Opinion: I’m voting Lib Dem in spite of, not because of, our ‘Party of IN’ campaign

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 08.06.37 IN Europe EU European UnionIf you believe the messages sent out from ‘The Party Of In’ during this Euro-election campaign, then you might think that my current political position is logically confused and that I simply misunderstand the options before me on May 22nd. However, I intend to vote Lib Dem in the Euro-elections in spite, not because, of our on-going commitment to remaining in the European Union.

I do not pretend to be an expert on European matters – and I do not claim to be of a completely settled mind on the ‘In/Out’ question for this very reason. However, given the arguments that I have seen presented from both sides in recent years, it strikes me that on this issue, perhaps alone, I am more Carswellian than Cleggite.

This has made it somewhat difficult to enjoy and participate in the Euro election campaign as Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have staged it. This is, of course, not a referendum. The political reasoning for both parties behind making it seem this way are fairly obvious, and I have no particular objection to such a strategy if it secures more votes and MEPs for our party.

However, hearing that anyone who wishes to leave the EU wants to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ or ‘have W.G. Grace open the batting for England’ has certainly grated. My vision for a post EU Britain is certainly far more modern and open than this caricature suggests, especially as the EU body itself appears increasingly suited to a past age. If a referendum were to take place, those who wish to stay in the EU must have a far more positive range of arguments (one need only look at the closing of the gap in the Scottish referendum to see why, given the lack of sunshine in the ‘Better Together’ campaign).

Despite this, the very fact that the elections for the European Parliament are not a referendum on our membership means that I can and will be voting Lib Dem. Real salaries will be paid to real members of an actual Parliament after these elections whether or not ‘in’ or ‘out’ wins the upcoming skirmish. A Lib Dem MEP is certainly superior to a UKIP MEP, even if I might prefer the existence of no MEPs whatsoever.

For now, we are in Europe and our MEPs must do the best for Britain in this circumstance. Although I might want us out, there can be no doubt over who is best at fighting for British interests in the current democratic structure of Europe. It might not fit the campaign narrative, but this Eurosceptic is staying Liberal Democrat – at least in this vote.

Indeed, I cannot ignore a rather obvious analogy. We wish there to be an elected House of Lords, but while the House of patronage exists, we better ensure there are some Lib Dems in their fighting for the liberal cause. The same applies to the makeup of the European Parliament after the next election – even if I might hope it to be the last European election for this country.

* Mark Dimmock is a Lib Dem member in Totnes, in South Devon.

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29 Comments

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Apr '14 - 11:30am

    Your fifth and sixth paragraph are all that is needed for people like me to make up their minds one way or the other. They should be required reading for the electorate whatever their political affiliations.

    Everything is compacted into this simple choice.

    Thank you

  • Always better to have constructive engaged MEPs than ones who just turn up and fling insults.

  • The party of “in it to change it”, not just the meaningless “party of in”.

    Europe’s got to change for the better and the Lib Dem MEPs have shown through their actions that they’re the ones to achieve this.

    This is the message we should be taking to the voters.

  • Jayne Mansfield,
    Exactly. I’ve been bleating about this from time to time for months. Whether you think it should or not (and I do), the European parliament has real influence on our lives, so it matters who we send there.

  • david thorpe 26th Apr '14 - 6:36pm

    I agree with the author-our party of in line is actually both stupoid and dishonest-and we are a party with plenty of eurosceptics and people whose views are closer to the conservatives than to nivk cleggs-we have a current party presidnet who viwanted a referendum years ago-and a cabinet minister who did-but we use the line about party of in to paper over the cracks.

  • Mark

    Your’s is an interesting approach. Towards the end of your piece you say —

    “….Indeed, I cannot ignore a rather obvious analogy. We wish there to be an elected House of Lords, but while the House of patronage exists, we better ensure there are some Lib Dems in their fighting for the liberal cause”

    I would go along with this if the party and the leader had stuck with the decision of the party that Liberal Democrats nominated to the HofL came from a list elected by the party.
    This minor element of democracy has been shamelessly ignored by Clegg who has had an unfortunate record of putting people into the HofL who are notable not for any connection whatsoever with the party but are easily recognisable as being very rich people or people from that small gene pool the English establishment.

    Cynics might argue that Clegg’s abysmal failure to reform the HofL as agreed with Cameron and written into The Coalition Agreemnt was not just down to his spectacular lack of skill as a leader.

    In comparison to the HofL, the EU Parliament is the very model of democracy and transparency.

  • Mark Dimmock 26th Apr '14 - 9:56pm

    Appreciate positive words from people.

    JohnTilley I agree with your sentiments regarding the need for a party elected list entirely!

  • I take issue with your reference to MEPs fighting for “British” interests. Issues in the European Parliament are very rarely played out in terms of homogeneous national blocs: MEPs divide along ideological faultlines in much the same way as MPs do in national legislatures. The British people no more form a common interest group in EU policy than they do in UK policy. A British investment banker does not have the same interests in EU law as a British low-paid worker.
    I also do not like the “Party of IN” campaign. But not because of any Euro-scepticism, but because I think we should be fighting EU elections on the issue that are discussed in the European Parliament and our approach to them as liberals. By doing so we would be sticking two fingers up at the people who say that the EU is undemocratic by talking about exactly how voting in EU elections influences EU law.

  • @ John Tilley

    “Cynics might argue that Clegg’s abysmal failure to reform the HofL as agreed with Cameron and written into The Coalition Agreemnt was not just down to his spectacular lack of skill as a leader.”

    Your blaming of Nick Clegg for *the Tories* reneging on their promises of reform is quite breathtaking. What was Nick Clegg supposed to do? Become a master of mind control or something?

  • @ RC – Nick and his negotiating team were the ones who persuaded the Special Conference that he had a deal with the Tories. No, ‘but if they renege on it, we’re stuffed’; No ‘I am going to give them everything they want in year one, so they can renege on their part later.’ It’s not mind control, it’s being a good negotiator and a good player after that.

    That is the area where Nick has abysmally failed.

  • @Caractacus

    “Whatever the flaws of the EU, and there are quite a few, most of them lie with national government ministers and national vetos.”

    Seconded a thousand times. Can people please get this? The EU needs to be run at EU level, not by national politicians. It’s national politicians who create the problems.

    Deeply unimpressed by article btw. Point missed again with a ramble about ‘British’ interests. The EU should be about our interests as Europeans, not turf wars to suit the interests of the London government.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 27th Apr '14 - 11:50am

    Most people agree with the writer, as I do too. I take it we are all agreeing that the party of IN is another error and should have been the party of REFORM. I couldn’t understand why Nick side-stepped the reform aspects during the debates. But now I do get it – stay IN and accept the EU as it is – that’s what Nick believes. That is why people are voting NOT IN on 22nd May – but I will follow this thread and vote LD because a UKIP vote is actually a wasted vote, Labour are confused and I can never support Tories.

  • RC
    You have misunderstood my comment.

    I only blame Nick Clegg those things for which he has been responsible. He is not to blame for the Tories’ actions.

    But Clegg was very naive or worse.
    Anyone with more than five minutes experience of working with the Tories knows that you cannot trust them further than you can spit.. There are lots of people within the Liberal Democrats who before 2010 had plenty of experience of working with theTories at local level. Clegg chose to ignore the advice of experienced campaigners and councillors in the party and decided to take advice from outside the party from people like Richard Reeves. Remember Reeves was an “author” from Demos – which might as well have been another planet for all the practical experience he brought with him.

    Reeves’ strategy if you recall was going to result in huge support for the Liberal Democrats once we had got past the half way point of this parliament and the economy had “turned the corner”.
    The strategy was that people would think the Liberal Democrats are now “grown up” and could make “difficult decisions” and ecstatic at the joys of the bedroom tax and tuition fees the voters of Great Britain would queue up to show their gratitude and vote for twice as many Liberal Democrat MPs as we had elected when Charles Kennedy was leader.
    Of course when it became obvious even to Reeves that this was not going to happen it appears he decided to take the money and run. I suppose that we should be relieved that at least he is not in court alongside Mr Coulson, that other Coalition special advisor appointed at the same time as Reeves.

    You have said elsewhere that you think it is time for Clegg to go and I agree with you on that.

  • jeedibeeftrix:

    you are left with british interests in europe when you recognise no meaningful european political identity

    but you cannot ignore the fact that MEPs organise as ideological blocs not national ones.

  • I saw this on another forum about the rise of UKIP

    “So, the question still remains unanswered, who do we vote for ?. Its all well and good the Guardian having a dig at other parties, but there still isn’t an honest , trustworthy and relevant ( to ‘normal people’ ) party in the country.”

    Nick Clegg, with his ‘no more broken promises’ has single-handedly driven voters to UKIP of all things. Talk about a new kind of politics!!!

  • Mark Dimmock 27th Apr '14 - 1:50pm

    I fail to see the objection to discussing British interests, unless you are building more into the concept than I? Surely the pro-EU argument is that the advancement of cross national EU interests is an advantage for Britain? The recent change in roaming charges was good for Britain no?

    I take on board the points about the lack of haemogony in ‘British interests’ though, especially the comments by Alex Macfie.

  • Suggesting that the LibDems are the party of IN is a total misnomer. And the same wrongheaded thinking keeps suggesting that Ukip is the party of OUT.
    Neither are true. It is NOT Ukip’s place to take us OUT of Europe, any more than it is LibDem’s place to keep us IN. The more accurate point to acknowledge is that LibDems continue to block voter choice via an IN/OUT Referendum, whilst Ukip are the party that want to give the voter the decision. This is the crucially important difference. ( Allowing or Refusing ~Voter Choice in a Referendum ), is what is at stake here.
    In short, it is not for ANY political party to decide one way or the other on our relationship with Europe. It is for the UK voting public to make that democratic decision via a referendum. And LibDems have firmly nailed their colours to the mast as being, ~ The party of Referendum Refusal.

  • “It is NOT Ukip’s place to take us OUT of Europe, any more than it is LibDem’s place to keep us IN.”

    Get someone to explain this parliamentary democracy thing to you.

  • Chris
    “…Get someone to explain this parliamentary democracy thing to you.”

    Yes indeed. 🙂

  • @ Chris and John Tilley
    The Brexit plan is a good example of how an EU exit could be performed ‘administratively’, which is what you are both alluding to. I am not speaking about the process or governmental ‘mechanics’. The point I am making, that I thought would have been very clear, is that the fundamental decision to STAY or LEAVE the EU, is a decision for the voter. And given that LibDems are making every effort to block that possibility of a vote, is why the LibDems have nailed their colours to the mask as being The Party of Referendum Refusal.

  • O.K. let me boil this core argument down further.
    How can the Liberal Democrat Party be the party of IN, if there is no mechanism to test its IN/OUT efficacy by running it past the voter in the form of a referendum.? The LibDem position of (IN), is absurd to the point of Kafkaesque if the choices are (IN) or (IN), which is what the Lib Dem blockage from a referendum is cynically designed to maintain.

  • Stephen Howse 28th Apr '14 - 12:27pm

    ‘The party of “in it to change it”, not just the meaningless “party of in”.’

    That’s my view. If we’re going to have to abide by EU rules and regulations regardless then we might as well be in there trying to shape those rules and regulations to suit ourselves as best we can. Being in the EU is what’s best for Britain and as such we should be in it. If there comes a time when being in the EU is harmful to our national interest, then we should review that. Love of institutions for their own sake is best left to conservatives.

    I’d call it Europragmatism. Not “take it or leave it”, which is how we are currently coming across in the media. It’s probably where most of the public sits, as well.

  • Ooh! A Penhaligonite! Or a Cyrilite! (before we knew Cyrilism was beyond the pale, yet not beyond the pale)

    Now bugger off – the Lib Dems are the party of craven EUPhilism. There’s no place for you here.

  • Ah, and now the Lib Dems begin to edge towards Europhobia too 🙁

    If I was a Scot, this alone would incline me to vote “Yes”.

    Might I suggest that all eurosceptics try setting up a project outside the EU and experience all the BS that goes with work permits / business visa etc, and then try doing the same thing in a member state?

    You will notice a significant difference!

  • Alex Macfie 29th Apr '14 - 7:35am

    Nothing wrong with discussing British interests in the EU. It’s just not the most important thing for a European election campaign. It’s the European Council that is supposed to represent the interests of nation states within the EU. So the effective representation of British interests depends on how our ministers/sherpas act in the Council meetings, and is a matter for UK domestic policy. [However, in practice, there is very little (Westminster) parliamentary accountability for what our national representatives say and do in the Council.]

    MEPs are, of course, constituency (i.e. Euro-region) representatives, so in that sense they are expected to stand up for the interests of the voters in their region. However, for all but the smallest countries, this representation is at a more local level than the nation state. I would expect Sarah Ludford to defend London’s interests in the EU, rather than UK interests.

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