So, then, those European elections, eh? For those who don't follow European politics, the gag here is that we get to elect `Members of the European Parliament' to go to Brussels (or, from time to time, Strasbourg) and collect enormous expenses cheques. Occasionally the rest of the EU's governing apparatus (which, for some reason, I keep thinking is the Directorate, but which in reality is called the Commission) let them play at politics by amending a Directive before backing out all their amendments and having the Council of Ministers approve it on the nod. The rest of the time I presume that the MEPs amuse themselves in the fine bars and restaurants of Brussels and try to figure out how to get in on the massive corruption practised by the rest of the EU's bureacracy.
Do I sound cynical? Disenchanted, perhaps? Maybe I am. But I'm the staunchest supporter of the European Union of anyone I know.
So, anyway, we're going to have an election -- on the tenth of June -- and it's everyone's democratic duty to be one of the twenty-or-so percent of people who will vote in the European elections. For whom should I vote?
The way you're supposed to do this is to read the manifesto of each candidate (or, since this is a pretend election in which you get to vote for parties rather than people, the manifesto of each party), weigh them up on their pros and cons, and decide which best represents your views. Then vote for them.
This should be a tedious and time-consuming task. Manifestos are long and policies are complicated. However, in this case it turns out that an even easier approach works: read each manifesto until you encounter something really offensive or stupid, then stop and reject that party. If you ever reach the end of a manifesto, then you should consider voting for that party. (In the unlikely event that you reach the end of more than one manifesto without gagging, then I'd suggest that your moral compass is out of order and you need to fix it.)
So to the parties and their candidates. For Eastern Region (this is neither a region of validity for a railway ticket nor an address in Airstrip One, but in fact a bunch of counties in East Anglia plus some hangers-on) six parties are standing, plus the independent candidate Martin Bell. (Note that because of the idiotic electoral system, even if 99% of votes in Eastern Region were cast for an individual independent candidate, the other parties would still pick up six out of the seven seats. I cannot even begin to understand the confusion of ideas -- or straightforward party-political dishonesty -- which was responsible for this absurd state of affairs. Morons.)
So, to the line-up: (the excellent -- if idealistic and doomed -- Blog:Vote links to the major parties' manifestos)
For god's sake. It's the British fucking National Party. You expect me to read their manifesto? Do they have one? Can they write? It turns out that they don't have a manifesto for the European elections, so no dice. (Yes, I looked on their web site. Now I feel dirty.)
This one mostly reads pretty reasonably, until we get to page 16, wherein the Conservatives -- creditably -- explain that they support decoupling of agricultural subsidies from production. Then they bring in some other protectionist shite (disguised as a proposal for protecting animal welfare and means to prevent foot-and-mouth disease). Things get worse on page 18, where we have the usual `reasonable' rhetoric on asylum and immigration. Then at the end we learn that the Tory MEPs in the Parliament will remain members of the EPP-ED group, which is in favour of the propsed Constitution. The Tories have apparently negotiated some kind of opt-out from this within their group, but it's not promising.
The Green Party have a manifesto specifically for the European elections, but, though mentioned in a press release on their web site, it doesn't actually seem to be accessible anywhere. I'd almost disqualify them on this basis, but since it's easy enough to dismiss them on the basis of their Manifesto for a Sustainable Society which is supposed to inform all their policy, I'll do that. It's not a single document, so I read it in a random order. There's a lot to disagree with there; they no longer explicitly describe their economic policy as anti-growth, but they're certainly in favour of more regulation. And their defence policy is at once silly and woolly. Nul points.
Stopped reading because: they're in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament and other rubbish too dull to list.
We have to wait until page 15 before we encounter something really offensive: the Labour party actually think that the European Arrest Warrant is a good thing! (The Arrest Warrant means that you can be arrested and extradited on an allegation made by another EU state, and the only say the British courts have in the matter is checking whether the form applying for a warrant was correctly filled out.)
Not only do these idiots believe that the Arrest Warrant is a good thing, they actually boast about how a Lib Dem MEP `piloted' the enabling legislation through the Parliament! They don't even have the decency to be ashamed of themselves. Fuckwits.
Bell's manifesto is only one page long, which is admirable. There's lots to complain about in there -- too many sops to the farming community, for one thing -- but nothing that actually screamed out `rubbish!' On that basis I am going to give it a (tentative) score of 1 out of 1.
Known to readers of Anthony Wells's web log as the swivel-eyed loons, their manifesto places them firmly on the swivel-eyed lunatic fringe. On the plus side though, it's only two pages long. I gagged on the first page, which reveals that one of their top five `policies' is to stop `unlimited EU immigration'; that is, they oppose the right for EU citizens to move and work anywhere in the EU. Since that's one of its chief advantages, that's nul points again. Had I got to the second page, I would have learned -- had I not spotted the clue in the name -- that the UKIP actually want the UK to leave the EU, which is a fucking stupid idea.
So at the end of this enterprise, I've discovered that the only `party' I should even consider voting for is Martin Bell's one-person party list, therefore ensuring that I waste 85% of my vote. And even my approval for Bell is very tentative. His manifesto is too woolly to be certain that he's actually sound on many issues, though -- so far as it goes -- it says more-or-less the right things in the right places. But he doesn't mention (for instance) the Arrest Warrant, so god knows what he thinks of that.
Other issues aren't mentioned at all. What about software patents, for instance? OK, so this is a minority issue (it shouldn't be, but that's life). The major British parties have been either plain wrong or dishonest on this issue, and of course none mention it in their manifestos.
It turns out the list of candidates I was reading was out of date. The BBC have the full one. Changes from the above list:
- The appearance of the English Democrats, who appear to be some sort of quasi-fascist mob; they're anti-immigration and believers in victims' justice. I read about two pages of their manifesto before giving up in disgust.
- There is a second independent candidate, Jim Naisbitt, standing in Eastern Region. I can't find anything about this chap on the web. He might be the most sensible of the lot (though standing as an unknown independent candidate in the European elections isn't a promising sign) but without further information I'll -- reluctantly -- assume that he's not. Sorry.
- The Pro-Life Alliance are standing. Now, we're all in favour of life, but of course what these people mean is that they're against abortion. Bzzzt! Nul points.
- Respect, The Unity Coalition have a full list. This is the Marxist George Galloway vehicle. And their rhetoric really is Marxist; they are `for need not profit' and want a Europe which `is a clear alternative to global capital'. They're also in favour of repealing the 1980s legislation on trades unions and various other things they've picked out of the fantasy policy bucket. Oddly they do have -- perhaps by accident -- some perfectly sensible policies: abolishing the Common Agricultural Policy -- about the only place where they want to decrease state intervention in the market; a liberal immigration policy; and a referendum on the Constitution. But the rest of it is nonsense. So nul points there too.
On a less creditable level, Steven Uncles of the English Democrats threatened to sue me (because of the use of the term `quasi-fascist' above), and then retracted his threat, after Anthony Wells pointed out that... political parties can't sue for defamation.