The British Minister for Europe, Dennis MacShane, apparently tried to appeal to the British public by telling the FT earlier this week that
“… the German position [of enhancing the EU commission’s president powers as opposed to the Franco-British position of electing a president from within the European Council ] is for giving all power to a new kind of European kaiser, a Commission president who will tell all the other European institutions what to do. I had long discussion with Gerhard Schröder on this and I explained that 350 years ago we separated a king’s head from his body because we didn’t want to take orders from one individual.”
I am not too firm in English history but if I remember correctly, the story of the decapitation of Charles I is slightly more complicated than alleged by Mr MacShane. He died because he lost against Chromwell’s army in a religious power struggle. Decapitating a king may have been a fundamental democratic experience, but at least the immediate consequences were limited.
Shortly thereafter, Oliver Chromwell became Lord Protector. I am certainly not trying to reduce the English/British democratic/parliamentary innovations in any way – after all, I did have the opportunity to work for an MP in the mother of Parliaments myself.
But I do find it funny that a British minister talks about the veto-prone European decision process as some sort of absolutist government given that he is part of a governmental system which many scholars of British politics have (ironically, but with slight concern) called an “elected dictatorship” because of the centrality of Prime Ministerial power and the problematic legal doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty [ by the way – this evil fascist dictator test, apparently put online by an Oxford student, gives you the opportunity to test your Prime Ministerial potential.
Apparently, according to the test’s scoring guide,
I will be a corrupt, ruthless, but surprisingly effective figure on the world stage.
[ Not bad for this time of the day, I have to say ;-) ]
But anyway – the British must have learnt to take orders from one (elected) individual by now, for I don’t think Mr MacShane is actually after Tony’s head. He’s definitely even more dependent on his employer’s goodwill than most of his compatriots.