Lightning can indeed strike twice. Only last week, democracy was subverted by the European Parliament stitching up the vice-presidents to break the mould of the usual system. This week, they apply similar undemocratic tactics to the composition of Committees.
In the European Parliament, the chairmanship (and vice-chairmanships) of a committee is allocated by strict formulas. The bigger groups receive the chair of more committees than the smaller groups. This is then rubber-stamped by a vote within the committees themselves. In this case, the EFDD Group (which contains pro-democracy members from Italy, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Sweden and Latvia alongside our own Ukip delegation) was due to receive the Chair of the Petitions Committee.
I’ve been assigned to the Budget and Budgetary Control committees. So, I got yet another up close and personal example of how neatly anyone who dares to express views other than extreme europhilia is suppressed in this place. We had an Italian candidate for the fourth vice-president of the Budget Committee, who I duly proposed. The other political groups immediately outvoted him, despite the earlier agreement. It’s not because of Ukip either – elsewhere in the committees, the same happens to the German AfD Party – which isn’t in our group.
Eleonora Evi of the Italian Five Star Movement was due to be appointed as the chair of the Petitions Committee this afternoon. If any party has the right credentials to govern a Petitions Committee, it is the Italian Five Star Movement. They support direct democracy and standing up for the wishes of citizens. They want the public to participate in politics through online referenda.
Could it be, that the European Parliament would soon have a voice for democracy chairing the committee that deals with citizens’ petitions? What an incredible opportunity for the European Parliament to offer even one small concession to democracy!
Instead, the Liberal Democrat group saw a chance to power-grab. Ignoring the results of the elections, they repeated their ruse from the previous week and broke the agreement which had been carefully negotiated between every group in the European Parliament. They attempted to persuade the Petitions Committee to overturn the agreement, and the establishment groups didn’t just turn their backs. They supported this subversion of the process and democracy was defeated once again.
In the European Parliament as in the UK, the Liberal Democrats have proven themselves to be neither liberal nor democratic.
I came to this place already opposed to the European Union. But if I’d been a waverer, the utter hypocrisy of the last week would have persuaded me of one thing: it is beyond hope, beyond even the possibility of reform.