Liberal Democrat MEPs are far too good to lose

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.08 Liberal Democrats LibbyOne of the drawbacks of the way we vote for our MEPs is that so few people know who they are. You don’t vote for a person, you vote for a party and the party decides who goes to sit in the European Parliament. I’m not complaining about the PR nature of it, just that one of the drawbacks of the closed list system means that people don’t necessarily have that connection with an individual.

Our MEPs and candidates are all individuals with different things to offer. George Lyon, in Scotland, for example has the skills required to get 27 nations to work together to cut the EU budget by £30 billion.  He’s also spent the last 5 years standing up for Scotland’s farmers. As a farmer himself, he understands exactly what the issues are. As a friend of mine said on Facebook recently:

Even if one is not a Liberal Democrat, there is no real alternative to George Lyon.

Sarah Ludford’s work on crime prevention, civil liberties and LGBT rights, Catherine Bearder on the environment and action against trafficking, Edward McMillan-Scott on human rights and campaigning against the farcical and expensive monthly trek to Strasbourg are all worth keeping. If this is how East Midlands MEP Bill Newton Dunn spends his day of rest, heaven knows how much  he achieves when the Parliament is sitting? Chris Davies and Andrew Duff both won MEP of the Year awards for their work on fishing and social media respectively. Phil Bennion won an award from the Clear Air campaign and he’s campaigned to protect people with autism from bullying and discrimination. Look at the feedback Graham Watson has had when he’s helped people. His site, actually, is one of the best at giving an insight to what MEPs do. One grateful constituent said:

Thank you many times over. I now understand far better than I did the point of having a ‘local champion’ at a European Parliament. I wish you well with your career…and am grateful that you took the trouble to help us.

But don’t just take my word for it. There’s plenty of evidence out there that Liberal Democrat MEPs are extremely effective. Last month, Giles Goodall told us that the Policy Network had said our lot were the most “successful and influential” in Europe.

So there you have it. Ukip are against national interests, the Tories have cut themselves off and Labour are at best ambivalent. The Lib Dems are now officially both “king-makers in Westminster and winners in Brussels.

And then last week in the Times,(£)  a survey found that Liberal Democrat MEPs were the hardest working  – and UKIP’s the laziest.

Ukip’s 61.1 per cent voting average put it bottom of 76 European parties with three or more MEPs. Three of the six lowest individual places among the 764 MEPs went to Ukip members.

The 12 Lib Dem MEPs averaged 86.9 per cent of votes over the five-year term, with Labour on 85 per cent and the Conservatives on 80.4 per cent, according to calculations made by VoteWatch Europe forThe Times.

And you can see what the Liberal Democrat MEPs have voted for that UKIP have ignored and opposed. And they didn’t even mention equal pay for men and women…

Lib Dem UKIP voting record

Liberal Democrat MEPs are far too good to lose. All the evidence says so. That needs to be the key message of the last few days of the campaign.

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  • Well that’s a problem with some PR systems, you vote for parties, so it’s what they say and do that is important, rather than the integrity of individual politicians.

    The loss of George Lyon, regardless of the fact he is good at his job, is, sadly for Lib Dems, not that much of a concern. His replacement is most likely to be an SNP or a Scottish Green candidate, and both those parties have sensible mainstream pro-EU (yes, the Scottish Greens are much more sensible than their English cousins) views so Scotland would suffer no loss as a result.

  • The majority of the Lib Dem vote has gone to Labour. The ones who have gone to UKIP have most probably done so as they want out of the EU so won’t return to the party of in. The Lib Dems are so fixated on not letting UKIP win that they have neglected to try win to back their original supporters. They have promoted UKIP in the process and let Labour have a free ride. Instead of getting a a small reductionr of Lib Dem MEPs the party has risked them getting none. The message should have always been Lib Dem so much better than Labour. The party has let their MEPs down just because they don’t want UKIP to win total madness.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th May '14 - 10:47am

    One of the drawbacks of the way we vote for our MEPs is that so few people know who they are. You don’t vote for a person, you vote for a party and the party decides who goes to sit in the European Parliament.

    Our MEPs and candidates are all individuals with different things to offer.

    Right, so why didn’t we showcase this in our Party Political Broadcast? Why was this yet another piece of party publicity hijacked and made to look as it we are the Nick Clegg Fan Club rather than the Liberal Democrats? Why was it wasted on negative attack stuff rather than used for this positive message?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th May '14 - 12:32pm

    Actually, you are wrong. Another nationalist will just go on about independence incessantly. George made the point yesterday that English and Welsh farmers have got themselves sorted out with CAP reform while SNP dither, leaving Scotland’s farmers in the lurch.

    Scottish farmers will also, if we go independent, see no increase in their payments until 2020 if Scots vote for independence.

  • They are lost and that is that. Half of the votes, the postal ones, will have been made by now.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th May '14 - 5:30pm

    In a similar vein to Helen, my vote and very best wishes go to North West MEP Chris Davies. A great Liberal Democrat (or any other sort of) MEP and a Radical to boot! Good luck Chris.

  • Alex Macfie 19th May '14 - 9:27pm

    both those parties [Green and Labour] have sensible mainstream pro-EU views

    Perhaps, but they have different ideas from each other and from the Lib Dems about how the EU should look. And that should be the point of this election: whether you want a right-wing, liberal, centre-left or green EU (I leave out “centre-right” because most people in the UK don’t have the opportunity to vote for that option). While this article talks a lot about how our MEPs are “effective” and “hard-working”, it doesn’t really say anything how we, as liberals, fight for a specifically liberal EU. There is no ideological passion, it is all technocratic. We really need to focus on our liberal ideology, and our the ideological differences between us and the other parties. And here, the party with which we have the biggest ideological difference is actually the Conservatives. The biggest problem with the Conservatives is not that they have “cut themselves off” but that their chosen allies are mostly right-wing fringe parties, and this means that they will be whipped to vote for right-wing fringe policies for the EU. We are missing a trick here: there are many Con–LD waverers who could be persuaded to vote for us as the “sensible party” instead of the Tories’ “silly party”.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 19th May '14 - 11:20pm

    There have been some inconsistencies in the party’s message. On the one hand the PEBs featured Clegg very heavily whilst on the other he was not given a mention at all on the 4 different bits of paper I received from the party and this is in Yorkshire, his home patch.

  • “One of the drawbacks of the way we vote for our MEPs is that so few people know who they are. You don’t vote for a person, you vote for a party and the party decides who goes to sit in the European Parliament.”

    Well, I’ve now received EU election materials from UKIP and the Conservatives, so in my area it isn’t surprising that few people know who the LibDem candidate MEP are. Also I agree, you don’t vote for a person, as it is the parties who have determine the order of listing of their candidates.

  • Richard Dean 20th May '14 - 2:25am

    Sounds like the voting system could be a big reason why people don’t vote. Brits tend to like First-Past-The-Post, indeed they said so not long ago in a referendum!

  • daft ha'p'orth 20th May '14 - 3:11am

    I have received material from the Greens and from the Lib Dems. Confusingly, the Lib Dem material makes extensive reference to my MP but says little about MEPs. Essentially, the message it carries is ‘Don’t Vote UKIP (Or Tory) Unless You Want Britain To Lose Hundreds Or Thousands Of Jobs’ (thanks for that… I won’t, but who should I vote for?). The Greens gave me a handy, if overly optimistic, list of potentials on the back of the leaflet, and did manage to use most of the leaflet to present policies, which is a rarity in this day and age.

    @Richard Dean
    I admit that I did get more out of the Green material because it is so clear about establishing the individuals involved and what, broadly speaking, they are about. That is not to say I will be voting Green – but I was interested enough in the personalities involved to look up a couple of the names on Google. Shows that it can be done…

  • Philippa Sutton 22nd May '14 - 11:53am

    I have just read the Lib Dem material on T-TIP. I appreciate that it may bring extra jobs and will certainly be a great pleasure for the big multi-national companies. It could so easily, OTOH, hand over our policy on smoking to whatever Philip Morris thinks won’t interfere with their business, give every American healthcare organisation the right to force us to let them bid for any and all NHS “businesses” and run them on a for-profit basis and make it almost impossible for our government to stop fraking or strip mining in any place where a mining company can buy the mineral rights – up to an including national parks.

    Rupert Murdoch will be able to challenge the way in which the BBC is funded and run as an interference with the free working of broadcast media – i.e. NI’s business.

    I’m betting that environmental protection laws will have to be overturned or will be over-ruled – not by our Parliament but because some big business fancies not bothering.

    And there will be damn all we can do about any of this as this treaty hands over the whole thing to the lawyers to deal with – if our government fancies its chances in the courts. And this is all being set up behind our backs. What a betrayal.

    I used to be very committed what I thought were Lib Dem ideals – civil liberties, environmental protection, social justice, a society where money is the means, not the end. Now I am wondering if the EU is not so much in the pocket of big business that even my lifelong commitment to the dream of society which has looked to a bigger vision of itself than that of Little England has been proved unworkable.

    I will not vote against the European project – not even a commitment against this takeover of our liberties will send me into the arms of UKIP. I will not stay at home because I think voting an important civil duty. I am thinking of writing NONE OF THE ABOVE – even if that means letting in some other same party.

    I’m not sure I can vote for any party now – just perhaps against the worst alternative.

  • Helen Tedcastle: that is very wishful thinking. Whatever the possible motivations, the vote was heavily in favour of no change and retaining FPTP. I really do not know when the question could be put again, but I believe it is essential that electoral reform continue to be an important feature of the Lib Dem manifesto.

    If and when an opportunity for introducing a better voting system arises, it is essential that Lib Dems do not accept to have a system that they did not want foisted upon the electorate as the only choice. The initial vote should be on retaining FPTP or for change. This is how change took place in New Zealand, I believe. A follow up debate and vote could then decide what system to adopt.

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