherwise. In the heritage of uncompromising opposition to political extremism everywhere from Moscow to Pretoria abroad, and from the Communist Party to the Monday Club at home. In (unlike me) the tradition of anti-protectionism against everyone from nineteenth-century agricultural Tories to 1970s industrial trade unionists. In the rural Radicalism that has always stood against the pouring of lucre into the pockets of the landlords. And in the interests of the arc of Lib Dem fishing seats from Cornwall to the Highlands and Islands via North Norfolk, Berwick, and North East Fife.
Vince Cable and Ed Davey are now in the Cabinet. The similarly non-Eurofanatical David Heath and Norman Lamb are on the cusp of it, with Alistair Carmichael as the party’s Chief and the Government’s Deputy Chief Whip. The Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes, abstained over Maastricht and remains no less lukewarm. The Party President, Tim Farron, is very much of the same mind. David Laws belongs in the same prison as anyone who had stolen that much in Housing Benefit, but the fact remains that he is effectively an unpaid Minister without Portfolio instead. Nick Harvey went so far as to vote against Maastricht. It is time for them to be smoked out, or for them to be given the opportunity to act in accordance with their principles. We need legislation with five simple clauses, most easily introduced as an amendment to the next appropriate Government Bill.
First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.
And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons. Thus, we would no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women candidates. Soon to be joined by Turkey’s Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists.
Ed Miliband, over to you. Challenge the Lib Dems to prove their commitment to liberty and democracy, to the Liberal and Social Democratic patrimonies. Or over to Simon Hughes and Tim Farron? Or even over to Vince Cable? If not, why not?