Tag Archives: Daniel Hannan

ECR Vice-Chair Claims UKIP is Full of “hooligans” and “bar fighters”

This very revealing story comes to this blog via Public Service Europe, who have posted the following on their site:

UKIP is full of “hooligans” and “bar fighters”, alleged a vice president of one of the European Parliament’s political groups on Tuesday. Some of UKIP’s Eurosceptic MEPs “are against everything in the European Union apart from the money and the allowances they get themselves,” according to Derk-Jan Eppink MEP, vice-president of the European Conservatives and Reformists – the group founded when David Cameron’s  Conservative Party MEPs leave the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP).

Talking at a conference organised by the Association of European Journalists, Eppink, a former journalist and one-time European Commission cabinet member, gave UKIP’s Brussels contingent both barrels. It was important for people to know “what they are like”, he claimed. “If they get drunk they get very dangerous,” was one of the allegations he put to a gathering at the Brussels Press Club. “They present themselves as white knights but they are not.” If UKIP MEPs did any work, it was usually “appalling”, he alleged.

British Eurosceptics often did not bother to turn up at committees or parliament plenary sessions. Centre-right parties have on occasion been “one or two votes short of stopping the left” in key votes that were lost because UKIP MEPs were “not there”, it was said. And UKIP was a party of “vox-pop politicians” with “no grassroots support”, Eppink claimed when continuing his diatribe. Eurosceptics took European funding and “funnelled it into their party”, he added, and UKIP’s parliamentary members often flitted between parties or found themselves “investigated”,  he suggested.

Debating Europe with UKIP supporters often turned into an “aggressive” exchange involving “abusive language”, said Eppink. “They are sort of hooligans,” he told the gathering “apart from Nigel Farage” – the UKIP leader. And UKIP supporters and British Eurosceptics in general were “hard to convince with facts and figures”, said Eppink, a Dutchman who has crossed over into Belgian politics. “A positive agenda is very hard to sell,” he said – a problem he predicted would face British Prime Minister David Cameron if and when he campaigns for the UK to remain in the EU ahead of a referendum.

Eppink’s venting of the spleen seemed to have been fuelled in part by what he described as “a very unpleasant dinner” in the UK that descended into a shouting match with a British academic. “I discovered afterwards that he was linked to UKIP,” Eppink said. He often travelled to Britain at the invitation of British Tory MEPs in the ECR group, he said, visiting towns such as Nottingham “where I would never go as a tourist”.

The Tories in the ECR group were almost all in favour of remaining in the 27-member bloc, he claimed; citing both personal contacts and Twitter feeds as evidence. Only Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was likely to vote for the UK to withdraw, he predicted. Cameron’s Europe speech earlier this month was, in Eppink’s opinion, an attempt to regain ground lost to UKIP.

2 Comments

Filed under Labour Party

The Conservative Party remains deeply divided on Europe

The Conservatives are all over the place on Europe. Yesterday’s Guardian was a veritable treasure trove of Tory tangle.

Writing about the views expressed over the weekend by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, the excellent Jackie Ashley saw through their carefully crafted comments. Cameron has said on a number of occasions that the Eurozone needs a deeper structure with further political integration. Meanwhile Osborne pointed out in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is heavily dependent on what goes on in the Eurozone.

This much is true. However, every time David Cameron has demanded, in his very own imperious style, that the Eurozone sorts itself out, he has also made it abundantly clear that the UK could not be part of the arrangements he espouses for others. Jackie Ashley is absolutely right when she says that David Cameron is effectively advocating a super-state which leaves Britain in grave danger of being overshadowed with little control over our political, as well as our economic, affairs.

Meanwhile the über-Eurosceptic think tank Open Europe has just come out saying that Britain’s exit from the European Union would pose “unpredictable political and economic risks”. This is certainly a turn up for the books and will, I hope, be taken seriously by those who support Open Europe’s general point of view.

So we have the Prime Minister and the Chancellor advocating a European super-state without Britain which, by virtue of its size and clout, will inevitably overshadow its much smaller neighbour, the UK. At the same time an influential strand of anti-EU thought is warning that Britain would be better not leaving the Union.

As if this weren’t enough, in the same edition of the Guardian George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and former press secretary to David Cameron, is still fighting the repatriation of powers corner. He maintains. “We can do better that just leave the EU. With the right approach, we could change it.”

Although superficially appealing, I find the Eustice line deeply hypocritical. As I have said many times on this blog, changing the EU, in other words repatriating powers from Brussels to London, is not a runner. Such a change would need the agreement of all 26 other member states – a huge task. The scale of what Eustice thinks possible can be seen if the question is put the other way; why indeed should the rest of the EU allow Britain to cherry pick?

Eustice’s plan is quite simply not feasible. If it were tried in any serious fashion, it would surely lead to Britain leaving the EU, probably slowly and probably without a referendum. The Eustice idea that powers can be repatriated is really the worst of all worlds presented as reasonable and desirable.

Cameron, Osborne, Open Europe and George Eustice do not, of course, represent the views hard-line Tories who want nothing less that immediate withdrawal from the EU. Daniel Hannan MEP has recently repeated his mad idea that Britain should transform itself into Norway or Switzerland, while Douglas Carswell and Bill Cash rarely let up on their hatred of all things EU.

All in all, there are at least four Conservative positions on the EU represented in this short blog post. The Tories are well and truly divided on what is fast becoming one of the current defining issues. It is becoming ever clearer that the Conservative Party has not resolved its internal divisions, and there has always been general agreement that a split party is not good for the health of the government.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

The “immediate plan” for the Euro from David Cameron and President Obama is an illusion

As David Cameron met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on one level it is reassuring to know that the Prime Minister thinks decisive action needs to be taken in order to underpin the Eurozone, as reported in the Guardian yesterday. The quote from the Prime Minister’s spokeswomen goes on to say that confidence in the markets is essential, and in order to regain that confidence decisive action needs to be taken.

The unfortunate aspect of the story is that Messrs Cameron and Osborne are in no position to take any kind of decisive action. By waltzing out of the last December’s European summit which established the fiscal pact, David Cameron threw away any hope the UK may have had of a voice in the future of the single currency. Although this may not be a bad thing at the present time since another voice supporting austerity would not be helpful for the Eurozone, it leaves the UK powerless when it comes to the Euro. If Cameron leaves any lasting legacy, he will go almost certainly go down in history as the Prime Minister who sold Britain down the river.

Mr Cameron’s is now following a long tradition of British Prime Ministers turning to the United States of America. Apparently in a telephone conversation the night before last reported in the Daily Telegraph, Cameron agreed with President Obama that there is a need for “an immediate plan” to resolve the Eurozone crisis. Mr Cameron seems to view this weasely statement as significant, strong enough to make sure the British media knew about it.

Of course the problems in the Eurozone need resolving; no-one would disagree with that. The UK’s economic woes also need sorting out. Even the United States itself could do with a bit of economic firepower. There are two points to be considered. One is that the world is now a very small place and economic difficulties can never be confined to one country or region.

The second point is more specific. Neither President Barack Obama nor Prime Minister David Cameron has competence to deal with the Eurozone’s affairs. The G20 summit in Mexico later this month will discuss the Euro and many other economic issues and will more than likely seek to find an acceptable way forward.

However, the power to make decisions on the future of the Euro, how the Eurozone is governed and what will be done to improve the current situation, such as introducing Eurobonds, will be for the members of the fiscal pact to decide. Britain is not there. Lecturing Eurozone leaders about what they should or should not do makes no difference as the power has already been conceded. Cameron’s hectoring only further alienates other EU leaders and is therefore not a wise long-term policy.

President Obama has, of course, been much too sensible and rational to lecture the Europeans. He no doubt views talking to the British Prime Minister as a courtesy and probably keeps close to Britain as much for old time’s sake as anything else.

That really sums up the UK’s current standing with the United States. We are, of course, still strong allies, share a common language and go back a long way. Nevertheless, the relationship these days is all one way, the way of the USA. Britain has little real power in relation to its transatlantic ally, and now very little power in the Eurozone which is bound to lead to an erosion of influence in the European Union.

David Cameron could not have done better if he had wilfully set out to reduce Britain’s standing. Much of his anti-EU shenanigans has been to placate his feral Eurosceptic backbenchers. On Wednesday’s Newsnight Tory MEP Daniel Hannan sang the praises of Norway and Switzerland telling us how they thrived outside the European Union. With the greatest respect to both of these countries, they are happy to be isolated and have never sought any position on the world stage. Britain, I believe, still wants to be a leading international power. The only way to do this is to play a full and leading role in the European Union.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party

As Cameron looks to Norway he will see they are far more integrated with the EU than he likes to think

No-one was more delighted than me when David Cameron said at the Nordic-Baltic Summit earlier in the week that, “the evidence is that there is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance, so if we fail to unlock the potential of women in this labour market, we’re not only failing individuals, we’re failing our whole economy.”

It was, of course, Norway that first introduced quotas as long ago as 2003 decreeing that 40 per cent of directors of listed companies should be women. Iceland then followed with a target that 40 per cent of directors be women by 2013.

Meanwhile, in relation to our own country, a British government policy paper presented at the Nordic-Baltic summit estimated that as female entrepreneurship reached the same levels as in the United States, there would be 600,000 extra women-owned businesses contributing an extra £42 billion to the economy.

As we all know, the Scandinavian countries have excellent records on women and deserve full credit. Britain should definitely follow their example. As an active member of the group Women in Leadership, I commend David Cameron for his speech at the Nordic-Baltic summit. I, and many other women from across the political and social spectrum will, I know, now be monitoring this government to make sure Cameron’s promises are translated into action.  

Norway is a magnificent country which has much going for it, not the least of which is its enviable record on women. Many of those who are anti-EU quote Norway as the example the UK should follow, in that it is outside the EU and therefore, according to the logic of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan and his acolytes, free of “Brussels bureaucracy” with more home-grown democracy.

It has, for some, been all too easy to accept this argument. It is, however, fundamentally flawed.

A report recently commissioned under the chairmanship of Professor Fredrik Sejersted and published by the Norwegian government states, “we [Norway] are almost as deeply integrated as the UK.” Importantly, the report, covered by the BBC online, expresses concern at the political consequences of this state of affairs as Norway is bound, in practice, to adopt EU policies without voting rights. Professor Sejersted calls this “a great democratic deficit …. but this is a kind of national compromise since Norway decided it did not want to join the EU.”

It is worth noting that two-thirds of Norwegian private sector investment goes to Europe and that there have also been high inward flows of EU immigrants into Norway. These are two good reasons why Norway has felt the need to sign up three-quarters of the legislation coming from the European Union, a total of 6,000 legislative acts.

The overarching conclusion to be drawn from Professor Sejersted’s report is that in 2012 no modern democratic country can exist on its own, cut off from its neighbours. Yet this is the underlying demand coming from the 102 Tory Eurosceptic MPs who wrote to David Cameron on 6 February. Since their number included all the officers of the 1922 Committee – Graham Brady, Charles Walker, Mark Prichard and Brian Brinley – and former Cabinet Ministers John Redwood and Peter Lilley, the Norway lobby is obviously a strong one.

My view is that reverting to the status of Norway would be disastrous for the UK. Leaving aside the democratic deficit – that we would be signing up to EU legislation without any say over it – we need to develop a mature British patriotism for the 21st century. This is not about belly-aching about the reach of Brussels but much more, as Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander wrote in the Guardian at the end of last year, about how we, Britain and Europe, engage with the rise of China and India.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

Patrick Stewart on domestic violence shows up right-wing MEPs

The actor Patrick Stewart wrote movingly in the Guardian yesterday about how domestic violence blighted his childhood. He condemned the decline in statutory funding going to Refuge, the leading charity in this field.

Sadly some MEPs on the right of the political spectrum take a view diametrically opposed to Patrick Stewart’s. When the European Parliament voted through a Report commending the success of the anti-domestic violence Daphne Programme last week,  Tory MEPs Daniel Hannan, Roger Helmer and Syed Kamall abstained  while UKIP Members Farage, Dartmouth, Agnew, Bufton, Clark, Nuttall and London MEP Gerard Batten voted against.

Voting against the excellent Daphne Programme is really quite reprehensible. Such behaviour just goes to show the right’s views about violence against women are truly prehistoric. Despite what Tory women like Louise Mensch try to tell themselves, David Cameron has still not managed to challenge the “dinosaur attitudes” obviously still rife within his Party.

The Daphne Programme, run by the European Union, is the only EU-wide programme combating  violence and abuse against women and children.  Established in 1977, it has effectively contributed to hundreds of projects that work towards the elimination of domestic violence, despite continual concern about its funding from the European Commission. I have blogged about this excellent programme on several occasions.  Sadly, it now looks as if Daphne is under further attack, as shown in the  European Commission’s plans for Daphne (or lack of them).

Unfortunately a similar thing to that described by Patrick Stewart is happening with EU work on domestic violence and abuse.  The priority given to the elimination of violence against women by the European Commission has moved down their agenda. It has not even been mentioned as an objective in its proposals for the new ‘Rights and Citizenship’ programme of 2014-2020.  Even though there are some legislative measures in place, including the EU anti-trafficking coordinator and the recent Victims Protection Order, these measures are few and far between. To seriously bring an end to violence against women, an issue which does not discriminate between countries and is, in the case of trafficking for example, a cross border issue we must work with our European neighbours. To think that this is an issue on which we can go it alone is a display of ignorance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

The Pessimism of the Right

When my report on Early Years Learning recently went through the European Parliament it received 506 votes out of the 588 MEPs who were in attendance that day.  All the Tories there abstained. 

Nothing unusual there, but something that I didn’t write about at the time was Daniel Hannan’s ‘explanation of vote’.  Explanations of vote can either be submitted verbally in the chamber after the vote or in writing later.  Not everyone does them, and the people who do often reserve them for when it is particularly important that some explanation is offered for the way they voted.  I will reproduce in full what Mr. Hannan said that day, but if you would like to read it for yourself, then follow the link here:

Daniel Hannan (ECR).Madam President, last summer I had the pleasure of visiting your constituency, and one day I took my children to the beach. I remember watching my two little girls building a sand castle, oblivious to the incoming tide, so captivated were they with the shells and twigs with which they were decorating their work.

I had not the heart to point out to them that the tide was coming in, and today I felt rather the same way as I read through our voting list. We have these epochal events – this economic crisis on our border, this collapse in our share of world GDP – and here we are talking about early years learning, about our responsibilities to the International Labour Organization, and about whether Sarajevo should be a European city of culture.

Let me give you the raw and scary statistics: in 1974, the nations of Western Europe accounted for 36% of world GDP; today it is 26%; in 2020 it will be 15%. While we are worrying about early years learning, putting out all our propaganda about drawing Europe together, and producing The Raspberry Ice Cream War, and while our children are being encouraged to read the unintentionally hilarious ‘Captain Euro’, our part of the world is being overtaken by more virile countries that have learned the benefits of decentralisation and the dispersal of power.

Surely the time is coming when all our pomp of yesterday will be one with Nineveh and Tyre?

The Madam President he addressed was British Liberal-Democrat Diana Wallis who was presiding over the session that day. 

I’m beginning to worry about Mr. Hannan, I fear he may be a little melancholy.  The unbridled pessimism that he comes out with is frankly frightening.  I wrote a blog earlier this week in response to his comments on the Today programme on the sovereign debt crisis in Greece, which were in a similar vein.  If you didn’t read it, you can do so here

This pessimism is everywhere on the right.  It was discussed at length when Ed Miliband came to the European Parliament and addressed a full sitting the Socialists and Democrats group. The depressing and unavoidable fact was that most people in that room, and the S&D has at least one MEP from each member state, was from a party that was in opposition in the own country.  Indeed, the S&D is the opposition group in the European Parliament, with the centre right European People’s Party holding more seats, though not an overall majority.

As Ed said during his visit, Labour’s message and beliefs could not be more important than right now.  Across Europe there is a feeling of doom and pessimism from the centre right parties that hold government across most of the EU member states. They speak of the necessity of far-reaching cuts affecting the services that make a difference to people’s lives.  This is all being portrayed as the inevitable result of the financial crisis.  But people are beginning to feel that the cure is worse than the disease.

Mr. Hannan’s response to my report, which was simply making a number of practical suggestions how children can be given the best possible start in life, was to evoke images of his children’s sand castle being washed out to sea and the ancient cities of Nineveh and Tyre.  Perhaps he was a romantic poet in a past life.  The fact is though that you can’t get out of the crisis  if we don’t invest in things like our children’s future.  Mr. Hannan and his ilk want you to believe that the ‘tide is coming in’.  They want you to believe this because it serves their ideological interests.  If we look back to the 20th century we find moments of absolute desperation, such as the Great Depression, or the aftermath of the Second World War when leftist governments helped rebuild their countries economies and societies with policies like the New Deal or creating the NHS.

Personally I’m tired of the pessimism of the right.  I believe that Ed Miliband, the Labour party, and the rest of our colleagues in the S&D can show that there is another way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

Daniel Hannan thinks Greece should go the way of the last Russian Tsar

I blogged yesterday about Boris Johnson pontificating on the euro. Today it was the turn of fellow MEP, hard-line Tory Daniel Hannan, to wax intellectual on the Today programme.

The line was very similar; Greece should withdraw from the euro, default on the debts, or vice versa.  Mr. Hannan used the snappy little phrase “default and decouple”, making it sound rather like an acrimonious divorce as opposed to the possible start of the second global financial meltdown in three years.

Mr. Hannan has a good knack for sounding rather reasonable, but if we examine what he says closely it becomes apparent that his views veer towards the extreme.  He would like us to believe that there is an agency at work that is willing to sacrifice Greece on the alter of a single European currency.  This is of course ridiculous; there are number of governments and supra-national institutions working hard to ameliorate a situation that is one of the biggest threats to European and global financial stability.

The problem is that Mr. Hannan seems to judge other by his own low standards.  It is hard not to feel that his entrenched ideological scepticism towards the all things EU is the motivating factor behind his comments.  Mr Hannan’s likening of the situation to the Bolshevik execution of the Tsar betrays his somewhat jaundiced view of European politics and verges on the territory of the conspiracy theorists.  This is one of the biggest issues facing the U.K, Europe and the world.  If there is a time where we need to be pragmatic it is right now.  If the right solution isn’t found, it will have dire consequences for us all.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party

David Cameron is sinking in a Sea of Troubles

If you were so inclined, you could almost feel sorry for David Cameron.

Yesterday Boris took to the airwaves being utterly Borisly bonkers talking about “Kosovo style social cleansing” in relation to the coalition’s housing benefit proposals while pole cat Tebbit regaled us with “Vichy style betrayal” on the EU budget. Wow, it’s not exactly cricket is it?

Some us thought any tensions within the coalition would be between the two parties, Liberal-Democrat against Conservative. Instead we have Tory against Tory, and it’s stratospheric. The London Mayor goes leftie in a big way and a high-profile grandee delivers a devastating right-wing one liner.

One, of course, one is right while the other is wrong.

I never thought I would say that Boris Johnson is right, but he is on the proposed housing benefit cuts. There is general agreement that a cap on housing benefit will drive people out of high rent properties in central London. Local authorities in the capital have already block-booked bed and breakfast accommodation out of London, as reported in my blog post on Monday. Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said the same on the Today programme this morning.

As for Lord Tebbit, he is one of a number of Eurosceptics spitting blood at what they perceive as David Cameron’s failure. Daniel Hannan MEP on Channel 4 News yesterday evening and Roger Helmer MEP on the Today programme this morning were not at all shy in coming forward. Their message was simple and direct: Cameron should have stood firm and not agreed to any increase in the EU budget.

Roger Helmer’s argument is interesting if completely unrealistic. He thinks that Cameron should have held out against the treaty change Angela Merkel is demanding to improve the stability of the Euro, in return for a freeze in the EU budget.

In the event Cameron has gone with the European Council’s 2.9% with hardly a murmur. The claim by William Hague that Cameron has achieved some kind of consensus with other EU leaders that the next EU financial perspectives from 2014 to 2020 will take account of member states’ efforts to move their deficits on to a more realistic path will, I am sure, be seen as the political spin it obviously is. 2014 is a long time away and 2020 even further. Agreement on an unpredictable future which starts four years hence is really not difficult to find. We can all coalesce around a fantasy.

So the Tories are splitting, and the government has very little in the way of either a defence or constructive forward thinking.

We may well be seeing the beginning of Europe emerging in reality, as well as speculation, as the coalition’s fault line.       

PS  Just to give you further evidence that David Cameron was completely wrong to accuse Labour MEPs of voting in favour the EU budget last week, you may like to click on this link to the Channel 4 News blog fact checker.

1 Comment

Filed under Labour Party