3 MAY 1975, Page 5

A Spectator's Notebook

No newspaper is renowned for its managerial —as distinct from its journalistic—ability and the latest tale of the Daily Express is an example of this. Its editorial machine pondered the probable un-newsworthiness of the ten-day Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Jamaica and came up with the idea that Walter Terry, the paper's principal parliamentary correspondent, should cover the conference. Since Walter is such a good journalist that he can squeeze drops of news even out of such stones this could have been a good idea. Then management took over with the usual Fleet Street results.

Research of the highest order showed that if Mr Terry went to Jamaica for the necessary ten days, his air fare was likely to cost £368. If, however, he went for a fortnight, the air fare would be £227, and use of the finest modern calculators showed that the Expres1 could save £141 that could then be given to Mr Terry to pay his expenses for the unnecessary four days extra stay, which we all hope he enjoys.

Given this happy outcome, it is perhaps uncharitable to point out that the Express did not realise, until too late, that it could have saved £236 instead of a purely theoretical £141 by booking its finest political journalist on a charter flight costing £132. Good luck to you, Walter, have a good holiday — but don't you think it might be a kindly thought on your part to bring back a bottle of Jamaican rum for the bemused management of your paper?

Less European defence

The House of Commons will be discussing defence again shortly but I wonder how many pro-Market defence experts will mention how our remaining in the European Communities will weaken our defence forces? Strengthening them is supposed to be one reason for forging a union of the West European states, yet strangely little is ever said about this in detail. It is an assertion never backed up by facts and the reason for this is that the facts, rather inconveniently for Marketeers, disprove the assertion.

At the moment the proportion of gross national product which each of the nine EEC states spends upon defence varies from 1 to 5.8 per cent and this last figure, the highest one, is ours. If the political union of the Communities comes about by 1980 (still the target date) then the united state's federal powers are bound to include defence and obviously it will tend to equalise defence expenditure about the average of the Nine (less than 31/2 per cent of gross national product). In our case the net result will be a cut of about 40 per cent in our defence expenditure. Some will not be displeased by this but I am not surprised that Conservative pro-Market MPs are rather coy about mentioning it. I wonder, though, what the service voters we are now to have in the referendum will think of their rather dismal European future?

Marxist Europe

This leads me on to ponder the future of Marxism in a united Western Europe. The rather feeble pro-Market attempt to label all anti-Marketeers as Marxists obscures the true future of Britain in the Common Market which is, I believe, that it will become more Marxist. As is well known, the British Labour Party has never been Marxist (though it has a minority of Marxists in it) but what is its future likely to be in the European Communities? In 1978 the first elections to the European Assembly will take place and this fact alone will force the national parties of the Nine to link up in order to fight these elections. It is easy for our Labour Party to ally itself with the equally non-Marxist German SPD but that will not be a big enough group to have any chance of becoming even the largest Assembly faction, never mind winning the election. The largest left-wing parties in France and Italy are their Communist parties and so the Anglo-German Socialists will have to link up with them, as the weak French Socialists have had to do. Inevitably the British Labour Party will be pushed to the left of its present situation.

Economic forces will push us in the same direction. Capitalism is like Andrew Marvell's treason, so long as it prospers no one dare use it as a pejorative word. When it fails people can attack it successfully. It is already clear that Britain's economic situation is getting worse in the Common Market. Professor Robert Nield, one of our leading economists, announced his conversion to the anti-Market cause for this reason only last week. Our balance of payments deficit in the EEC grows; it can only be cured by raising unemployment to the higher European levels and we are steadily becoming one of the poorer areas in the Community. What will this do for politics in Britain? It will certainly not lead to a fervent belief in the laissez-faire capitalism of the Communities. As France, Germany and the Low Countries grow richer they may not prove fertile soil for Marxists but the opposite will be the case in Britain. Economics as well as politics will push the Labour Party and the country farther left.

Left-wing analysis

Now one can see the cause of some of the stranger left-wing attitudes towards the Market. Who is the most left-wing trade union leader? Most people would say Hugh Scanlon, the AUEW president, and yet he has hardly raised a finger to help the anti-Market cause. He has left the fight to Jack Jones and Clive Jenkins, both leaders of unions (TGWU and ASTMS) far less influenced by the Communist Party than the AUEW. The NUM where, as we all know, there is a great division between a Communist-influenced left and its Labour right wing has decided to leave all campaigning decisions on the Market to its areas and many of them have decided to ignore the referendum. Of course, the British Communist Party formally proclaims its opposition to the Market but, like the Russians, they are ambivalent about the whole matter and the fervour of the left wing is in consequence abated. On the extreme left the Maoists actively want Britain to stay in. Following Harold Wilson's great political principle of keeping one's options open, they can all see another option, of Britain still in Europe falling politically into their lap. If we stay in a Europe less democratic and more authoritarian than Britain, where Marxism is the traditional alternative authoritarianism, what will a poor Britain become?

The extreme left-wing analysis may well be correct but it is not liked in the much more democratic and less Marxist British Labour Party. That is why the anti-Marketeers in the Labour Party are so much more powerful than Labour's left wing alone. We prefer a future in which our British brand of socialism can be combined with democracy.

Michael English, MP