The international reaction to the ongoing political chaos in Egypt took an amusing turn today when the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Catherine Ashton, penned an article in The Guardian saying she wanted to see "deep democracy" take root in Egypt.
Baroness Ashton repeated the line emerging from Washington and London that there should be a swift "transition" from the reign of Hosni Mubarak to something as yet unknown.
However she also warned that Egypt should not become what she called a "surface democracy" with votes and elections, but should be a "deep democracy" with the rule of law, an independent judiciary, free speech, free trade unions and etc.
The irony of this is of course that Baroness Ashton came to her present high office through neither "deep" nor "surface" democracy but by working her way up through the British quangocracy before finally being appointed one of the top jobs in the quango of quangos, the EU.
Now Hosni Mubarak is not a man that we in the West can be proud of. His regime is oppressive and has an extremely murky record on human rights to say the least, but at least he has faced a ballot box of sorts every once in a while, which is more than you can say for Baroness Ashton.
Of course the elections he faces are hardly models of democracy. Fraud, manipulation of electoral rules and turnout so low it would shock Labour MPs are the norm for Egyptian elections, the last of which saw Mubarak win nearly 90 per cent of the vote, despite only 20 per cent of those eligible to vote supporting him (a figure somewhere between what Gordon Brown and David Cameron got at the British general election).
Despicable as this is, it does in fact give more democratic legitimacy to Mr Mubarak than Baroness Ashton has ever possessed. This week we saw people come out onto the streets of Cairo to throw rocks and have rocks thrown at them in order to protect this man's regime. They may be a misguided minority but it shows he has at least some support. Somehow I can't quite imagine anyone doing something similar for Baroness Ashton.
Baroness Ashton, let it never be forgotten, despite a long career in various public sector bodies and now being the effective Foreign Minister for the EU, has never once submitted herself to the scrutiny of an election by the general public. Indeed the only election she has ever fought (and won) was that to become the Treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at a time when it was receiving money from the Soviet Union.
She arrived at her current station after being appointed behind closed doors by the leaders of the 27 EU member states and is widely believed to have been chosen because David Miliband did not want the job due to his ultimately doomed ambition to be Labour leader.
What was most amusing about Baroness Ashton's Guardian article was when she said that the Egyptian government "must respond to the wishes of their people". This was truly hilarious given that Baroness Ashton's job only came into being because of the EU's ability to completely ignore the wishes of its own people.
The post of "High Representative" was of course brought into being by the passage of the infamous Lisbon Treaty. In a previous, though not too different form, this treaty was known as the "European Constitution" and was rejected by the people of both France and the Netherlands in separate referendums.
The EU however, rather than "responding to the wishes of the people", decided that it would simply rebrand the Constitution into the "Lisbon Treaty" and push it through anyway.
A new problem arose however when an Irish referendum rejected the newly branded Lisbon Treaty. Once again rather than "listen to the wishes of the people" the EU decided simply to hold the referendum again until the Irish gave the right answer, which they subsequently did (presumably they could not be bothered to think of a new name for the ghastly document).
President Mubarak may be a tyrant whose time has come and Egypt may be on the verge of broad sunlight uplands or of a new Islamist tyranny, but for the EU and for Baroness Ashton in particular to give them tips on democracy is laughable. Even the normally left-leaning EU friendly readers at the Guardian picked up on that if the comments beneath the Baroness' article are anything to go by.