Farage Acting Out Again

Labour Party

It would be quite remiss of me not to comment on Nigel Farage’s latest attempt to garner publicity in the run-up to the General Election.  In a pathetic and offensive attempt to get himself noticed, the  co-chair of the European Freedom and Democracy Group yesterday launched an unprecedented personal attack on the new President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.

Mr Farage’s reference to President Van Rompuy as a “low grade bank clerk” with the “charisma of a damp rag”, was deeply insulting and unsurprisingly elicited loud protests from those listening in the European Parliament Chamber.  They were quite simply shocked by the outburst, as indeed was I.

Mr Farage didn’t just limit himself to insulting Mr Van Rompuy.  Later in his speech he turned his puerile attack on to the entirety of Belgium, referring to it as a “non-country”.

Mr. Farage, who stepped down as Leader of UKIP last year, has controversially broken with British political convention by running against Speaker John Bercow in the upcoming General Election.  Farage now needs to get people to vote for him, and it seems he will stop at nothing in this futile quest.

A lot of what Mr Farage does is, of course, an exercise in self-promotion, both for its own sake and more recently to further his Westminster ambitions.  After the announcement of President Van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton as President and High Representative, Mr Farage gave a scurrilous speech in the Chamber full of fatuous points and inaccurate statements; a man very much in love with the sound of his own voice.  On that occasion Jerzy Buzek, the usually placid and even-handed President of the European Parliament, felt the need to reprimand Farage for his outburst.

I was very interested to hear the coverage of yesterday’s incident on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning.  The journalist Jonny Dymond stated that Mr Farage was aiming to get himself expelled from the parliament as a “martyr” for euroscepticism.  Apparently he believes that this will help in his fight against Speaker Bercow.  If this is true I am not the least bit surprised.  Mr Farage is not interested engaging in political discussions in a proper and reasoned manner.  He would much rather go for the headline grabbing, shock tactics, because they focus the attention more on him than on the debate.

I would urge my colleagues in the European Parliament not to rise to his bait.  Don’t expel him, don’t give him what he wants.  He should instead be treated like a naughty child who is acting out.  Just ignore him, he’s only doing it for attention.

My admiration goes to President Van Rompuy, whose response was succinct and dignified:  “There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I’m not going to comment further.”  Quite.

DEALS AND MORE DEALS – ELECTION OF PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Euro Election, europe, european parliament, Labour Party, President

We spent this morning casting our votes for the President of the European Parliament, an important position, the holder of which chairs the meetings of the European Parliament and is often seen as the public face of the European Parliament to the outside world.  Many are those who aspire to its lofty height, but as ever few are chosen.  Thise who do  arrive usually get there by a mixture of ambition and stealth and almost always as a result of deals made in backrooms between the political groups.

This time the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has carved the position up with the European People’s Party (EPP) the centre-right group, still the largest group in the Parliament even though the Tories have left to set up on their own with a few cronies.  The deal was that the EPP have the President for the first half of the parliamentary term and the socialists/democrats  for the second two and a half years.  So it’s now the turn of the EPP until the end of December 2011.

This is all very well except that the President of the Parliament is elected by MEPs by secret ballot – the very process we have been taking part in today.  There were, in fact, two candidates, which I suppose was some kind of nod in the direction of democracy: Polish Jerzy Buzek from the EPP and Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish MEP from the GUE (left green) group.  I have worked with Eva-Britt for many years on the Women’s Committee where she has done much good work, including gaining the backing of the European Parliament for the UNIFEM campaign against violence against women.  Eva-Britt demonstrated her commitment to women’s rights by talking about the subject in her address to the Parliament prior to the vote.

Eva-Britt Svensson, Swedish MEP

Eva-Britt Svensson, Swedish MEP

Yet the forces behind the deals won out in the end by a very substantial margin – Mr Buzek had 555 votes to Eva-Britt’s 89.  This is the full story according to the European Parliament news service 

 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/008-58049-201-07-30-901-20090710STO58039-2009-20-07-2009/default_en.htm