Nosemonkey has a question:
But why have Labour shifted towards supporting the EU, having been so massively opposed to it for so many years? The rest of the radical policy changes the party’s gone through during the last twenty years make perfect sense - they’ve increased Labour’s electoral viability. But support for the EU is - rightly or wrongly - an electoral liability in the UK.
If you take the usual line that the shift from old to New Labour was designed to bring the party closer in line with the thinking of the country at large, jettisoning unpopular socialist rhetoric in the process, how to explain the shift to favouring the EU, when the EU is supposedly so unpopular with the public?
The key event here is the 1987 election, I think. If the 1983 wipeout could be justified by the Falklands effect, the particular incompetence of Michael Foot as leader and the creation of the SDP, these factors were either absent or greatly diminished by 1987. Yet Labour barely dented the Tory majority. So much for British socialism.
That was when the talk started of the EU being used to “open a second front against Thatcherism” with the help of Jacques Delors, who turned from being a crypto Gaullist co-ordinator of industry for the benefit of the boss class to a helpful comrade reining back the worst excesses of Thatcherism into a “social Europe.”
This was a particular trope of the old Kinnockite soft left, which is significant for the question at hand, since it was this faction that provided the intellectual roots for the Blairite project. Over time, the “social Europe” changed into the “single market”: pro-Europeanism remained as a vehicle for people heading rightwards while still wanting to seem vaguely progressive and fluffy (as did rainbow coalition politics at local authority level).
I was working for a Euroscpetic Labour MEP at around this time and was on hand to hear very serious people stop talking about the social Europe sand start talking about the wonders of the Rhenish Model of capitalism. Now the same kind of people talk about reforming Europe in a pro-market direction. Europe historically was a major part of the Blairite journey, almost to the point where its encoded into the DNA of New Labour. “Europe” represents, to them, the process that made them part of the establishment. It was and is the New Labour Eton.