I’ve had another one of my strange dreams ... I’m afraid it’s an occupational hazard that comes with being an incurable news addict.
I dreamt that a political analyst from Mars dropped by the studio – and this is what he told me:
“I have been studying your system of government here on Earth, and frankly, I can make no sense of it. I look at the maps, and I observe that you have divided your planet into lots of different countries, separated by borders, so I have tried to match these countries with how you people run your lives.
“I see that each country has its own separate governing structure (although I am puzzled by a place called Somalia, where there seems to be no structure at all).
“But I also see that in the continent called North America, you have something called NAFTA, which seems to link together three different countries called the United States of America, the United Mexican States (although I gather no one actually calls it that), and Canada. But they still have three separate governments. I understand that this NAFTA exists only for the purpose of commerce.
“And in the continent called Europe, you have something called the European Union, which doesn’t have its own government, but which does have its own parliament. I have been reading that now it wants to have a President as well, although it still won’t have a government. Apparently it has 27 different governments. Is this right?
“ My understanding is that most people who live in this European Union want to keep their separate governments. I have read about referendums in which they said they didn’t like their leaders’ ideas.
“So I would like you please to explain: if your system is called democracy, which as I understand it means that ordinary people decide how they want to be governed, why are your leaders in Europe so determined to do something which most people don’t want them to do?”
Also in my dream, there was a man from the European Union. This what he said in reply:
“My dear Mr Martian, I’m afraid you have it all wrong. The plans we have are the results of many years of discussions between all our different governments, each one of which has been fairly elected by the people they represent. That’s why we call our system ‘representative democracy’.
“In each country, people have had an opportunity to vote for parties with different ideas about how the EU should be run – but the parties they have chosen are those which have come up with the ideas which you seem to find so difficult to understand. For example, in the UK, there is a party called UKIP; in Ireland, there is a party called Sinn Fein. Neither of them is represented in government because neither of them got enough votes in a general election.
“You are right if you think that many European earthlings take little interest in how the EU is run. But they do like to be able to travel and trade freely across borders, and the people who run our businesses like being able to hire workers from wherever they are most readily available.
“I hope you are not making the mistake of believing everything you read in our newspapers, because they are not always reliable sources of information.
“When you were looking at your Earth map, did you notice a country called China? I ask, because it’s becoming a major economic power, and we Europeans think we need to group ourselves together to make sure that China and the US don’t decide for themselves how to run the world. As you will have noticed, European countries tend to be quite small, not like the US and China.
“What we EU leaders are doing is taking decisions which we believe to be in the best interests of the people who elected us. If they don’t agree, they can vote for someone else. That’s why we call our system democracy.”
The man from Mars had one final question. “Please explain: why is it called the Lisbon Treaty?” And the man from the European Union replied: “I’m terribly sorry, I’ve completely forgotten.”
And then I woke up. Funny things, dreams …