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January 09, 2008

Christie Davies does not know whether to scream or laugh at the EU: €urobo££ocks! Britain's Relationship with Europe 1957 – 2007 at the Cartoon Museum

Posted by Christie Davies

€urobo££ocks! Britain's Relationship with Europe 1957 – 2007
Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH
10th October 2007 - 20th January 2008

This exhibition of cartoons about glorious Britain's relationship with wretched Europe is surprisingly entertaining and enlightening given that it has the European Union as one of its sponsors. Indeed Commissioner Benjy Mandelson who used to belong to the Young Communist League has written a foreword to the catalogue in the oleaginous tone of one making a mortgage application for the Hinduja brothers. Herbert Morrison must be spinning in his grave.

The chronologies and comments given by the curators are tendentious but they are so absurd they collapse and the excellent cartoons speak for themselves. Just go and look at the cartoons.

The Welsh political cartoonist Leslie Illingworth's wonderful cartoon Where Now? (from the Daily Mail, 16th January, 1963) reveals that the only man who has ever really understood Britain's place in Europe was General de Gaulle. When we leave the EU we should rename Heathrow Airport after him.

On 14th January, 1963 de Gaulle barred Britain from Europe and stated truthfully:

England is insular. She is maritime. She is linked through her trade, her markets, her supply lines to the most distant countries….she has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions. In short England's nature, England's structure, England's very situation differs profoundly from that of the continentals.
De Gaulle was wiser than Britain's own politicians Macmillan, Wilson, and Heath who could not see this fundamental truth and wanted "Europe to pull her finger out and let Britain in".

De Gaulle who believed in l'Europe des patries, even if he never said that actual phrase was also a wonderful spoiler of European unity. He always put France first in contrast to Britain's snivelling politicians who will always sell their country short for a little cheap applause from the foreigners. He stood for "Europe des réalités, Europe des Etats, Europe des peuples et des Etats".

In Illingworth's cartoon de Gaulle sits at the side of one of those tree lined open roads in Northern France as a douanier, his enormous Cyranic nose - his trade-mark - juts across the road to be propped up on the other side. It blocks Macmillan's little car UK 1963 from proceeding. Beyond there is a no-entry sign. A nose is a noes is a nose. The noes have it.

At Brussels de Gaulle was Le Mannequin Pis and pissed all over Heath, and dribbling, dawdling, middling, muddling Maudling. It was a different kind of Olympian golden shower from the one they were expecting but much deserved.

But by 1972 de Gaulle had been replaced by Pompidou and Heath, a rigid and fanatical European was Prime Minister. Tragically the two men got on well and here they are together in Michael Cummings's Hope I get used to Gaulloises (in the Sunday Express, 31st December, 1972) the day before Britain entered the EEC.

In the carton Sailor boy Heath has taken his yacht Mourning Cleowd up the Seine, moored it by the Eiffel Tower and is sitting in the Café Entente Cordiale with Pompidou. Heath - in a beret and a pullover inscribed with an anchor and the label "Nuage du Matin" and carpet slippers - is looking sea-sick, as he pulls on a disgusting French cigarette that emits enough smoke and acid rain to kill off the forests of the Ardennes. Pompidou, uncomfortably dressed as an old fashioned English City gent, is looking in horror at a menu that reads "Le Sausage et Mash, Le Toad dans le hole, Le Cabinet Pudding".

Cummings really did know how to draw Heath.

As in 1904, the year of the Entente Cordiale, everybody lost. The cordiality of 1904 led directly to World War I and a victory that concealed the material destruction of both countries. Now Britain and France are both finally losing their independence in a lying treaty that effectively imposes on them Giscard's constitution, the one that the French rejected and that, as Bertie Ahern has pointed out, the British government dare not put to the test.

Never resent the French crapauds; they are going to be as much victims of the EU as we are. That is why they voted "no" in their referendum. Why should the French not, as shown in Steve Bell's cartoon If (of 25th May, 2005 in the Guardian), hate and reject the replacement of a French lunch by an Anglo-Saxon "stinkingue sandwich at ze desque".

The French work far fewer hours than the British and take longer holidays but their levels of productivity and rate of rise in productivity are so much higher than ours, that they also enjoy a higher standard of living than we do. They are better educated than we are, have a more effective health system and live longer. They firmly reject multiculturalism and their schools are a burqua-free zone. No wonder they do not want our "flexible" labour markets, globesity and unrestricted immigration, that have brought us nothing but personal insecurity and the destruction of our national identity. What is there for the French to admire in our abominable "Finnish" food and moronic BBC-American television?

Don't blame the French for Europe or the Dutch or the Danes or the Irish, all of whom have voted against Brussels, which is more than we have ever done. Bell draws the French far better than he does Bush and les Amerloques. That unpleasant honour belongs to the French, whose anti-Americanism also contains something of the traditional anti-semitism of their past. Deep down many of the French still think Dreyfus was guilty.

There is a wonderful cartoon by Peter Brookes (from The Times, 16th September, 2003) After Sweden, What chance a UK vote? In September 2003 the Swedes rejected joining the Euro by a huge majority even though the yes campaign spent five times as much as those against. Where did they get the money from?

The cartoon in six frames shows the Euro sign € gradually tip over on its back, grow a bill and become very obviously a dead duck. Many of our politicians would like to join the Euro, even if it wrecked the British economy, and they would lie, lie and lie again to meet the stability conditions but to do so they would have to hold a referendum and they dare not do that. Like the Swedes we would turn out in great numbers not merely to reject the Euro on utilitarian grounds but to reject this symbol that looks like a pound sign with osteoporosis or a laterally inverted hammer and sickle. It represents the sickness and slavery of Europe.

The two best-drawn cartoons in the exhibition are both of pigs. Both are Peter Brookes's Nature Notes items.

The first (from The Times, 5th October, 1996) Large Pink (Currencies singularis), shows a prize-winning porcine Ken Clarke with an EU rosette. Peter Brookes really can draw. To make Ken Clarke look like a pig is easy but to make a very real Large Berkshire White look like Ken Clarke takes real skill. It is not an offensive or repulsive or insulting pig but it is Ken Clarke to the life. Peter Brookes is the greatest.

Peter Brookes also drew Large Brussels Swine (Sauterus isbaconus), again in Nature Notes, (The Times, 20th March, 1999) to celebrate one of the periodic exposures of corruption and nepotism in the EU. The caption reads:

This Porker's snout is lodged firmly in the trough, from whence it must be dragged kicking and squealing. Try with mustard and Cresson.
It sums up what Europolitics is about - snouts and troughs. Usually it is the collective piggery of subsidies for supplicants, regulations to exclude competitors and rent seeking all round but there is also within the EU an unashamed hunt for directly corrupt gains.

It is well captured in Matt's cartoon of a passenger at Waterloo asking a porter, Does the Eurostar to Brussels connect with the EU Gravy Train? (Daily Telegraph, 1999). Matt Pritchett is also the greatest.

The genius of political cartoonists such as Matt lies in their ability to reduce an entire sordid politics to a single, memorable, visual political joke. Like all political jokes it is a joyous relaxation from the grim reality out there. Cartoons are for us what anekdoti were for the Russians under socialism.

The reality behind Matt's cartoon was truly grubby. In 1999 Jacques Santer's entire Commission resigned. Between a billion and two billions worth of taxpayers money had disappeared somewhere in the Mediterranean, the countries not the sea. Mme Edith Cresson, a Commissioner and former Prime Minister to the notoriously corrupt French President Mitterand, was found to have employed her dentist, who also lived in her house and was her astrologer, as a special adviser to the EC and to carry out a well-funded research project on AIDS. No doubt she had excellent teeth and a good horoscope, but was that a recommendation?

All those who resigned or were dismissed for fraud at this time got, as usual, very substantial pay-offs. Cresson got 500,000 Euros. It was in the Mitterrand tradition, for Mitterrand made the EU raise its quota for the import of New Zealand butter. This was New Zealand's pay back for letting go of the French secret agents he had sent there in 1985 to blow up a ship in harbour in Auckland to stop it going into the French atomic testing zone in the Pacific. In the EU foreign policy determines trade policy.

By contrast, when honourable whistle-blowers such as Paul van Buitenen, Marta Andreason, Dorte Schmidt-Brown or Robert McCoy provide revelations of Euro corruption, then the Commission takes stern action - not of course against the fraudsters but against the whistle-blowers, who are sacked, suspended without pay or on half pay or given compulsory sick leave and eventually tire and quit.

They are even smeared. When Paul van Buitenen, the EU's Dutch auditor, wrote to a member of the European Parliament saying that his Christian principles required him to reveal the high levels of corruption that existed, he was reviled as a religious fanatic. The penalties for being a whistle-blower are far greater than for being caught out in fraud, nepotism or mismanagement.

What is even more disgusting is the inability and unwillingness of personally honest Commissioners to police such behaviour or to expose it. On the contrary they rush to scapegoat the persons who exposed the corruption and even to induce the Belgian police to arrest them. On one occasion the police held for questioning the journalist Hans-Martin Tillack of Der Stern who was investigating EU corruption and seized his files and computer. It was claimed that he possessed leaked documents from the Court of Auditors revealing yet more corruption.

The pattern is a depressing one. Loyalty to the Commission, the upholding of secrecy and avoiding scrutiny and scandal are more important to the EU than any commitment to such democratic values as accountability, openness, transparency, honesty. All those who work in Brussels want to stay with the gravy train, the very high levels of lightly taxed pay and the very generous allowances, expenses, and pensions that EU officials enjoy.

The failure to tackle corruption is hardly surprising since the Commissioners are accountable to no one. When the European Parliament was outraged at the corruption in the days of Jacques Santer, it was working on the basis of information leaked to its members by Buitenen, not obtained as a result of its own scrutiny or that of a judge. The gutless European Parliament did not even have the courage to vote for the censure and dismissal of the Santer Commissioners.

Each time there is a scandal, the ineffective bodies who have the task of investigating fraud are given new acronyms, and there is the rhetoric of fresh starts. Sooner or later it happens all over again, as indeed it did with the Eurostat scandal.

Some of the funniest cartoons in the exhibition refer to "Euromyths", Euroregulations that have never actually existed. My favourite was the ban on busty barmaids, enacted as an indirect way of getting rid of the three massive levers that work the pumps in British pubs for those who want a pint of draught beer. The barmaid has to be busty so she can nestle between them and use her mammaries to act as a governor when pumping, so that the customer gets exactly a pint, even though the gauge is in litres. The purpose of forcing pubs to employ flat chested barmaids was so that they would be restricted to serving in litres and eventually to selling nothing but Euro-beer in cans. Sad to say there is no such regulation, although feminists and enemies of Manet did agitate for it.

Likewise there never was a ban on crisps or on bent cucumbers. There probably was a directive to ban haggis and bagpipes (offal and cacophony directive Appendix 473B) and kilts probably were classified as women's wear and sporrans as offertory boxes but the rules have never been enforced.

There are a number of amusing cartoons about these - particularly those by Kipper Williams in his Eurocats series in the Guardian in the 1990s. Kipper by the way is a very old and respected Welsh name meaning Christopher and does not refer to a smelly fish nor even to a trendy skull-cap.

The EU in its usual humourless way got upset when these stories began to appear in the popular press and wasted tax payers' money on "informing" us that there were no such bans, nor ones on guacamole flavoured-mushy peas or on firemen's poles, which discriminate against gay firemen. O'Brien, the curator of this exhibition, sniffily observes that the Euromyths remain:

surprisingly persistent in the popular memory for years, despite all attempts to bury them.
But why should there be attempts to bury them and who pays for these attempts? Are even our myths to be regulated by Brussels?

O'Brien further comments in the catalogue that the British cartoons referring to these myths:

are likely to perplex non-British readers.
The details may do so but that is true of all political cartoons. I love the Finnish political cartoons of Professor Kari Suomalainen but I often need to ask a Finnish colleague to explain some of the local references. Once he or she has done so I am no longer perplexed.

Likewise, if I were to explain the local significance of the cucumbers or the haggis to the Finns they would not in anyway be perplexed that we have cartoons, which in the words of the O'Brien express:

a strong dislike of what they perceive as meddling by "Brussels Eurocrats".
It is a theme to which the Finns would warm, as indeed would be the case in Eastern European countries, groaning under the weight of the absurd Acquis Communautaire. It does not matter whether a particular myth is literally true but rather whether it is a manifestation of a general truth that the common people have discerned. It is a "them" and "us" myth that speaks of the huge and undemocratic divide between the "them" who make the regulations and the "us" who have to endure them.

I have been bothered recently for a signature by my broker over some daft financial services edict from Brussels brought in partly to prevent our people from entering European markets unless they are as handicapped and regulated as those in Eurocountries where there is no such thing as trust. But how do you make a myth or a legend or a joke out of that? That is why myths rooted in experience that express an underlying truth end up being fastened onto cucumbers or haggis, things that are tangible, everyday material objects.

Faced with a threatening situation that is difficult to understand and which they have no power to control, which is what the EU is, people universally tend to invent myths and urban legends. For the EU to try to take them out shows not only a lack of a sense of humour but a want of understanding.

The cartoons in the exhibition often fail to bring across the full horror of what is happening to us, the slide towards ever greater "democratic centralism", the cynical and deliberate destruction of the our national identities, the domination of decision making by luddite, technophobic, precautionary-principle, regulation for regulation's sake EUcrats, middle-aged red-green souls in grey suits.

As the life of our country ebbs away they continue to treat the EU as if it is a trivial, uncontroversial matter to be gently joked about. Still you've got to laugh…eh?

Dr Christie Davies is the author of The Mirth of Nations, 2002, a comparative study of humour and co-author with Dr Mark Neal of The Corporation under Siege, 1998, about EU red-green regulation freaks.

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