Strange mistakes in European history & geography 2/4: ‘The United States of Europe’

Other sections of this essay:

1/4: The Map of Europe

3/4: Human Rights

4/4: The European Union

2. Churchill’s concept of a ‘United States of Europe’.

Mr. Cameron, who first gained power under the false pretence of being a rational, ‘small-c’ conservative, is now the veritable puppet-king of a new Little England that has a vastly over-inflated opinion of itself. So it’s vital for hIm to keep the electorate as ill-informed as himself. It’s probably harmless enough that he believes that Rule Britannia was written by Elgar, but on the David Letterman show three years ago he showed that he did not even know what the words ‘Magna Carta’ meant. (How can you go to Eton, and then get a First Class Honours degree at Oxford and not know that Magna means great and Carta, a charter?) ‘It would be good if you knew this!’ Letterman exclaimed, and Cameron mumbled: ‘Yeah, well it would be.’

Two years before that, in 2010, Cameron had made an even more shocking gaffe, showing a breathtaking ignorance of the history of the Second World War. He made the astonishing claim, on two separate occasions several days apart (so it could not possibly have been a mistake):

We were the junior partner to America in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis.

He seemed to be totally unaware that in 1940 America was no partner of ours at all, and gave us neither military nor material support of any kind. So reluctant were they to become involved in the war that heroic Americans who wanted to volunteer for the RAF were warned they could lose their US citizenship. It was not of course until December 1941, after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, that the Americans joined the war. (It probably seems incredibly condescending of me to be reminding the reader of this, because I’m sure practically everyone will already know what Cameron did not.)

When General Sir Patrick Cordingley, former commander of the Desert Rats, heard Cameron’s remarks he said: ‘I am quite sure if Winston Churchill were alive today he would be dismayed.’

Unabashed, Cameron added ‘… and we are the junior partner now. I think you shouldn’t pretend to be something you’re not.’ Unfortunate words indeed, coming from one who pretends to have a basic grasp of European history.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of a great speech given in September 1946 by someone whose historical knowledge was at the very opposite end of the spectrum from Mr. Cameron – Winston Churchill:

I wish to speak about the tragedy of Europe, this noble continent, the home of all the great parent races of the Western world, the foundation of Christian faith and ethics, the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, prosperity and glory which its 300 million or 400 million people would enjoy.

Churchill went on to warn that, if Europe remained disunited, ‘the Dark Ages may still return.’ And what was the way to avoid such a fate?

… to recreate the European fabric, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, safety and freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. [My italics.] … Why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this mighty continent … and help to shape the honourable destiny of man? … If Europe is to be saved from infinite misery, and indeed from final doom, there must be this act of faith in the European family …

Of course, a lot of Conservatives, when they are reminded of this speech by their alleged hero, find it rather embarrassing and splutter things like ‘He didn’t really mean it’ (in much the same way that atheists insist that Einstein didn’t really mean it when he said – on numerous occasions – that he believed in a God of sorts.)


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