@ALDEParty Council preview – “How was it for you?”

image aldeIt seems like mere weeks since the last Council meeting of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), when optimism was in the air – admittedly helped by the presence of our Austrian hosts on that occasion, who were running an unashamedly pro-European campaign. Sadly, just six weeks later, delegates from across Europe gather in Brussels under rather less cheery circumstances.

The decimation of the British, German and Italian member parties in the European Parliament, plus the defection of the Romanians to the European People’s Party following merger with a former rival, was somewhat offset by results elsewhere, with ALDE members doing particularly well in Scandinavia and the Baltic. And, with new political parties still searching for a pan-European home, the final outcome remains uncertain.

The centrepiece of today’s agenda is a review of the campaign across Europe, and the value or otherwise of the support given to member parties in the run-up to May’s elections. No doubt much will be said about the possible clash between the European Parliament and the European Council over the next President of the European Commission, and about how the ‘spitzenkandidat’ (lead candidate) concept worked for liberals – it had no impact in the United Kingdom because barely anyone knew anything about it until afterwards.

There are other consequences from the loss of seats, in that funding for the various pan-European political parties is linked to success in winning seats in the European Parliament. Some potentially difficult decisions will need to be taken over the next few months, and some thoughts on that will doubtless be aired during the financial report by ALDE Treasurer, Roman Jakic, who is taking time off from his day job as Slovenia’s Defence Minister.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as Latvijas Attistibai (Latvia’s Development Party) is seeking membership, and Council will be asked to agree that this year’s Congress should take place in Lisbon in November, allowing us to meet with an emerging liberal group in Portugal, Nos Ciadados (We Citizens).

Finally, on a more reflective note, it will be interesting to see how ALDE looks going forward. In recent years, the influence of the German FDP and the Liberal Democrats has been particularly strong. Now that both have taken such an electoral beating, will ALDE see the emergence of new power bases within itself, and what philosophical impact will that have? Today might be very interesting indeed…

* Mark Valladares is a directly elected member of the ALDE Party Council.

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24 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 13th Jun '14 - 10:40am

    As predicted a month or so ago, looks like alde will lose its position as prime power broker in the parliament, as the ecr is now the third largest party.

  • @Jedibeeftrix

    That might be the case, were ECR able or willing to broker any kind of deal. However, it is increasingly the case that the plurality of British Conservatives is pulling in a different direction to the one their allies want to travel in.

    How long before the Tories decide that the rest of ECR is too willing to support continued membership, or before they come to the conclusion that many of their new allies are too homophobic, misogynist and borderline nazi to survive scrutiny in the UK?

    ALDE had some very bad results in Western Europe (except Spain, for some reason), losing out to the far right as the voice of protest because of domestic coalition politics in the UK and Germany. Other than in Romania, it did better in the east, but not well enough to make up the losses as too many members there lack a credible liberal party. Even so, it is far more able to function as a bloc than ECR and far more likely to make a meaningful contribution to the debate over the coming parliamentary term.

  • paul barker 13th Jun '14 - 1:43pm

    Another obsessive, evidence -free rant from The Anti-Cleggites, another comment having little to do with the post itself.

  • I sometimes doubt the reading abilities of paul barker when he says things like —
    paul barker 13th Jun ’14 – 1:43pm
    Another obsessive, evidence -free rant from The Anti-Cleggites, another comment having little to do with the post itself.

    Mark’s original piece includes this sentence —
    ” The centrepiece of today’s agenda is a review of the campaign across Europe, and the value or otherwise of the support given to member parties in the run-up to May’s elections.”
    Now paul barker ifyou remember the campaign in the UK was entirely dominated by one person, Nick Clegg, in the party political broadcast and the debates with Farage.
    So perhaps just once you will respond to this comment and admit that you are wrong and that any comment on Nick Clegg’s disastrous performance as leader during the EP election is central to the subject of this thread.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 13th Jun '14 - 2:55pm

    @ John Tilley,

    Well, sort of. My piece refers to the support from ALDE for national campaigns. And you can’t really blame ALDE for who the Liberal Democrats choose to lead them… But I do think that Paul, with the greatest of respect, should take a deep breath.

  • Mark

    I am certainly not blaming ALDE. I think the thread in LDV on the meeting of the FE covers the point about who was responsible for the campaign decision that Nick Clegg should front our EP electon campaign.

    Of course if we had genuinely Europe-wide election campaigns people in the United Kingdom would have been aware of the ‘spitzenkandidat’ (lead candidate) for President.

    It would appear from BBC reports that Nick Clegg has personally taken a decision to oppose the democratic element of the Lisbon Treaty and support Cameron’s line on this, that all such things should be decided by the Council of Ministers. Have I got that right? If so, what do others in ALDE think of Mr Clegg’s u-turn this week?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 13th Jun '14 - 3:24pm

    @ John Tilley

    If Nick had backed an alternative candidate, his position on Juncker might be rather stronger, but he sold the pass on that by overtly opposing the agreed ALDE candidate, Guy Verhofstadt.

    To me, his position on this issue is rooted in short-term domestic politics, whereas we really should be looking towards accepting the result of a democratic process and then pressing the winner for proper democratic reform. Instead, and I blame all three parties – Labour are equally complicit in this matter – for weakening our long-term influence without gaining even short-term advantage in return.

  • Mark,
    I think you are quite correct. It was a major mistake to oppose the agreed ALDE candidate, Guy Verhofstadt.
    Also, I am not sure why Clegg was allowed to do it. At the time we had a dozen MEPs, surely they should have been the people to decide this not the leader of one of our two groups in the Westminster Parliament ?

    What worries me more is that Clegg seems to have made another personal decision to adopt wholesale a Cameronite Conservative line on taking powers away from democratically elected MEPs on the President of the Commission.

    On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Tuesday morning he seemed to suggest that he has changed party policy on democracy at the European level. Is he allowed to do this under the constitution?
    Nobody much seems to have noticed this but the BBC political correspondent did and wrote —

    Clegg said–“What I want is for national governments to retain their rights to decide who this is.”

    ……….this was not always Mr Clegg’s view.

    In 2003, when he was still an MEP, Mr Clegg published a pamphlet for the Foreign Policy Centre think tank with Dutch MEP Michiel van Hulten entitled “Reforming the European Parliament”. 

    In it, they argued strongly that the European Parliament should take on new powers to scrutinise the European Commission.

    In particular, they wrote: “The President of the European Commission should be directly elected by the European Parliament.

    Read more —    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27781757

  • Also entry into parliament for Slovakia’s SaS, replacing the now defunct HZDS which was bizarrely sitting in the ALDE group despite being worse than some of the parties the Tories and UKIP are castigated for sitting with.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Jun '14 - 6:14pm

    I don’t want to offend anyone, but I think the Lib Dems should consider pulling out of ALDE. I didn’t realise being a liberal or a centrist wasn’t enough for the group and you have to be pro EU too. I want us to work with Europe more, I’m even learning French so I can do so, but I can’t go along with the principle that leaving the EU should never be considered.

    Regards

  • @Eddie Sammon, I don’t think it is. Certainly the Slovak liberals are eurosceptic by local standards (like Cameron not Farage).

    I didn’t see Guy Verhofstadt any of the billboards in Slovakia but it is interesting to find out after the fact that the MEPs think I was expressing my democratic will for him to be king of Europe.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 13th Jun '14 - 11:38pm

    @ Eddie Sammon,

    I think that it would be unwise to pull out of ALDE on such grounds, especially as we are so obviously in favour of Europe as a concept. The fact that it is not perfect is a given in European liberal circles – it isn’t democratic enough, not accountable enough, not transparent enough. It regulates where it need not do so, its structures are too opaque.

    You make the common mistake of believing that being pro-European means an acceptance of the status quo, a mistake made easier by Nick Clegg’s careless remark that he didn’t see Europe being very different in ten years time.

    So, yes, being pro-Europe is part of being part of a pan-European liberal grouping, but that support is not blind.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jun '14 - 12:05am

    I understand. Thanks.

  • peter tyzack 14th Jun '14 - 9:56am

    Paul Barker was not commenting on Mark’s piece, in fact he was criticising the rant by Caracatus immediately above with his opportunist stab at Clegg instead of sticking to the thread.. It annoys every time when people go off subject on their own agenda.. and then when others follow.. and a valuable discussion gets lost with some side issue.. in this case one which has been discussed until even Caracatus should realise that Nick Clegg is our Leader, and he will be, right through the next election and possibly beyond. Get used to it, and get back to campaigning!

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Jun '14 - 12:02pm

    @ Jedi,

    Overtly supporting Verhofstadt wasn’t necessary, but opposing his bid to be the candidate when it was a done deal and rigging the delegation to try to enforce his view was, to my mind, absurd.

    And as for the UEF manifesto, it looks like an entirely logical response to where the European Union currently finds itself. You clearly don’t like it, but it offers a way forward for the Eurozone, whilst offering something between full participation and exit for those, like the British, who aren’t keen. I assumed that you would agree that choice is good…. 😉

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Jun '14 - 2:03pm

    No problem with the principle, but it creates a messaging problem for the electorate when you support the candidacy of a known federalist from a party considered to be overly pro-europe.

  • Steve Comer 14th Jun '14 - 3:52pm

    Well I DO support Guy Verhofstadt. Its great to have a Liberal Leader I can believe in, and at the moment Guy is that person.

    I don’t agree with the ‘spitzenkandidat’ idea (and certainly not by using FPTP which is what the EPP demand!), but I do feel whoever runs the European Commisison should be elected by MEPs in open session – not appointed by the heads of national Governments after a bout of horse trading behind close doors.

    I would suggest anyone who wants to have serious look at this issue should stop reading the anti-EU British press and read a copy of the little book For Europe which Guy co-authored with Daniel Cohn-Bendit available in all good book shops and here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1479261882/?tag=libdemvoice-21+Europe

    This articulates a positive version for the future of the peoples of Europe and is welcome antidote the narrow nationalist nonsense that we hear too often in this offshore island of ours.

  • Steve Comer is as usual quite right. He points up the key points of democracy and accountability. The power over EU institutions should be in the hands of democratically elected MEPs.

    I assume that everyone in the UK would think it an absurd suggestion that the Prime Miminster should be chosen by a secretive, unaccountable bunch of local council leaders after a round of pork-barrell back door deals in which each tries to get the best for their locality at the expense of all the rest. So why apply that approach to Europe?

    Direct elections to the EP began in 1979. It is about time that those we elect take responsibility and the horse trading behind closed doors by heads of government is put in the dustbin of history.

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Jun '14 - 11:01pm

    “I assume that everyone in the UK would think it an absurd suggestion that the Prime Miminster should be chosen by a secretive, unaccountable bunch of local council leaders after a round of pork-barrell back door deals”

    The difference is, John, that i assent to common rule from among the british [people] that another may act in my name and that i will be bound by their decision.

    That does not hold true for the EU.

    Sorry/

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Jun '14 - 9:20am

    @ Steve Comer,

    In fairness, the EPP aren’t seeking to impose a FPTP solution – they couldn’t if they wanted to. What we’re seeing is a process of coalition building in a scenario where only two groups can come together to create a majority – EPP plus PES.

    Their motivation to do so is to ensure that the directly elected MEPs are a part of the decision making process, and that their voice is taken seriously. After all, they will have a vote and everyone will know who voted and how, unlike a European Council meeting.

    Is it perfect? No, I guess not. Is it better than what we had? Most definitely.

    I voted for Guy Verhofstadt to be the liberal candidate because he persuaded me that he didn’t want a bigger Europe, but a better Europe. Consistent with that, ALDE have called for a 25% cut in regulation, an increase in transparency and a shift of power from the Council to the Parliament.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Jun '14 - 9:52am

    How long before the Tories decide that … many of their new allies are too homophobic, misogynist and borderline nazi to survive scrutiny in the UK?

    Only when they actually get any scrutiny in the UK. Which did not happen in the latest EU election because no-one mentioned them. I still think it was a grave error not to turn our fire onto the Tories and point out the company they keep. Until someone, and that should be us, challenges the conspiracy of silence over the actual work that MEPs do and the poltical differences between different parties on EU Policy (in normal ideological left-right terms NOT whether you are pro or anti EU, which we should have shouted from the rooftops was irrelevant) there will be no propery scrutiny given to MEPs, party groups and their allies.

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