European Voice is wrong about the Con-Dem coalition

Labour Party

“The decision by the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal-Democrat parties to form a coalition government freed Cameron from his Eurosceptic right-wing and put the UK in step with the norm in Europe.”

You may wonder where to find this completely accurate if rather bald statement.

And it’s probably not where you think.

Every year at about this time the European Union/European Parliament indulges in a prize giving fest – awards for the best MEP on each committee, for films and journalism and several for young people.

Not to be outdone, European Voice, Europe’s very own and only newspaper, makes its own contribution to the merry go round with awards for National Politician, European Commissioner, MEP, EU Official and intriguingly Inspiration.

One the five entries put forward for the national politician category this year is David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the UK’s prime minister and deputy prime minister because, yes, you’ve guessed it, they formed a coalition government to put the brakes on the eurosceptics and “put the UK in step with the norm in Europe.”.

I am not at all sure that a supreme act of political expediency, such as forming a coalition to neutralise a strand of opinion is worthy of a what claims to be a serious political award.

I’m also not sure that Cameron and Clegg formed a coalition to bring the UK in step with the norm in Europe.

While the happy outcome, for David Cameron at least, is that being in coalition with the Lib-Dems has made his eurosceptic wing shut up for the time being, I really don’t think it was uppermost in his mind when going into government with them.  The Tories joined up with Clegg’s outfit because they wanted power and hadn’t received enough votes at the general election to form a majority government.

So come off it, European Voice. Please don’t even try to make out the Cameron and Clegg acted out of principle.  It simply won’t wash.

Cameron further weakens Tory influence in Europe

Labour Party

As predicted, the Tories are starting to feel the full consequences of David Cameron’s withdrawal from the mainstream centre-right group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP).  Though I thought the days of reckoning would start sooner, it’s all now catching up with the British Conservatives.  As a result of his ill-advised move to leave the EPP, a pledge made solely to further his ambition to lead the Tory Party, David Cameron has had no choice but to use force (metaphorically speaking) against his local government representatives in the Committee of the Regions (CoR) to make them leave the mainstream EPP Group against their collective will and sit on their own. 

Last week, the Tories in the CoR,  a consultative body made up of councillors and other elected members from regional and local authorities across Europe, sensibly struck a deal to remain within the EPP, despite the withdrawal of the Tory MEPs from the Group.  (Parties in the CoR are organised in the same political groupings as the European Parliament).  Being part of one of the mainstream Groups obviously has important advantages in terms of funding and influence, as Tory MEPs are now finding.  The Tory leader in the CoR, Gordon Keymer, explaining the deal, said that “if a member does not belong to a political group it is much more difficult to work effectively” and “the staff in the political group offices are crucial to the success of members of the Committee of the Regions and have helped me immensely in my work.”

Cameron has now run roughshod over this pragmatic agreement and seemingly forced Kaymer and his colleagues to leave the EPP and sit on their own. 

As a substitute member on the European Parliament’s Regional Affairs Committee, I am fully aware of the important role that the Committee of the Regions plays in ensuring that local regions have a strong influence on EU policy.  Cameron’s move will hugely diminish the ability of regions in the UK represented by Tory councillors to influence European proposals. 

The only alternative seemingly open to the Tories is to copy their MEP colleagues and open negotiations with more dubious individuals from the fringes of European politics with a view to creating a new Group.  But as the Tories should now realise, alliances with such people do little to enhance credibility or clout on the European stage.  Given how difficult the Tories found it to form the ECR in the European Parliament, it would probably be impossible to do the same in the Committee of the Regions.  Thanks to David Cameron their only long term option is isolation.

David Cameron has yet to justify his move, and I will be interested to see how he can possibly do so.  Make no mistake, this is another act of political posturing by Cameron which shows he has no regard for the views of members of his own party, or for the best interests of the regions, communities and the British people represented in Europe.

Same old Cameron, same old Tories

Labour Party

As I returned to Brussels with the worst of the snow seemingly clearing, the 11.04 Eurostar was, somewhat remarkably, on time leaving though slightly late arriving in Brussels.  It was, however, crowded; I suppose only to be expected in the circumstances.

There will be a lot more EU news this week as the European Parliament Committees are interviewing prospective Commissioners, a serious business which, as in the case of Rocco Buttiglione, has led to the withdrawal of a candidature.

As of now, I am still mulling over David Cameron’s interview with Andrew Marr yesterday.  Before going further, I have to admit, Mr Cameron on television bores me witless.  He drones on about really very little in his really well modulated tones to really negligible effect.  Speaking personally, I have no doubt that Gordon Brown would beat David Cameron hands down in a TV debate.

Cameron is also continuing his Euro nonsense.  Speaking to Andrew Marr, Cameron again told the British people he would renegotiate parts of the treaties Britain has already agreed with the EU.  As I have said many times before, this is rather more than a hollow promise – it’s a downright lie.  It will simply not be possible to renegotiate anything without the agreement of a majority of EU member states and that majority is simply not there.

In addition to his blatant misleading of the people of this country, Cameron reiterated his old chestnut that the Tories would withdraw from the European Social Chapter.  Even if this were possible, the fact that Cameron puts this forward as a flagship policy tells us a lot about him and his Conservative Party.  If it were to happen, withdrawal from the Social Chapter would mean fewer rights at work, less job security and higher levels of poverty.  Cameron is in some ways being quite clever by clothing his agenda in EU speak.  But make no mistake as to what he and his Conservatives are about – cuts in public spending are only one aspect of a programme designed to further the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor.

There are, and always have been, clear dividing lines between Labour and the Conservatives.  I joined the Labour Party over 30 years ago to campaign for the many, not the few, to make Britain a fairer and more equal place, to encourage aspiration while at the same time allowing everyone to lead fulfilling lives.  This is absolutely not what the Tories are about.  They haven’t changed since Margaret Thatcher, and please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

David Cameron should grasp his “Clause 4 Moment”

Labour Party
Pierre Lellouche

Pierre Lellouche

“It’s not going to happen for a minute.  Nobody is going to indulge in rewriting (treaties for) many, many years.  Nobody is going to play with the institutions again.  It’s going to be take it or leave it and they (the Conservatives) should be honest about that.”

 So says M. Pierre Lellouche in  the Guardian today.  M. Lallouche is, of course, the French Europe Minister.  He is also a member of the UMP, the French centre-right Party, which once viewed itself as the sister party of the British Conservatives.  M. Lellouche, reported to be one of the most Anglophile members of Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, is also on record as accusing the Tories as “castrating Britain’s position on the EU”.

 To make matters even more uncomfortable for the Tories,  their idea that they could overturn the principle that EU law overrides national legislation simply cannot be implemented.  The Factortame litigation led to a series of landmark decisions in UK and EU law and  the case confirmd the supremacy of European Union law over national law in the areas where the EU has competence.

 It is clear to me that the Tories are ducking their “Clause 4″ moment”.  Instead of taking on those in their Party who are implacably opposed to Europe and dealing with the issue once and for all by holding a referendum on whether Britain should withdraw from the Eurpean Union, they are putting forward impossible policies which totally lack credibility in the hope of placating the Eurosceptics, newspapers as well as MPs.

 Mr Cameron should be brave, stand up and be counted and say he will hold a referendum about whether or not Britain should stay in the EU.  This is the only honest policy from the Tory point of view.  Grasp the nettle Mr Cameron, do what you have to do.  Face up to your very own Tory “Clause 4 Moment”.  Your pussyfooting is doing this country no good at all.

David Davis puts the Cat among the Pigeons

Labour Party

David Davis

It’s gratifying to be proved right, though rather less gratifying when it’s on such a fundamental subject as Britain in the EU.

Since I posted yesterday, David Cameron has been put in a very invidious position by the ex-Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.  Davis has, in effect, issued a direct challenge to Cameron’s authority on Conservative policy towards Europe.

Writing here in the Daily Mail, Mr. Davis has called on the Tory leader to offer the public a referendum on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.  Davis’s challenge is, of course, a direct result of yesterday’s announcement that Cameron has abandoned his “cast iron” pledge that the Tories would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Cameron and the Tories have consistently and constantly argued that the Labour Government should have held a referendum on Lisbon.  What price honesty now, Mr. Cameron?

As we all know, the Conservatives made their U-turn after the Czech government caved in and signed up to the Treaty yesterday, removing the final obstacle to its ratification.  I would have thought Cameron and co might have anticipated this happening and made their policy accordingly.

For David Davis all seems startlingly clear.  He proclaims today:

“What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes to the European Union.

“The question should contain four or five specific strategic aims which clearly summarise our objectives.

“The sort of things we might include are: recovering control over our criminal justice, asylum and immigration policies; a robust opt-out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; serious exemptions to the seemingly endless flood of European regulations which cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year; a recovery of our rights to negotiate on trade; exemption from European interference into trade in services and foreign direct investment rules; and an exemption from any restrictions on our foreign policy.

“The referendum should be the first piece of legislation in the new parliament, and should be held within three months of the election.

“Some fear this would become an ‘in or out’ referendum, a decision on whether to continue our membership of the European Union. It would be nothing of the sort. Killing this tired old canard is one of the reasons the referendum question has to be absolutely clear in language and intent.

“Of course it is possible that we will not achieve every change we want.

If that is the outcome, we should give the British people the right to accept or reject it in a further referendum.”

So that’s all right then Mr. D.  Hold a referendum which will have no status whatsoever with the EU Council of Ministers, the European Commission or even the European Parliament and then seek to impose Tory Party prejudices on the EU as a whole.  Wow, that’s one hell of a policy.  I’m glad you believe it Mr. Davis because I can assure you no-one in the EU will give it even the smallest chink of the light of day, your referendum notwithstanding.

This David Davis nonsense only serves to highlight Tory wrong headedness on Europe.  The Davis faction, which to an outside observer seems to be the Tory grassroots, most Conservative MPs and the majority of the Shadow Cabinet, are quite honestly living in la la land.  It will simply not be possible to do what they want.  It is not a credible policy.

Since the Lisbon Treaty for the first time allows existing EU member states to withdraw from the European Union, the only referendum which makes any sense at all is the one on whether the UK remains in the EU or comes out.    

 David Davis in his article rejects such a referendum on EU membership, presumably because he thinks the he and the anti-Europeans would lose.

 The views of the Tory Party, as opposed to those of David Cameron, on Europe obviously remain confused to put it mildly.  It will be interesting to see whether my hunch that Cameron will go with his Party turns out to be correct.


Conservative, Expenses, Labour Party

Would you believe it? Disgraced Den Dover, expelled from the Tory delegation in the European Parliament last year for alleged gross misconduct over expenses claims, has launched legal action in the European Court. He is attempting to clear his name.

Dishonest Den has been asked by the European Parliament to return hundreds of thousands of pounds claimed without justification.

Den Dover drives what he thinks is the gravy train...but really is a dumper truck. Dumping on his constituents and all European tax payers.

Den Dover drives what he thinks is the gravy train...but really is a dumper truck. Dumping on his constituents and all European tax payers.

Mr Dover has now said nothing will be repaid pending the court action.

Den has, of course, denied any abuse of the expenses system over payments of about £750,000 which were paid to a family firm, MP Holdings Ltd, in European Parliament staff allowances between 1999 and November last year.
His suspension and then expulsion from the Tory group of MEPs came after the demand for repayment last November, following a European Parliament inquiry.
But Mr Dover continues to receive his full salary and allowances, including his daily allowance on the days he has the brass neck to be seen in the European Parliament.

In keeping with his dishonest demeanour, Disgraceful Den is on record as dismissing the issue as “a big fuss and bother” and has insisted he will fight a “robust” case in court.