Dishonourable exception

In a democracy, people who want to change or undermine the system have the option to gather support and stand for election within that system — but they then have to decide what to do if they’re elected within the very system they want to break up.

If you’re elected to a parliament of which you disapprove, there are two honourable ways of behaving:

  • Like the Scottish Nationalists in the UK Parliament, you can take your seat and then participate constructively in the work for which the electorate chose you, acting in your country’s interests while intending to change its membership of the system. If you do this, you can honourably take the appropriate salary and incur parliamentary expenses.
  • Or, like Sinn Fein, you can refuse to take your seat, decline the salary and not incur any parliamentary expenses.

What I find dishonourable is to invent a third alternative, where you refuse to do any work but still take the salary and expenses.

With a few exceptions, UKIP MEPs went for this third alternative in the last parliament.

Nigel Farage notoriously failed to attend more than a single meeting of the Fishing Committee on which he sat, during a period when a vital reform of fishing policy — crucially important for Britain — was being thrashed out. He was happy to posture in a few set-piece debates, where his status as a party leader means he was called early, but that was all. He never once rolled up his sleeves to do the job to which he was elected, even when Britain risked a raw deal as a result. Other UKIP MEPs did even less, and many of them boasted about it.

Of course, UKIP lost nearly half its MEPs in the last parliament because of their internal feuding. So will their new lot be any different, and act any more honourably? So far, I doubt it.

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10 Comments

  1. Of course the exclusion of some MEPs like the German AfD members from some posts, mainstream conservatives with a critical stance on the future of the pooled currency, also shows bad practice. If parliament internal rules discriminate against political minorities that is bad. Thankfully some fringe MEPs do very good work in the field of parliament questions.

    Concerning the UKIP I fully agree with you, its destructive agenda harms the UK interests but you get what you elect.

  2. UKIP use their seats in the Brussels parliament to publicise what’s going on there and oppose UK membership. From following their channels on YouTube, you can already see the new class in quite a number of debates. (Of course if MEPs were allowed more than a minute or two to speak, they might be able to do more!) Farage’s “set piece” speeches have attracted millions of views, brought the party to prominence in the UK and publicised Euroscepticism across the continent.

    However, from the point of view of a Eurosceptic, it makes little difference what work they might do on commmittees. Your ScotNat analogy is invalid. ScotNat MPs are considered mainstream in the UK parliament and can work with Labour and other parties on a range of issues. Eurosceptic MEPs in Brussels are treated as extremists for not believing in the EU project and are still sufficiently outnumbered that there is no realistic chance they can block laws or affect meaningful change. if they did what Sinn Fein did and refuse to attend, it would accomplish nothing, and people like yourself would simply use their non-attendance to knock them instead.

  3. Agree with your general point Richard. However, important to point out that Sinn Fein MPs actually do take parliamentary expenses. Indeed, they show themselves to be considerably attracted to such expenses.

  4. Speaking of the hard right – I’m looking at an EU document about billions in aid to Ukraine
    http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/pdf/ukraine-package_en.pdf

    My questions for Mr Corbett are –

    Why is the EU giving money to a country which is currently using a neo nazi battalion to quell resistance in a civil war ?

    Is this money going to be diverted to help to shell and snipe civilians ?

    Does the civil war in Ukraine, with one of it’s aims being harmonisation with or entry to the EU – please correct me if I’m wrong, involve ethnic cleansing ?

  5. Dear John, after the downing of the Boeing 777, and the “difficulty” of recovering corpses in a decent manner, the “difficulty” (euphenism) in permitting a proper independent inquiry, are you 100 per cent sure the neo Nazi battalion fight on one side?

  6. The plane has nothing to do with it. Ukraine was using neo nazis the day before it crashed, and it will be using them the day after it crashed, and apparently we will be supporting them as they do so. The EU is giving aid to Ukraine regardless – that’s our money going to support them – seems to me.
    It would be pretty disgusting to use the 777 to distract from that. If that’s what you are doing then I won’t bother to reply to you.

    • As you know, John, the Union has been organized by a series of treaties signed by ALL member-states.
      It has been agreed that states that have the status of official applicant member will receive money from the Union to help to fill the requirements to join the Union.
      Ukraine is one of those states.
      Of course rules and even treaties can be changed. But unanimity is required since the Constitution was rejected in 2005.
      Let me ask you one question, how come this subject – ie European money for a neo Nazi Ukraine – has not started a bigger row in Europe?

  7. And then there’s Greece. Whatever the EU is doing in Greece it isn’t working and you have deadly warfare breaking out between Golden Dawn and other factions.
    As soon as I saw an oil supply chart years ago I expected things to turn this way. We have a fossil fuel economy, and a quadrupling in the price of oil over the last decade – naturally people will start fighting each other and seeking scapegoats as their lives become harder. Labour isn’t going to magically find more oil, nobody is, oil didn’t get in the ground due to government policy. The people who seem to most understand this are the Germans with their massive renewables deployment.

  8. ….I mean, can you imagine if England decided Scotland wasn’t allowed to leave the UK, and the EDL and their ilk decided to do something about it, formed paramilitary battalions, and started shelling Scottish towns and roaming the lowlands executing civilians and resistors on the direction of Westminster – and the EU decided to give a few billion to the UK just to help the economy a bit ?
    I know this is a sexy fantasy for some of those in UKIP, but really, I don’t expect it from an institution that is supposed to be all about human rights and democracy.
    Not that Ukraine isn’t cracking under the strain of Eastern *and* Western oligarchs and politicians playing tug-of-war over it, it doesn’t look to me like anyone is innocent apart from the poor folk who actually want a non-corrupt and civil democracy, and a job, and just wind up being caught in the crossfire.

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