15 April 2009

Chasing their own tails

Did you know that "Europe" has not just been the most successful peace process ever (Denmark not having invaded Holland for some time) but has alos advanced the cause of democracy eastward and "removed the shackles of communism"? You did not? I thought everyone knew that. After all, that is what we were told by the Former British Soldier, Robin Matthews, who is also leader of Libertas in the UK (though, obviously not of Libertas.uk) and a prospective candidate for the Toy Parliament in the South-West.

He was introducing the London list- six prospective candidates, all people, as he explained after giving a ringing endorsement to the European project, which has, alas, gone astray, with experience in life and enthusiasm. Apparently, knowledge of anything to do with the EU or the Toy Parliament or, even, of basic history is not required. In fact, it might be a disadvantage. You wouldn't want the regional candidates to know more than the UK leader.

The candidates, should they be elected and, as they all pointed out with the list system a small party can have a disproportionate number of seats, will help to transform the EU. In fact, they will help to transform the EU into Europe because it is clear from the speeches made by Mr Matthews and the three candidates at the table that they see all bad things - unaccountability, lack of transparency, lack of democracy - as being part of the EU and all good things - errrm, that peace process and the wonderful effect on the City of London - as being part of Europe.

What Libertas.eu, a ringingly pro-European party, will be aiming to do is "to reinstall accountability, openness and, most importantly, democracy at the heart of Europe".

Wisely, Mr Matthews did not waste any time explaining when all these highly desirable elements were last at the heart of Europe.

To be fair, neither he nor any of candidates wasted time explaining anything about the EU or even Europe. They did produce some shock-horror information. Apparently the accounts have not been certified (by an unspecified body as mentioning the Court of Auditors might be counted as information overload) for 14 years.

It seems that 80 per cent of our legislation comes from the EU and it is invariably initiated by unelected bureaucrats and that the Brussels elites ignore the wishes of the people of Europe, preferring to listen to lobbyists of whom there are a good many there. I am shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Interestingly enough, the will of the people only matters in connection with the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. There seemed to be political amnesia as far as the Danish no vote over Maastricht and the Irish no vote over Nice were concerned. When I raised the subject with one of the Libertas officials, it was waved aside in a "don't bother me with silly details" kind of way.

There was a good deal of talk about the referendum we did not have - always a good subject as Gordon Brown was undeniably being economical with the truth when he insisted that the Treaty of Lisbon was completely different from the Constitution for Europe. (We have written about it too many times on this blog to be able to manage links.)

There was more talk about MEPs' expenses, also a good knock-about subject and, of course, that old chestnut, the travel between Brussels and Strasbourg. When in a subsequent conversation I pointed out that this was in the treaty and not a lot can be done about that (my interlocutor, unlike the candidates knew about treaties and inter-governmental conferences) I was told that the Toy European Parliament can get round that by deciding not to go there more than about once a year or not at all.

Even if a large group of MEPs succeeded in abolishing the Strasbourg trips (and it sounds very unlikely that they will do so) this does not strike me as anything but displacement activity for people who have neither the knowledge, nor the curiosity, nor the courage to tackle the main issues. The Libertas official was taken aback when I pointed out that I did not consider them particularly radical as they were creating a position for themselves within the existing project. Indeed, I said using his own words, they merely wanted to reinforce the status quo.

Somebody has had a word with Mr Matthews because he has managed to update his speech. At the launch of Libertas in the UK he talked of Europe "chipping away at national sovereignty". I pointed out at the time the illogicality of using that as an argument for a party that wants to function on a pan-European basis. Clearly, someone else has had a go at the Former British Soldier (FBS, I think) and he no longer talks of that.

He has a new oratorial gimmick. Libertas is the logical political development of the twenty-first century. It is the one organization that looks forward and will deal with the problems of this century. The national parties, founded in the nineteenth century can deal only with national issues; they have failed comprehensively in ensuring that the great European project was not derailed by the EU elites in Brussels. A new radical pan-European movement is needed for that and Libertas.eu is the one to take on the mantle.

That would sound a lot better if Mr Matthews could grasp a simple fact: nationalism is not dead. The Soviet Union was brought down by a mixture of various movements among whom the national ones were extremely powerful. It is the EU or the European project that both he and Mr Ganley, not to mention the candidates, are so enamoured of that is completely out of date.

A creature of the mid-twentieth century it has shown itself unable to cope with the many problems of the twenty-first. It is unlikely to survive many more years and what will happen to Libertas.eu, that pro-European anti-Lisbon party?

That new and fresh formula that Mr Matthews and, in different words, the candidates keep talking about remains extraordinarily vague. They want elected Commissioners; well and good but how is that going to solve the problem of our own elected Parliament having no power over the legislation.

They want legislation to be initiated by the European Parliament and/or national parliaments with a complicated procedure afterwards to produce EU legislation. But how are they going to achieve that state of affairs and how is that going to help this country when something like the Droit de Suite legislation is pushed through by countries that have no interest in the art market to detriment of the ones (Britain and Netherlands) that do?

I may add that when I tried to explain what the Droit de Suite was and how it was passed and, indeed, what the role of the Council of Ministers is, the looks I received were blank though concerned. Well, I was told kindly, there is always legislation that one opposes, no matter how democratic a system is. But we are talking about legislation passed by people we do not vote for and who are not accountable to us; legislation that is not in our interest and, should other countries' representatives vote for it, we can do nothing about. Why do I bother?

That is, in fact, the question I asked myself as I walked out of the Royal Festival Hall where the launch took place (great view from the 6th floor) towards the Palace of Westminster. How many more of these launches can I attend before they cart me off to a padded cell?