Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Brighton Kemptown's new Tory MP is already stirring up xenophobia

I had the pleasure of getting to know Brighton Kemptown's new Tory MP Simon Kirby a little during the election campaign.

He always seemed an honest, straight-talking kind of guy - albeit one I didn't agree with very often.

But being a straight talker can be a double-edged kind of quality: it means when you insult someone, you can't talk your way out of it.

And when you choose to highlight the Euro-sceptic suspicions of Brighton residents by referring to an invasion of the city by the French over 500 years ago, as Mr Kirby did in his maiden speech in parliament, it sounds more like stirring up nationalistic sentiments rather than reflecting them.

How many of us really think the historical military relationships within Europe half a millennium ago are relevant to foreign relations today?

There's something to be said for taking the long view, but surely this is going too far?

Of course there's a good case to argue that we should all be given a say on future relations between the UK and the rest of the EU.

The Lisbon Treaty represented a real transfer from residents and elected representatives to unelected bureaucrats and multi-national businesses.

A single currency serving different countries and areas with wildly differing costs of living and fiscal policies is a pretty silly idea too.

But I hope if and when we do get a referendum on the future of EU-UK relations we can all stick to arguing about the economics and politics of whatever's being proposed, and not promote the kind of nationalism and xenophobia that comes of talking up ancient battles and long-forgotten wars.

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