No time to walk away from the challenge

The European Parliamentary elections are now over for another five years. The good news for us in the UK was that yet again the Conservatives topped the poll. The other news was that the UK Independence Party pushed the Liberal Democrats into fourth place.

It should be no surprise that Euroscepticism in the UK has grown so much in the past seven years during Labour’s period in office. When Tony Blair signed up to the EU Social Chapter, overturning the UK opt-out negotiated by Conservative leader Michael Howard, the government allowed a torrent of extra EU red tape to intrude into every nook and cranny of our lives. The message is that this has to be reversed, and Conservatives are committed to reversing it.

The rise of UKIP is also a clear message for the government. It is a message that the One-Size-Fits-All Socialist vision of Europe is not for us, that we are proud of our country and want ALL our politicians to stand up for it; and that this includes the Prime Minister, who should say NO to the proposed EU Constitution.

The weekend before the elections had been the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings – a sombre reminder that the destiny of our islands is irrevocably linked with the continent as a whole. Representatives of many nations united in paying tribute to those who gave their lives in a tragic conflict when Europe was at war with itself, and neighbours killed each other. It seems a very long time ago. It must not happen again.

After the World Wars came the Cold War, with an iron curtain dividing Europe. Now, that too is gone, and Europe is finally whole, with 25 nations in a common club. What a time for some little Englanders to say we should leave – that we should create a new division within Europe with Britain out on her own, that we should leave France and Germany to dominate the continent without the checks and balances that the UK alone has the strength and the vision to provide.

No major UK party will pull out of Europe, especially at a time when 10 new countries have just joined. These countries do not want to be ruled by Brussels any more than we do. It is time to lead this New Europe, not to walk away.

As I criss-crossed my home constituency in the countdown to election day, I was struck by how many cars were sprouting the banner of St. George, flying the flag for England. It was clear that many people were indeed concerned about whether England wins in Europe. But, for them, the issue was football.

In football, just as in the European Parliament, we clearly have to try harder.