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What Cameron Sows in Europe He Reaps

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Whether or not the new chief whip, Sir George Young, can persuade eurosceptic MPs to vote for more EU spending on Wednesday is a minor question of parliamentary power plays.

What counts is that the 15-year long campaign against Europe initiated by William Hague when he became Conservative leader in 1997 and sustained by his successors as Tory leaders and now by Hague and David Cameron in office is beginning to cause a real crisis in British international relations.

Last week Labour MEPs took the lead in voting against a right-wing Brussels political settlement for spending over the next seven years that offered no hope for jobs, the green economy, or growth and instead refused any reform of the protectionist agro-industries subsidies backed here in the UK by the National Farmers Union and rich landowners.

Cameron has broken all political links with European centre-right parties to throw in the Tory Party's lot with ugly nationalist, rightist parties that are happy to get as much money from the EU as possible.

The vote this week will be based on an unholy alliance. Anti-EU politicians like Mark Reckless or Douglas Carswell, who charmingly described Britain's relationship with its friends and partners in Europe as being "shackled to a corpse", will use the vote to insist that the EU budget should be binned along with the EU itself.

That is an internal Tory party problem which we can leave to Messrs Cameron and Hague and Sir George Young to untangle. Labour MPs should support our MEP colleagues in saying that until the present right-wing anti-growth, anti-jobs ideology that controls Brussels is replaced by a more balanced politics the proposed budget settlement should be rejected. Voting no the present anti-growth budget is a precursor to voting yes to see a different EU with a one-nation Britain again playing a full role.

Europe has helped Britain. After the disaster of the Thatcher-Major years incomes in South Yorkshire had fallen so low the region where I am an MP became eligible for EU special funding for poorer parts of Europe. The £700 million South Yorkshire received from other EU taxpayers was a lifeline. Sadly the re-emergence of a two-nation Tory Britain with unemployment increasing in the north as it stabilises in the south may again require EU help.

Margaret Thatcher increased Britain's contribution to the then European Community from £654 million in 1984 to £2.54 billion in 1990. When challenged she said Britain should help poorer parts of Europe - Ireland, Spain and Portugal to grow.

We should be seeking to help Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania to grow so that their citizens have jobs, hope and a future at home instead of being driven by poverty to find work in west and north Europe, including Britain.

But this EU budget does nothing to help Europe in the right direction. It is the same old spending pattern. David Cameron and William Hague have wasted the first half of their government losing friends and influence in Europe. Hague last week said in Berlin that Britain was disillusioned with Europe. But he has created that disillusionment with 15 years of mendacious myths about the EU and attacking Europe at every opportunity even to the point of saying "Britain would become a foreign land" if a pro-EU Labour government was re-elected in 2001.

The europhobe monster he and Cameron have created is now coming back to devour them. We shall see on Wednesday if the Tory Eurosceptics have any integrity and principle or whether they will be whipped mice.

Labour MPs can oppose the proposed budget because it does not correspond to any of our values or policies advanced by friends in the Party of European Socialists. Pro-EU Labour MPs can vote on Wednesday for a different, reformed, more focused Europe.

Labour MEPs have also rightly called for a single seat for the European Parliament to end further wasteful expenditure. It was John Major who signed the deal allowing the stupid Strasbourg-Brussels travelling circus to continue when MEPs should meet at the perfectly good parliamentary assembly meeting building of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and convert the pharaohonic parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg into social housing and non-profit office centres.

On Wednesday Labour MPs have a chance to build on the work of Labour MEPs by voting against any increase of the EU budget and send a message to the prime minister he must start working for a better EU in which Britain can feel comfortable rather than indulging what Nick Clegg calls "nutters, anti-semites and homophobes" in European politics and pandering to the new isolationists in the Tory Party and off-shored owned press at home.

And if the government is serious about cutting waste then why not end the pointless war in Afghanistan, which in addition to the unnecessary sacrifice of young British lives has cost the UK £14.3 billion so far - much more than any moneys sent via the EU to other European nations.