A fashionable swing to the Eurosceptic side

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The Independent Culture
WHY WOULD a fashion designer who has always considered herself to be on the centre left join the Conservative Party, in what some people might say is its least fashionable period? After all, the last time I got openly involved in politics was when I wore a "58 per cent Don't Want Pershing" T-shirt to meet Margaret Thatcher, when she was prime minister.

Something is at stake in Britain just as important as the Cold War: the single currency. The Independent was entirely wrong to call in its front page leading article for Britain's rapid entry. We should not enter at all.

I joined the Conservative Party as a citizen, and not as a fashion designer. For me, it is a question of whether we remain a proper democracy with any semblance of control over our own affairs. I am fed up with waiting for a referendum on the euro, which will, in any case, be a one-sided affair, with the Government and Brussels using their full might to pump out a single message. I don't want taxpayers' money spent that way.

Labour is no longer a democratic party of the centre left. It has accepted the principle of joining without asking its own party members or holding a referendum. Having made that decision, Labour should have had the courage to hold a referendum straightaway. It didn't do so because it thought it would lose. At least the Conservatives took the democratic risk and gave their members a say.

The challenge for eurosceptics is to put across our ideas without appearing insular or backward-looking. I am a true European, who happens to be deeply sceptical about this form of integration. I went to school in France as well as England and lived in Sweden and Romania. for nearly 30 years I have worked all over Europe, including, for a period, manufacturing in Britain and exporting to some 30 countries, including most European ones. I learnt French and Italian, and my second home was in Spain. When people call Eurosceptics Little Englanders, they don't realise that there is such a thing as little pro-Europeans too - hide-bound by the codes and taboos of an out-dated project.

When people say that the single currency is good for business, they can only mean big business, where corporate culture is inclined to support centralised solutions. For small to medium-size businesses, it is irrelevant. We are used to exchange-rate fluctuations.

If Labour wanted Britain to have fuller participation or influence culturally, economically and politically in Europe, they would realise that our main obstacle is not our currency, it is our nationally poor language skills. How come the Swedes speak better English than we speak French?

The greatest asset to anybody who wants to trade or communicate internationally is speaking at least another language, and, if they have them, staff who speak foreign languages as well.

What we really need is an appraisal of the effectiveness of our language teaching methods. We need to find out which methods really work and adopt them wholesale in our schools.

I am opposed to EMU because I believe that Britain should keep the right to manage its own economy and to govern ourselves. Britain's independence was important enough for us to fight two wars this century. Giving up our independence by controlling our own economy would be a betrayal of the sacrifices of all the people who fought and gave their lives to preserve it.

This untried experiment will take us further away from direct and accountable democracy. EMU has always been a political project which will lead to greater homogeneity between the member states. Just because businesses across Europe work successfully together does not mean that politically we should be risk being ruled as a bloc. British businesses also work with Japanese and American companies, but no one says we all need to be governed by one organisation.

Democracy works best on a small scale. The country desperately needs an active Opposition so the Government can be kept under control. I am worried that the huge majority has made New Labour insufferably arrogant and inflexible. The Government doesn't feel that it needs to listen, and when it does, it doesn't like what it hears, so it spends its whole time trying to manipulate public opinion. They had their big chance after the election to show that they were prepared to listen. They should have cancelled the Millennium Dome then, and spent the money on causes worthy of the Labour Party. But despite overwhelming public support for scrapping the Dome, they went ahead with it.

The Dome speaks of a banal and empty vision. Modern-day politicians are not cultured enough to be Medicis. They should stick to doing what only politicians can do, dealing properly with education, health and crime. We've got declining A-level standards, and charges on higher education so that poor students can't afford to go to college any more; the NHS can't cope; and the streets are filthy. So the Government is throwing money at a useless project that no one wants.

My first brush with Cool Britannia was the Powerhouse exhibition in Horse Guards Parade. As somebody who visits exhibitions and trade fairs all over the world, I was deeply embarrassed by its amateurism. The Millennium Dome will be an even greater embarrassment as well as a criminal waste of money. The tragedy is that they don't even seem to realise how bad it is.

Cool Britannia is really Craven UK plc, about to be swallowed in a European takeover. The Government is the willing tool of big business, refusing to make a solid defence of human rights in China because it prefers to support the interests of large companies. Everything is for sale. Now Labour wants to sell Britain's independence in return for the euro. This pro-European impulse is impelled by feelings of cultural inferiority. They don't have the faintest idea of what's best for Britain, or our potential to be a creative, individualistic nation, trading across the world.

The European Union is undemocratic. Britain's political institutions have for centuries been better than those of any other major European country. Now these political philistines think anything old has to be "modernised", New Labour's euphemism for being destroyed or eviscerated.

Good designers can tell the difference between a passing fad and a classic style. I'm not sure that the Government can.

We should be proud of our democracy, and defend it. Instead we're throwing away our independence. What for? A dodgy currency, and being ruled from Brussels by people we haven't elected.

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