The point of democracy

I predicted yesterday that UKIP would start bleating when their group’s candidates for a committee chair didn’t receive support from other political groups in the European Parliament.

On Twitter, they are now claiming this breaks “EU rules” and that democracy requires them to be given a committee chair!

So let’s get something straight. There is no requirement in legislation, or in the European Parliament rules, giving any party group the automatic right to have a committee chair. All committee chairs are elected by the members of the committee in question, and no-one can oblige any MEP to vote for a candidate he or she objects to.

It’s true that the main political groups have always agreed that committee chairs should be distributed widely, rather than having a winner-takes-all system as in the United States Congress. But there have been plenty of cases in the past where parties drew the line at voting for candidates that a large majority in parliament had serious objections to, for example from the racist right. And this time, it is not surprising that they are wary of candidates from a group whose leading members say they want to sabotage the work of the Parliament — much of the most important of this work happens in committees.

There is nothing new in this. In a properly democratic system, it’s perfectly normal that some parties vote against others. And at the end of the day, it’s up to each individual member to vote in a secret ballot, where nobody can force them to vote against their conscience.

So I take with a pinch of salt claims by UKIP members and supporters that this is undemocratic — and their incorrect (but surprising for UKIP) protest that EU rules have not been respected. I also note that they say they would have voted for a fascist candidate if a separate far-right group had been established.

And I won’t even bother to comment on the remark that a Labour principle is to “have some pie and a big black cock“, except to observe sadly that this is the level of debate at least some of them have stooped to.

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