Bring me sunshine

David Cameron (crown copyright)

You’ve got to admire the slogan. “Let sunshine win the day.” Just when David Cameron was being accused of lacking policies and substance, he pulls this one out of the hat and confounds all his critics. Suddenly, all those political forces supporting showers or demanding drizzle are left flat-footed.

The next election will be not only a climactic moment but also a climatic one. Politics moves on from sterile debates about quality of life issues on to a discussion of meteorology. A masterstroke.

Of course, there is a serious point behind David Cameron’s rejection of the cumulonimbus strategy. His main opponent at the next election is likely to be Gordon Brown, or failing that John Reid, and, as P G Wodehouse wrote, “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.”

David Cameron is sure to have read “Blandings Castle”; in fact, he may very well have stayed there.

My preferred political quote on the subject, though, is this: “Sunlight is the best antiseptic.” American Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was an advocate of the benefits of openness and transparency. I agree with him.

The European Commission last week concluded a consultation on how it should communicate with the people of Europe. Openness and transparency are absolutely essential.

The UEF, Federal Union’s European parent organisation, submitted a well-researched and closely argued paper on the theme. You can read the whole document here, or you can rely on my summarising skills.

The first problem is that the EU doesn’t function the way that national political systems do: there isn’t the same direct connection between votes cast in elections and the laws and policies that result. Being more straightforward would help. So would conducting all legislative business in the Council of Ministers in public.

Next, the priorities of the EU are not always the most obvious or straightforward ones. There is too much focus on technical issues and not enough on popular ones. The EU needs to become a bit more political, in the best sense.

Thirdly, it is often left on its own. National governments and local administrations also have a stake in the success of the European Union and are often in the best place to demonstrate what that success means in practice. They should be encouraged and resourced to do so.

A sunshine policy on behalf of the European Union would lead to more democracy, more relevance, and more communication. Is David Cameron ready for that?

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