Liblink: Andrew Duff MEP “Why do MEPs fear electoral reform?”

Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England has written for EU Observer about his attempts to change the electoral system for MEPs. He wants to see 25 MEPs elected on a pan European basis, a proposal he believes will improve the legitimacy of the Parliament:

Now the Union is moving to greater fiscal discipline and the probable installation of a more federal type of economic government which will have to be made directly accountable to Parliament. But do we sincerely believe that the European Parliament has attracted the desirable levels of loyalty and identification of the EU citizens and taxpayers that are implied by such important democratic responsibilities?

As Parliament begins to prepare for the next elections in 2014, are we confident that the quality of the election campaign will be such an advance on previous elections that the electors will see that, in voting for MEPs, real choices can be made about the direction of the EU polity?

Can we not agree that Europe’s national political parties are now failing to sustain its integration process in a fitting manner? Do the media report the politics of Parliament in a thorough and fluent way?

You can read the article in full here. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • Richard Dean 24th Mar '12 - 11:44am

    Sorry to start on a cyncial note, but not bothering the electorate with choices is one way the sitting MEPs might think will keep them sitting and receiving their large salaries for a long time.

    In appreciation of my great ignorance on all matters European, I have ordered the Economist;s book on ithe subject. In the meantime, my impression is that the European Paliament was never meant to be more than a checking body – checking the rules proposed by bureaucrats under the direction of the Council of Ministers (?) which are the real decision makers – and since those ministers are from governments that have been elected by peoples, it is this arrangement that is meant to ensure democracy, not the MEPs as such.

  • As long as there are fewer on this gravytrain overall, fine.

  • @Richard: “Council of Ministers” is the old name for the body now known as the Council of the European Union (known hereinafter as the Council). And you are out of date in another way: the European Parliament now has equal decision-making power with the Council. Unfortunately the democracy in the Council is seriously lacking in many countries, due to the lack of (national) parliamentary scrutiny of the positions taken by government representatives in the Council, as noted in the piece from Open Europe on this site. The UK is one of the worst offenders in this regard, and this is something that the our government could correct now on its own. Also the government represenatives on the Council are often not Ministers, but civil servants. So the European Parliament is by far the most democratic part of the EU, and should be promoted as such. But even if the Council became more democratic in its decision making, the European Parliament would still be the only *directly* elected EU body, and would thus still be required as a check and balance against the interests of national governments.

    The EP is the only way voters can *directly* influence EU law. So the media conspiracy of silence around it is a serious problem, and I’m not convinced this would be addressed by having a small number of pan-European MEPs. When was the last time an MEP from a party other than UKIP appeared on TV’s Question Time? This conspiracy of silence is the real reason for the lack of public participation in EP elections, and it is something for which the media need to take responsibility. They, and politicians, need to stop treating them as 2nd-order elections and focus European election coverage and campaigns primarily on what MEPs do and have done. This includes Lib Dems: I’ve said before that I find Lib Dem election campaigning too timid and lacklustre, as if we’re ashamed to be campaigning on Europe. We need to campaign more forcefully on what we have done to stand up to the Commission and Council, and to push EU law in a liberal direction, and to contrast us with the other parties and their European allies (this being particularly important for the Tories — lots of ammunition there). Pan-European MEPs might in theory have to campaign in terms of their European party groups, but we could start doing that now .

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '12 - 12:18pm

    Alex. Thanks for taking the time to explain things wonderfully.

    Isn’t the “conspiracy” aided somewhat by the MEPs themseleves, who could and should be putting themsleves forward for programs like Question Time, rather than waiting to be asked?

    I wonder if it’s just the meida involved in the “conspiracy”. I get the idea that Labour and the Conservatives like to use Europe as a scapegoat for every problem they can’t solve, and tend to want to make the EP appear relatively powerless. It’s certainly time that this changed!

  • Alex Macfie 25th Mar '12 - 5:04pm

    Well the media dedicate very many column inches to things that are wrong with this country that are allegedly the fault of the EU. so clearly the British public are very interested complaining about the EU. However, it is entirely reasonable to suggest that people have no right complaining about EU legislation if they cannot be bothered to make themselves aware of how EU legislation is made, or to vote in elections to the legislature that helps to make it.

    Alternatively, it is entirely possible that some of the media are very interested in keeping the public in the dark about how EU legislation is made, so that they can make anti-EU propaganda that is accepted without question by the public who are unaware of the reality.

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