Daily Archives: 13 February 2008

Logical fallacies and euroscepticism

For the millionth time I’ve read this reported as fact:

The new Lisbon Treaty is largely the same as the defeated constitution…

So, for all those hard of thinking journalists out there and everyone else for that matter who seems to misunderstand it, I thought I’d draw you a handy diagram:
EU treaty diagram
You can say that the addition of Lisbon means that the combined treaties are roughly equivalent to the stalled constitutional treaty. You cannot say that Lisbon itself is roughly equivalent to the stalled constitutional treaty. To claim otherwise it to be a fool.

Let’s put it another way: an iced cake with “Happy Birthday” written on it is roughly the same thing as an iced cake with “Happy Christmas” written on it. If you claimed that the icing itself was more or less the same thing as the whole cake, you could reasonably expect to be put into a rubber room.

I know this is the height of pedantry, but it is an important distinction and anyone who contests it loses the moral right to call other people “dishonest”.

What I find most amazing about all this is the way the Eurosceptics have, in effect, ceded the argument over all the other treaties which, in the past, they insisted (with the same level of shoutiness as now) were about to “abolish” Britain. Equally amazing is the fact that, four years ago there was a real opportunity to effectively renegotiate those past treaties via the constitutional process. The shadowy forces behind iwantareferendum and the combined Murdoch, Rothermere and (then) Black press could have insisted on a public debate and a more open process from the government. They did no such thing. Even if you agree that treaties like this should be ratified by referendum – as I do – don’t for a second kid yourself that these people have our best interests at heart.

Crashing and Burnham

Poor old Andy Burnham. A few months ago I took him to task for aping the Tories and their proposed tax cuts for loveless marriages. Since then the boy has, improbably, gained a cabinet level post, but doesn’t appear to be doing any better.

His performance on the Today Programme (which doesn’t appear to be on listen again yet) this morning was probably the most lamentable I have ever heard from a cabinet minister. It was so clear he was not on top of his brief I almost felt sorry for him, were it not that it offended my sense of professionalism.

What is obvious is that these new proposals to force schools to provide pupils with five hours of “high culture” a week originated from his predecessor, not him. Purnell and Burnham could not be more different: the former – a bit of a dandy highwayman who was ushering in a new renaissance up until a couple of weeks ago – is Labour’s answer to Henry Conway. The latter more closely resembles Wayne Rooney.

James Purnell and Andy Burnham

Still, John Humphries doesn’t get away completely scot-free either. He was distinctly heard arguing that “creative reading” ought to be learned “by rote”. Uh?

UPDATE: The interview is now up. Listening again, it’s even worse than I remembered.