The European Election – Campaigning on the Issues

We are now just 30 weeks away from the next round of local elections. Crucially, these have been arranged to coincide with the EU-wide election for the European Parliament. Obviously who gets what seats in Brussels and Strasbourg seems far more removed from our ordinary lives than the running of the local Council, but it is still hugely important.

As a candidate in the European Election, I am very keen that we do not end up wasting time talking about Brussels obscurities. Instead, those of us selected to stand for the European Parliament are trying to talk to voters about what they care about, just like local candidates up and down the country. In particular, we have three key issues we are trying to discuss with voters:

  • Jobs – did you know that over 3 million jobs in the UK depend on Britain’s membership of the European Single Market? In Government Liberal Democrats have delivered a million jobs, and now we want to deliver a million more. Central to that plan is ensuring British business has thriving trade relationships both with our European partners, and big powers like the United States with which the EU is in a position to negotiate lucrative trade deals.
  • Crime – did you know that the European Arrest Warrant returned one of the failed 21/7 bombers just weeks after he fled to Italy? Without this and other vital crime fighting tools which our membership of the EU provides us with, international borders would be a huge barrier to our Police whilst providing little obstacle to the terrorists, gangsters, and paedophiles they are trying to catch! Liberal Democrats in Government stopped barmy Tory plans to withdraw Britain from these measures and in the European Parliament the Liberal Democrat MEP for London, Sarah Ludford, fights week in and week out to keep us safe from crime with our civil liberties left intact.
  • The Environment – did you know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently said that sea levels will rise faster than at any rate for the last 40 years? There is a small window of opportunity for the global action on climate change we need if we are to avert complete disaster. Only as a member of a powerful European Union which will lead on the issue can the UK play a full part in ensuring we leave to our children an environment fit for them to live in.

On all these issues and more, Liberal Democrat MEPs are pushing for reforms which will make the difference to lives across the UK, working in partnership with our Lib Dem MPs and Ministers in Westminster. In the run up to May 22nd it is down to all of us to spread the word about the great work that Liberal Democrats are doing locally, in Westminster, and at European level to ensure that we are creating jobs, securing people from crime, and protecting our environment. Tomorrow I will write more about how we can help you do that.

* Matt J. McLaren stood as an MEP candidate for London in May’s European Election and was recently appointed Parliamentary Spokesperson for Enfield North. Matt maintains an online blog here.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International.


  • I’d say there’s one missing… Influence.
    Our influence in Europe and in the world at large is far greater when we positively engage with Europe than it would be if we were to leave (as UKIP/half of the Tories want) or disengage (as the other half of the Tories / much of Labour wants).

  • Alex Macfie 21st Oct '13 - 1:10pm

    a good start, but still misses the point somewhat. This still seems somewhat technocratic, and merely celebrates the successes of the EU in general, rather than Lib Dems specifically have done to influence it. I would like to see a much more bullishly partisan approach to campaigning on EU issues in European elections, saying what our MEPs, as Lib Dems and Liberals, have done and will do differently from what Labour MEPs and their social-democratic allies would do, and from what Tory MEPs and their extremist allies would do. We should also not just celebrate Lib Dem successes in Europe, but note our failures: i.e. for votes in the European Parliament that the ALDE MEPs have lost, say what we would have supported and what we would have wanted to see instead.
    On the issues Matt cites:
    Trade policy: we must take a firm stand against policy laundering in trade deals (where vested corporate interests exploit the secretive nature of trade negotiations to write into agreements laws that otherwise would not pass democratic scrutiny). MEPs rightly rejected ACTA (Lib Dem MEPs did, while Tories sat on the fence). We must subject TAFTA, CETA and others to the same scrutiny, and be prepared to reject agreements that contain, for example, language similar to ACTA
    European Arrest Warrant: Good idea in principle, the practice less so. Yes, we need a cross-border arrest warrant system, but its operation must be consistent with the principles of natural justice, and as Liberals we need to be much more explicit about the need for reform, and specific about what sort of reform is needed. For instance, warrants that are refused need to be automatically invalidated. Also there needs to be a much stricter rule about what type of crimes it can be used for, and put a stop to certain states (notably Poland) misusing EAWs to pursue people accused of petty misdemeanours.
    Environment: We should note that Tory MEPs voted against measures to combat climate change, in some cases causing the battle to be lost.
    Voting for Lib Dem MEPs will make it more likely that we shall win on this issue.

    On working with Lib Dem MPs and Ministers, yes, OK, but remember that there is separation of powers between the European Parliament and the Council, so it is the job of our MEPs to scrutinize the positions put forward by Ministers in the Council, whoever is in power nationally. Just as President Obama could not rely on unqualified support even from a Democrat-controlled Congress, so our Ministers should not expect unqualified support from our MEPs. So where the UK government position conflicts with the position of the Lib Dems party in the EP, our MEPs should not be afraid to criticise the government position, even when the Minister proposing it happens to be from our party.
    I would expect our MEPs to be critical friends of Lib Dem Ministers. Chris Davies has called the European Parliament a “coalition-free zone”, since our MEPs are free to advance and implement the undiluted Lib Dem line on issues, unlike our Ministers, who are singing from a Government hymn-sheet rather than a Party one.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Oct '13 - 6:09pm

    “Jobs – did you know that over 3 million jobs in the UK depend on Britain’s membership of the European Single Market?”

    Sounds good. Now explain (as you would need to to a sceptic) just how exactly that figure is not 1 million or 5 million or any other figure in between. Because without serious explanation, they will not believe a word of it, right or no.

  • @ Tony Dawson: Yes I agree. The 3 million figure is very old and rather too often used without any explanation.

    @ Alex Macfie: Good point. We should be talking about what we Lib Dems have achieved and what our opponents have done. We could for example talk about UKIP and their lack of attendance and their lack of transparency when it comes to their allowances.

  • Michael Cole 22nd Oct '13 - 1:48pm

    Not often mentioned and maybe taken for granted, but we have not had a war (Balkans excepted) between the major European nations since the inception of the EU.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd Oct '13 - 2:04pm

    @Julian Tisi : Yes, and we could also talk about the Tory MEPs and their hobnobbing with right-wing extremists. This would serve a dual purpose: as well as highlighting the difference in policy between us and the Tories in the European Parliament, it would also be useful in the 2015 general election to point to the voting patterns of Tory MEPs and cite them as indicative of what the Tories might do if they were in government on their own. I really don’t understand why the Lib Dems don’t make more of the Tory MEPs’ right-wing politics and raving-right bedfellows, as these provide an excellent opportunity for differentiation between us and them.

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