Opinion: How about a cross-party declaration on an EU renegotiation and referendum?

referendum2One way or another, there’s going to be an EU referendum, and we must not just let it happen.

Pressure is mounting on David Cameron to move before 2017 and on Ed Miliband to shift from a perfectly clear position to one which is more “acceptable” to the sceptical groundswell. I’ve seen Tim Montgomerie suggesting that the spitzenkandidat system is a transfer of power to Brussels and might therefore trigger the referendum lock. Unfortunately for him, the legally enshrined vote is an in/in decision, and there’s no formal move – treaty change or other – to accept or reject.

British politics has cocked things European up for decades. Parties have taken positions and then said as little about them as possible. European elections have been fought on national policies using a terrible, impersonal voting system. Even when there have been actual treaties the argument has been more about what is being done to us by “Europe”, how “Brussels” requires referendums to be run again until they come up with the right answers. Famously, people like euro-enthusiast Ken Clarke don’t read treaties.

I know I’m generalising and exaggerating, and I know these observations don’t all apply to Liberal Democrat Voice readers, but the fact remains: we have simply failed to establish Europe as a normal level of politics. Europe is “other”, out of our control and to be sworn at. As UKIP has grown we have experienced the novelty of European elections fought on European issues, though not those the parliament that will pay their MEPs can do anything about. They are insulted but not often enough engaged with. We’ve largely forgotten how to.

Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to debates, which could have been a good idea if the debating space hadn’t been left empty for so long, and if the arguments used hadn’t revolved round the tired and undemonstrated claims to those three million Euro-dependent jobs. And that jaw-dropping moment when the EU ten years from now was presented as “much the same as today”.

And now we have Juncker. The European parliament may have bounced the heads of state and government into doing something nobody really wanted to do (in which case we see that other countries have suffered their own complacent acquiescence in a process their peoples understand no better than their leaders). It doesn’t look brilliant does it?

UKIP want to get out, and the main parties (for the moment) all want reform and continued membership. The Tories are split down the middle, Labour are as timid on Europe as on many other things and the Liberal Democrats are just weak. People don’t quite believe in Cameron’s 2015-17 plans and laugh at Labour and Liberal Democrat declarations of commitment to reform and their failure to actually do anything about it.

So… I haven’t convinced myself of this yet, but it’s beginning to feel inescapable… Let’s try for a three party declaration of support for renegotiation, on a common programme and with a referendum perhaps in 2017 but not simply on the basis of achieving everything by that date or getting out. There’s a familiar private member’s bill coming up I believe.

* Ed was a Young Liberal in the late 1960s, a supporter on and off over the years and finally rejoined the party in 2010.

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35 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun '14 - 4:11pm

    Ed Wilson

    And now we have Juncker. The European parliament may have bounced the heads of state and government into doing something nobody really wanted to do

    Sorry, we’ve just elected a European Parliament, and that European Parliament has elected a person to a particular position. Where’s the problem in that? If no-one wanted that person, then no-one should have voted for him. However, I think we have to assume that since the people we’ve just elected have voted for him, he is the democratic choice. If Cameron doesn’t like him, so what? How many people like Cameron and want him as Prime Minister?

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 4:13pm

    I certainly agree that “we have … failed to establish Europe as a normal level of politics”. UK politicians have used the EU as a scapegoat, and now we see the result.

    But what would be the advantage of a cross-party declaration? Isn’t it acceptable in our political system for different parties to propose different solutions?

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jun '14 - 4:23pm

    A fixed date for a referendum in 2017 is just crackers. So we should not support it and indeed try to prevent it.. End of story. The spitzenkandidat system appears to be a transfer of power (or at least a shift of influence) from one European institution to another – from the Executive to the Parliament. I thought that as Liberals we are in favour of that kind of thing.

    Tony Greaves

  • Charles Rothwell 30th Jun '14 - 4:24pm

    Lots of question marks over some of the contents of this article, e.g. I am not really sure how much UKIP has got to do with Europe! “Europe” always comes way done on the list of priorities of ‘ordinary’ voters’ concerns and their top concerns are with issues like health provision, education, cost of living, wage rates, ‘disconnect’ between ordinary voters (especially older, male, disenchanted/jaded and relatively poorly educated ones (who most likely walked out of school at 15 or 16 to start an apprenticeship or job)) and “the political class” and, above all, immigration (the EU role in which of course the Kipper tricksters have hugely over-played (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/03/nigel-farage-keep-on-about-eu-migration-but-non-eu-migration-is-the-greater-problem/). What UKIP has done (less the work in terms of strategy of ex-public schoolboy, ex-stock broker Farage living in his idyllic corner of Kent than that of occasional P/T Bootle FE teacher (otherwise having done nothing but work for UKIP!) Deputy Nuttall) is to stir all of this together and stick “Europe” as a convenient label on top to unleash a wave of bitterness, anger and hatred of “them”.
    The article is also wrong is saying “all the main parties want reform and continued membership”. The current figures are that at least 105 of the 300+ Tory MPs would vote for ‘Out’ and many of these have been obsessed with getting Britain out of the EU since the minute Thatcher finished her Bruges Speech in the 1980s (which is what makes Cameron’s attempts to appease them as laughable as his attempts to ‘buy off’ the Kippers with one concession after another. (Another Tory leader/PM found that every time you turn up to talk to a fanatic and try to buy them off, the latter has raised the stake/bar every single time!))
    Having said that, I agree with the gist of what you say and would love to see the LDs, the party which has always been the most outward-looking, pro-European and internationalist of all the main parties, rescuing the “Party of IN” campaign from the rather inglorious end it ground to after the debates with Farage and taking the positive lead in fighting back against the Kipper wave and flying the flag for Europe and how vital it is for Europe’s future. To do this, it needs to link with organisations like, above all, the Confederation of British Industry and, as you suggest, begin the process of extending such support on a cross-party basis to take in the likes of Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind (who said on ‘Newsnight’ last week he would still vote for in), Lord Heseltine and so on. If it does come to a referendum, networks should be firmly in place to advance the case of ‘IN’ and to challenge the scandalous largesse which has been afforded the Kippers (still lacking one single MP since being founded in 1993) in all areas of the media (not least the BBC) for years. This could well be the start of a real realignment of British politics which is desperately needed (but in a progressive, positive and not regressive, reactive sense (we have already had the latter)).

  • If no-one wanted that person, then no-one should have voted for him

    Um… nobody did vote for him. People across the continent voted for their national parties based on their domestic political situation. Barely anyone in Europe can even name a single European Parliament grouping.

    Some Germans voted for the CDU. Some Greeks voted for New Democracy. Maybe even some people in Ireland voted for Fine Gael. But nobody voted for the EPP.

    And nobody, nobody at all, voted for Juncker.

  • Richard Dean 30th Jun '14 - 4:46pm

    The spitzenkandidat system appears to be a … shift of influence … from the body representing elected governments (the Council) to the body representing uninterested electorates (the Parliament).

    In what way is it Liberal to oppose a body that represents a government that people elected?

    In what way is it honourable or even advantageous to support a stealthy departure from a treaty agreement, given that one stealthy departure, which we might like, can also open the way to others that we don’t like?

  • Adam Robertson 30th Jun '14 - 5:08pm

    I think Ed is correct to say that we need a referendum on the European Union. I am in favour of the EU project but I have never had a chance to vote on it. The European Community has changed since 1975, when it was about entering a Common Market with other European Community states. It has now changed into a political and economic union, which the British electorate did not vote for. This started with the Maastricht Treaty and has developed sinced.

    Ed is also right to mention about our relationship with the European Union, is a particular pericular relationship. It could be summed up in two figures: Margaret Thatcher and Roy Jenkins. Margaret Thatcher, although pro-European, which can be demonstrated with her signing the Single European Act, became a standard bearer not just for the Conservative position in Europe from the late 1980’s but also the eurosceptism movement as a whole. On the other hand, Roy Jenkins, was a keen European, as demonstrated by leading 69 Labour MP’s by voting for the European Act in 1973. One can argue that Roy Jenkins, influenced European policy within the Liberal Democrats and Labour later on.

    I agree with Tony Greaves, that it is correct for the European Parliament to elect the Commission President. In this instance, I think the Conservatives, are responsible for their own ‘democratic deficit’, as they left the European People’s Party, of their own accord. Thay could have influenced whether Juncker got the job or not. However, I think Tony is very illiberal by saying that we should try to stop a referendum happening. That is not neither liberal or democratic. I thought the Liberal Democrats, believed in giving the electorate ,the choice to vote on such a constitutional issue.

  • I thought the Liberal Democrats, believed in giving the electorate ,the choice to vote on such a constitutional issue.

    They did, up until May 2011, when it became clear that the electorate cannot be trusted to vote the right way in a referendum.

  • Adam Robertson 30th Jun '14 - 5:22pm

    @ Dav: I think you are right and I think it is a real shame, that the elites of the party, are not listen to the electorate. I even know people like myself, who would vote YES, who feel that a referendum is needed. Even Charles Kennedy, has admitted that the lance needs to be boiled.

    Dav – You say that no one voted for Juncker. I accept that they did not vote for him directly. However, if the electorate did some research, they would have found out that the CDU is part of the EPP, the Labour Party is part of the PES and the Greens are part of the EFA/EGP group. Therefore, they would have found that the CDU, was backing Juncker to be President of the Commission.

    However, I take on board that in the UK, it was very different, with Ed Miliband abstaining, on whether to support Martin Schulz, the PES Candidate. One of the MEP’s said they would vote for Schulz, despite Ed Miliband telling them to abstain. How are the electorate are meant to know, if there is a confusion within a national party, on how to vote on transnational issues of such importance!!

  • There’s a subliminal ‘eugenics’ in the LibDems refusal of the EU in/out referendum. O.K., seems a harsh thing to say, so what do I mean by that?
    In the 1930’s there was a body of belief that ‘the feeble minded’, did not deserve to be allowed to breed. I have seen that same arrogant thread of thinking when *some* commenter’s here speak about UK voters. Embodied in the LibDem, refusal, i.e .’the democratic lockdown’, is a subliminal belief that voters are ‘too feeble minded’, do not know what is best for them, and must therefore be refused a referendum (for their own good?).
    Ed Wilson makes a good point, but I think some LibDems here, would rather their party sink beneath the quicksand, rather than let ‘the great unwashed’ have a legitimate say over their own future.
    Four weeks on from May, and for some, nothing has been learned?

  • However, if the electorate did some research, they would have found out that the CDU is part of the EPP, the Labour Party is part of the PES and the Greens are part of the EFA/EGP group. Therefore, they would have found that the CDU, was backing Juncker to be President of the Commission

    But nobody in Europe (not just the UK) actually did that research. As far as they were concerned they were voting for the same political parties they usually vote for in domestic elections, on the basis of who they thought would best represent their national interest (hence the anti-austerity candidates who got in, etc).

    You can say they should have done that research, but the fact is they didn’t. Nobody cares about the European Parliament, except those trying to make their careers through it.

    Pretending that the people of Europe, when casting their votes in May, were choosing between Juncker and Schulz is engaging in reality-denying fantasy of the highest order. That is simply not what people were voting for.

    It’s simply wrong to claim that Juncker has any kind of democratic mandate when nobody voted for him.

  • A unilateral attempt to reform a 28 member organisation is a uniquely Conservative idea. Quite apart from being self-evidently doomed to fail, the initiative was bourne out of a compromise between moderate Tories and those who want the UK to leave the EU entirely. Yes, the EU needs reform, but a once-off readjustment of powers is not it.

    I also think this article buys into the British Conservative/ newspaper propaganda around Juncker. He is arguably the strongest and most reformist EU Commission President we have had for a couple of decades – which is precisely why Cameron tried so hard to stop him (As British PMs have successfully done in the past to other credible candidates).

  • Jenny Barnes 30th Jun '14 - 5:37pm

    Adam “. I am in favour of the EU project but I have never had a chance to vote on it. ”
    I’m against constitutional monarchy but I have never had a chance to vote on that…. as it happens I did vote for the EU way back when. At the time there was a lot of existential angst about whether the UK could survive as an independent state, or might be better off joining the USA as the 51st state.

  • Adam Robertson 30th Jun '14 - 5:40pm

    @ Dav: The Lisbon Treaty states that the European elections must be considered before appointing a President of the Commission. The European Council, have done this in accordance to the Lisbon Treaty and have decided that Mr Juncker, fulfils this part of the Lisbon Treaty.

    I agree with you that some people, may have not been aware but it was across the media and debates, I was at. Indeed Andrew Duff and Rupert Read, for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in the East, were refering to this process. Therefore, I think it is wrong to say that nobody done research. To say no one cares about the European Parliament, is a myth, because people have just elected their MEP’s for the next five years.

    Dav – Are you saying that you would rather have someone like Enda Kenny, who has no democratic mandate of any kind, then Juncker, who has at least an indirect democratic mandate and will be elected by the representatives, who have been elected to the European Parliament?

  • @Adam

    Is that the Lisbon treaty that Labour gave away the farm and we never had a referendum despite promises that if a change came we would get a vote.

    I think many people do consider the EU policies and perhaps one way for the people paying the wages of politicians here and in the EU is get rid of one level of power, in many ways I don’t care if it’s our mp’s or the MEPS system we get rid of but unless the uk parliament is going to act on our behalf I see little point in paying for is it 650 mp’s a House of Lords etc

    One opinion is above nonsense for a referendum in 2017 no problem have it now whats the goal wait that long no one cares I think most hope that the less affluent member states will have grown nearer us In wealth primarily because we are going down in living standards

    I have no objection to levelling the field but it’s to fast financially and our infrastructure can not cope. Many will have heard the Bank of England say pay won’t improve until inflation drops below 5% how will that happen when more come from other countries it’s not achievable give a challenging target yes but at least a hope we may reach it

  • Sorry not inflation 5% employment my bad

  • @Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun ’14 – 4:11pm
    “Sorry, we’ve just elected a European Parliament, and that European Parliament has elected a person to a particular position. ”

    No!
    Yes we’ve just elected our MEP’s, who in the main were aligned with UK national political parties – I don’t remember there being an EPP or ALSD candidate on the ballot paper. These have gone off to Brussels/Strasbourg and have affiliated themselves to the various groupings within the Parliament.

    These groups have individually decided upon their group leader and now the largest group (the EPP) desires it’s leader to be the EU President. A small group within the EU Council have decided to support this person’s nomination to the EU Council, who in turn have now elected he as their preferred candidate. Now the Parliament get to decide whether they wish to rubber stamp/elect the EU Council’s candidate as President.

    So no at the present time the Parliament hasn’t elected a person to a particular position.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '14 - 9:55am

    Dav

    Um… nobody did vote for him. People across the continent voted for their national parties based on their domestic political situation

    Yes, and the people they voted for voted for Juncker. Sorry, but I am a liberal democrat, and to me that is how our idea of democracy works – we elect a representative assembly, and that assembly makes decisions. We elect people we can trust to make informed decisions for us. If we choose to elect people who make poor decisions, then that is our fault, next time we should think more carefully when we vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '14 - 10:09am

    Roland

    Yes we’ve just elected our MEP’s, who in the main were aligned with UK national political parties – I don’t remember there being an EPP or ALSD candidate on the ballot paper.

    That is our choice, just as it is the choice of the people of Northern Ireland not to have the mainstream UK political parties there. The MEPs we elected still had a vote, and that vote could have swung things.

    I thank you for the clarification of the exact constitutional position of this person. We have something similar in the UK, where the Prime Minister is in theory appointed by the King or Queen, but in practice is elected by Parliament.

    Your argument relies on the notion that the people of the UK are keen supporters of the political ideology of Cameron, so far on the extremes of the economic right that he had to go off and form his own European group rather than work with the mainstream political right in Europe. I don’t think this is the case. Of course it has not been put to the people of the UK in this way, but why not? The paternalistic but socially aware centre-right stream called “Christian Democracy” which the EPP represents is what the Conservative Party in this country USED to be about. I think there are many people here who would like to see some of that old-style conservatism back here rather than the dog-eat-dog all-power-to-the-global-financial-elite doctrine of the modern Conservative Party. But how are they even to be able to think this through if all they hear is the propaganda coming from our right-wing press, and supported by Nick Clegg, which has painted the person the Christian Democrats nominated as some sort of evil incarnate?

  • next time we should think more carefully when we vote

    We did: that’s why there are more Eurosceptic MEPs now than before, and there will be more after the next election too.

  • peter tyzack 1st Jul '14 - 12:22pm

    Dav.. two things: our electoral system and our media propaganda machine..

  • two things: our electoral system and our media propaganda machine

    Ah yes. Because if people vote differently from how you would have voted, it can’t be because they disagree with you, can it? No, they must have been brainwashed.

    After all you know what’s good for them far better than they do.

  • Matthew,

    I’m not aware of my viewpoint, that I’ve put forward on various LDV articles “relies on the notion that the people of the UK are keen supporters of the political ideology of Cameron”.

    I personally believe making the EU president an elected post, without any other change at the present time, would have a transformative effect on people’s perception of ‘Europe’. Unfortunately even this change would probably require a treaty change and hence trigger a referendum before it’s effect could be seen…

  • That is our choice, just as it is the choice of the people of Northern Ireland not to have the mainstream UK political parties there

    That is not in fact the choice of the people of Northern Ireland. It is the choice of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats not to stand candidates in Northern Ireland, just as it is the choice of the Conservative (and Unionist) party to stand candidates.

    The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties never, to my knowledge, asked the people of Northern Ireland whether they wanted them to stand; they simply don’t bother. Which personally I think is reprehensible and disenfranchises those residents of Northern Ireland who wish to participate in UK-wide politics but do not want to vote Conservative.

  • @Dav

    ‘Pretending that the people of Europe, when casting their votes in May, were choosing between Juncker and Schulz is engaging in reality-denying fantasy of the highest order. That is simply not what people were voting for.’

    The people of Europe, bar the UK, had been exposed to media coverage of Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstadt’s televised debates, to considerable newspaper and TV coverage of the new lead-candidate system and its prime figures and to detailed analysis of what various outcomes might mean for the EU over the course of its next Parliament.

    The fact that the British media preferred to focus on how many pints Nigel Farage could neck in one evening and on exactly how many jobs are linked to Britain’s membership of the union is not the fault of the democratic system evolving in this union.

    But while we’re on democratic systems – I didn’t vote for David Cameron. Nobody in the constituency I was then living in voted for David Cameron. A plurality of the voters did end up putting their mark by the name of some clown in a blue rosette, Stuart Jackson I think his name was, but David Cameron didn’t appear on the ballot. Neither did Gordon Brown or even Nick Clegg.

    In fact, as far as I can tell, only 33,973 people out of a voting population of more than 25 million voted for David Cameron.

    And this is democracy? It is condemned by your own critique of European elections.

    You make the mistake, along with many if not most of the British right, of conflating the British parliamentary system with something altogether more presidential, even American.

    Also, re. Northern Ireland. The SDLP could affiliate with Labour, just as the Tories have affiliated with one of the no-hoper unionist alternatives to pretend that they’re standing candidates in Northern Ireland. The Alliance could affiliate with the Liberal Democrats, and indeed already does cooperate in many ways with us. But they don’t. I wonder why this might be.

  • @T-J
    “But while we’re on democratic systems – I didn’t vote for David Cameron.”
    Whilst you and the majority of voters didn’t directly vote for David Cameron, you (and they) were aware of the rules regarding the appointment of the UK PM, prior to the election and hence could use this knowledge to inform your candidate selection. With the recent EU elections there was and is no direct connection, although I understand that in some countries an attempt was made to link voting for the EPP candidate to also expressing a preference for Junckers to be the next EU president.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 2:06pm

    Roland

    I personally believe making the EU president an elected post, without any other change at the present time, would have a transformative effect on people’s perception of ‘Europe’.

    I don’t agree with this for the same reason I don’t agree with directly elected executive mayors in local government, or the system of government by one person which was used in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, they are all versions of the same thing, just at different levels of government.

    I am a liberal, which means I believe power should always be ultimately shared by a representative assembly, any leaders being accountable to that assembly which has the right to overturn them. I believe in politics by thought and negotiation to reach the best compromise, that includes in the appointment to executive posts. I don’t know personally who would be the best person to hold such a post, and I feel any direct election would be dominated by superficial matters which I fear would lead to the wrong person holding the post, that is why I would rather elect a representative to an assembly who can give more careful consideration to the various candidates and vote as I would had I the time and ability to do what that representative does on my behalf.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 2:15pm

    T-J

    The fact that the British media preferred to focus on how many pints Nigel Farage could neck in one evening and on exactly how many jobs are linked to Britain’s membership of the union is not the fault of the democratic system evolving in this union.

    Indeed, and I think this must also be a vital part of democracy. If people don’t take elections seriously, then they must take the consequences. For example, as I keep saying, by voting in favour of keeping the electoral system we have at present in 2011, the people of this country voted for THIS government with its Tory dominance and LibDem weakness, because the distortions of the electoral system they supported gave it to us. That is why the government we have now is the most democratic we have ever had, the most in accord with people’s wishes as expressed in the ballot box, because the people explicitly endorsed the system that gave it to us. Oh sure, a lot of people thought it was a referendum on whether you like Nick Clegg. Well, tough, if you voted “No” on that basis, you voted FOR the coalition and its Tiry dominance by voting for the electoral system that gave it to us.

    Similarly, if people vote for MEP who don’t do their job, who just use it as a way to claim their expenses and pull off silly stunts but don’t do any actual work scrutinising European legislation and putting forward nominees to posts, well then, they deserve what they get.

    I feel only if we are brutal about this, if we keep using the message “Well, next time maybe THINK before you vote” when people don’t like the consequences, will be get the more serious attitude to politics that we need.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 2:20pm

    Roland

    Whilst you and the majority of voters didn’t directly vote for David Cameron, you (and they) were aware of the rules regarding the appointment of the UK PM, prior to the election and hence could use this knowledge to inform your candidate selection. With the recent EU elections there was and is no direct connection,

    It is the duty of candidates for election to be aware of the role of the jobs they are asking to be chosen to do, and to explain that to the people they are asking to put them in those jobs. If they didn’t do it, blame them. If Clegg chose to make the Liberal Democrat Party Political Broadcast for the election all about him, rather than about the job the MEPs being elected do, well, blame him – and get rid of him for his arrogance and incompetency in hijacking the election in this way.

  • The people of Europe, bar the UK, had been exposed to media coverage of Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstadt’s televised debates, to considerable newspaper and TV coverage of the new lead-candidate system and its prime figures and to detailed analysis of what various outcomes might mean for the EU over the course of its next Parliament.

    But none of them actually watched the debates, did they? Post-election polling showed that even among the minority who actually voted in the European elections hardly any were aware of the concept of ‘groupings’, could name any of them, or had any idea who any of the ‘favoured candidates’ were, even when prompted.

    Also, re. Northern Ireland. The SDLP could affiliate with Labour, just as the Tories have affiliated with one of the no-hoper unionist alternatives to pretend that they’re standing candidates in Northern Ireland

    The Conservatives don’t ‘pretend’ to stand candidates in Northern Ireland, they actually do, on Conservative tickets, standing against all the Northern Ireland parties. Or at least, they did until the last election, when they did join with the UUP; however, that experiment was a failure and the two parties separated in 2012, and in the next election the Conservatives will be standing separate candidates again.

    See for instance the results for North Down here: http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/and.htm which show Conservative candidates in all the general elections from 1997 – 2005.

  • If people don’t take elections seriously, then they must take the consequences.

    Perhaps if people persist in not taking elections seriously, then it’s a sign you shouldn’t be having those elections?

    For instance, if turnout doesn’t rise next time there are PCC elections, do you not think serious thought should be given to abolishing elected PCCs, on the grounds that people clearly don’t want to vote for that post and would prefer it be filled some other way?

    Why does the EU need a parliament anyway? It’s supposed to be a organisation of nation states working together for mutual advantage. Other such organisation — NATO, the UN — don’t have parliaments and manage perfectly well. Why can’t we just abolish the European Parliament?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 7:19pm

    Dav

    Perhaps if people persist in not taking elections seriously, then it’s a sign you shouldn’t be having those elections?

    Oh, sure. But if this were the big over-powering thing its opponents say it is, surely people would want to be able to exert some control over it by taking part in elections. People don’t vote in things like PCC elections because PCCs don’t do much. It seems to me to be a contradiction to claim that Juncker is some huge powerful figure who should not be there, and that the elections that resulted in the assembly that nominated him are so unimportant that few people can be bothered with them.

  • Matthew

    Re: EU president an elected post

    I fully understand your concerns and agree with you over mayors and police commissioners. I think we are in agreement in that we would want to avoid both the worst excesses of presidential elections where any one (with deep pockets) can stand and the closed system we see in China.

    I’m relatively happy with the existing qualifying criteria for EU President (must have been an elected PM of a member nation etc.), I’m also happy that a shortlist of candidates is drawn from contributions from the EU Council and major groupings in the Parliament. However, I think the final choice should belong to the EU citizens.

    Looking at the current UK media coverage, it seems the current system reinforces the perception that the EU is something going on in Brussels and hence has little relevance to life in the UK. An election would provide an opportunity for pan-EU considerations to be aired and debated in a pan-EU public forum.

    Re: MEP elections

    Whilst I agree with your points, they don’t actually address the point I was making. I think the question we in the UK need to ask is whether the ballot paper should actually include the EU Parliamentary grouping, so a LibDem candidate MEP could be described as an ALSD member sponsored by the LibDem’s. Because it does seem until we force the national political parties to be more open about their EU group membership to the electorate and hence have to justify why they belong to a particular group, the elections will be hijacked by (internal) national issues.

  • But if this were the big over-powering thing its opponents say it is, surely people would want to be able to exert some control over it by taking part in elections

    People take part in elections when they feel connected in some way to the body they are electing. So there is not necessarily any relationship between how powerful the body is, and how many people take part in the elections.

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