Tag Archive: European Union

‘Genuine’ Representative Democracy?

Tim Wigmore has an article in The Staggers, the political blog of the New Statesman, one with a heading:  Parliament must shed privately-educated and Westminster bubble MPs to win voters’ trust; and a sub-heading: As voters become more inclined to plump for an option outside the mainstream, or stay at home altogether, parties should recognise the electoral gains in becoming more genuinely representative of Britain today.

When one looks at this author’s ‘bio‘, it becomes necessary to firstly think that he needs to ‘grow-up’ a tad before pontificating on a subject on which he has obviously given little thought. That is not to decry the attempt of one so young to offer a suggestion to what is wrong with our current system of democracy; unfortunately, in his case, it just illustrates that he is part of the grouping about which he complains.

There have been, of late, many articles attempting to make our current system of representative democracy more representative, of which Wigmore’s is the latest – and all are akin to attempting to turn water into wine. We are all aware that, reputedly, only one person has performed that trick; although David Blain did turn coffee into money, albeit with a littletrickery.

Our political class indulge in ‘trickery’ – although their form of ‘trickery’, which in comparison is in the kindergarten class as it relies on a more basic form, namely that of lying. Witness that when Cameron and Clegg usurped power in 2010 they promised, among other things, to create a power of recall thus enabling an electorate to recall their Member of Parliament if they so desired (page 27:  A Programme for Government); only for it to be found that the final decision would be taken by a committee of MPs. It was also promised that 200 all-postal primaries would be held in seats that had not changed hands for many years and that local residents would be given the power to call for local referendums n any local issue – yet we still await the first; and on the second we then found that the results of such referendums could be ignored if the local authority so chose – but perhaps I digress?

Wigmore, like Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Cash, Carswell, Hannan and Boris Johnson, is but a talking head from within the Westminster Bubble running round in circles trying to achieve the impossible – namely attempting to make our current system of democracy more representative – genuinely or otherwise. It cannot be done, because:

  • How can such a system be representative when a political party, ‘achieving office’, can pass any piece of legislation it likes and those who are supposed to be represented have no means of halting said piece of legislation?
  • How can such a system be representative when there is no separation twixt Executive and Legislature, meaning that those elevated to the Executive cannot represent those they were elected to represent?
  • How can such a system be representative when prospective candidates are ‘parachuted in’, at the whim of their political party, without the agreement of the electorate they will be asked to represent?
  • How can such a system be representative when those elected are ‘whipped’ to support their ‘party line’ in any vote held in Parliament, purely to keep that party in power?
  • How can such a system be representative when those who are supposed to represent feed those that are supposed to be represented false information?
  • How can such a system be representative when taxation – and levels of taxation – can be imposed on a people when the people on whom said taxation is levied are unable to object or decide on what and how that taxation should be spent?

It is all very well for Wigmore to bemoan the fact that Parliament is unrepresentative because there is an imbalance twixt male and female members of parliament or that the ethnic mix is still out of kilter with that of the present electorate. Were either of those two factors to be addressed it would still not make parliament ‘representative’ while the defects noted above still exist.

Boris Johnson is consider by some to be a buffoon – and the latest to so agree is Simon Nixon writing in the Wall Street Journal. Yet Johnson, among the political class, is not alone with not one Member of Parliament seemingly able to produce a coherent and factual utterance on this country’s membership of the European Union. Wigmore may well consider members of parliament to be assiduous – that they most definitely are is beyond doubt when you read and listen to their views on ‘matters EU’, spouting as they do utter piffle. Unfortunately piffle is not confined to just our political class, it even appears from those considered to be ‘experts’ on the subject, experts which include think tanks such as Open Europe and even the economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group.

Civitas has entered the fray, joining Nixon and others in the condemnation of Boris Johnson’s recent report. We are, it seems, to be blessed with two further reports on (1) ways of leaving the European Union and (2) the views of business on that subject, the first of which is due to appear on Wednesday of next week. Needless to say, when these reports are published, where coherence and fact are concerned, I’m not holding my breath.

Young Wigmore needs to start again by returning to the kindergarten class because Parliament not only needs to shed its privately educated members, along with its Westminster Bubble, but it needs to return the sovereignty that it has usurped from those to whom it belongs.

What we have at the moment is not only not representative – hell, it doesn’t even have any vestige of democracy.









Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink

Those words,forming the heading to this article, are from The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and nowadays is used to describe a situation in which someone is in the midst of plenty but cannot partake of it. Substitute the word ‘water’ with ‘democracy’……… (but yet again I digress).

The European Commission has announced a ‘consultation‘ for the public and ‘stakeholders’ on the subject of water and its re-use; from which:

Water re-use is not widespread in Europe. Most wastewater from urban treatment plants is simply flushed out into rivers and lakes. But increasing re-use would help us respond to the increasing problems of water scarcity and drought, while reducing the risk of contamination from wastewater and lowering treatment costs. Re-use of water also has a lower environmental impact than getting it from other sources such as inter-regional water transfers or desalination.

In spite of these advantages and the considerable potential for further development, There are several reasons why the level of re-use is so low, including:

  • Lack of common EU environmental/health standards for water re-use

  • Potential obstacles to the free movement of agricultural products that were irrigated with re-used water

  • Inadequate water pricing and business models

  • Low stakeholder awareness about the benefits of water re-use

  • Lack of public acceptance

  • Technical barriers and scientific uncertainties

The European Commission is launching a public consultation on a range of possible EU measures that would encourage the re-use of treated wastewater. We want to know what citizens, stakeholders, businesses, NGOs and public authorities think about the potential of re-use and obstacles to it, and what kind of regulatory and non-regulatory EU measures could effectively address these concerns and increase the uptake of safe water re-use in the EU.

Before the ‘EU Fanatics’ pile in bemoaning yet more EU interference, it is necessary to follow the golden rule of tracing such intentions back to their source. That source, in this field, once again involves our old friend the United Nations Economic Council Europe (UNECE) and their ‘work’, with others, in this field – and in particular a paper with the title of: The Post 2015 Water Thematic Consultation, the background and beginnings of which can be found here.

In what can only be called a sop to democracy it will be noted that citizens are invited to put forward their views. It is indeed a sop as the only voices which will be heard will be those of stakeholders, NGOs, businesses and public authorities; and by giving weight to these bodies it just perpetuates the divide and rule method of EU governance whereby the voice of the people and their elected governments can be ignored. 

 When one considers that what is happening here, with the relationship between the European Union and global standard-setting bodies creating under our very noses a form of global governance, it really does become necessary to acknowledge a New World Order. With so much regulation having its origins in the United Nations one could be forgiven for asking not only why is the EU there, but why do we have national governments?



Far from the maddening truth

I note that Ed Miliband has come out with what one might term ‘weird and wonderful truths’ in respect of ways in which to ‘revitalise’ our rail system.

Yet again we find Miliband being completely blind to the ‘user pays’ principle, something about which I have written previously, the latest being this article. In common with the political class in general, Miliband thus chooses to ignore the constraints imposed by the European Union on the UK’s transport policy.

Another example of being economical with the actualité is the subject of Crossrail, which is being sold to us as a ‘UK Innovation’ when it is in fact part of the TEN-T ‘core-network’ project (more on this in the immediate days ahead). Crossrail is heralded as the saviour of cross-London travel, the line running from Shenfield, in Essex, to Heathrow.


(click to enlarge)

One has to ask what earthly use is this line to those in the North of England (Manchester or Newcastle) who will not travel by train to London(an hour or two), then take the Circle Line to Paddington, followed by a 26 minute journey to Heathrow – when they can board a plane direct to Heathrow with a flight time of about 20/30 minutes?

Which kind of leaves Miliband’s idea of devolving decisions over the running of regional and local services so that areas can bring together trains, buses, trams into a single network in what might be termed: tatters?

More on the EU’s plans for’ transport’, where the UK is concerned, in the next 2/3 days – stay tuned, please?


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (7)

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

And the great fleas, themselves, in turn
Have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still,
And greater still, and so on.

A childhood rhyme which perfectly illustrates the complexity involved when attempting to discover the origins of law, viz-a-viz local government, national government, the EU and the various United Nations bodies; not forgetting the role played by NGOs, pressure groups, etc.

Readers may recall that on the 1st of this month I wrote about Ed Miliband’s plan to devolve power by means of Combined Authorities and linked it to Hazel Blears’ attempt to create Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs). Of course prior to that we had John Prescott’s failed attempt to create regional government in the North East; and subsequently, with the faux election of the present Coalition government in 2010, the replacement of Regional Assemblies with Local Area Partnerships (same animal, different name).

It will also be recalled by readers that the EU never gives up in its aim of creating a ‘European state’, leaving no stone unturned in the hope of achieving something it has so far failed to do – the creation of a European demos.

It will therefore come as no surprise to see that the idea of regionalisation has reappeared under the guise of creating an Urban Agenda; an idea in which the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic Social Committee (EESC) will also have a ‘finger in the pie’.

Today Johannes Hahn, EU Regional Policy Commissioner is asking EU citizens to share their views on an EU Urban Agenda – what form it should take and how it should be put into action. The Commissioner is calling for a wide engagement by stakeholders and city dwellers in a public consultation alongside a formal Communication just published by the European Commission – a document entitled: The Urban Dimension of EU Policies – Key Features of an EU Urban Agenda (Well worth reading – it is only 12 pages).The weight of any views from an individual will no doubt be zilch when those of the stakeholders are also included.

Returning to the subject of fleas – and their order of importance – where the setting of global standards is concerned, with food standards Codex is the top table – and there are many others, all under the aegis of the United Nations. There is also, for example: the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) based in Rome; the United Nations Economic Council (UNECE) based in Geneva; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris; the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) based in Montreal; the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) based in Basel; and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) based in Bonn.

If readers have referred to the formal Communication they will see referenced (among others too numerous to mention at this juncture) the OECD and the UNFCCC. The OECD for example is responsible for The definition of a Functional Urban Area (FUA); and from page 2 we read that the OECD in collaboration with the EU (Eurostat and EC-DG Regio) has developed a harmonised definition of urban areas as “functional economic units”.

Like the Phoenix, a mythical bird that arises from its own ashes, so has the regionalisation meme been reborn, albeit under another name and policy. At this point it becomes necessary to question the origin of Labour’s policy for Combined Authoritities; and in this instance, just for once, I do not digress – you work it out, its not difficult.

It will also be noted that Miliband, like Cameron, is indeed a small flea.



News is how it is interpreted

In today’s Open Europe Press Summary there is mention of a comment on the nomination of Lord Hill by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

He is quoted in both Reuters Deutschland and Handelsblatt, with the Google translation telling us:

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz has expressed skepticism about the British EU commission candidate Lord Jonathan Hill. “I can not imagine that Hill with his radical anti-European views if he should have, in the European Parliament, a majority agrees with me,” Parliament President Martin Schulz told the Germany radio on Wednesday. A rejection was “not possible”.

In contrast Open Europe informs us:

Meanwhile, speaking to Deutschlandfunk radio this morning, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament said of Hill, “I cannot imagine that with his radical anti-European views, as far as he should hold them, that Hill can get a majority in the European Parliament… It will become clear if Mr Hill approaches us without prejudice, and that will certainly influence whether or not he gets a majority [in the EP].” He added that a rejection of Hill “cannot be ruled out.”

Martin Schulz has no comedic tendencies (unlike his namesake Charles M. Schulz, originator of the Peanuts strip cartoon) being a very serious, committed believer in the European Union. As such, he knows that the European Parliament can only accept the nominees as a whole – they cannot veto the appointment of an individual nominee. If Lord Hill is ‘blackballed’, a word in Juncker’s ear will be delivered and he then has the choice of reshuffling his commission portfolios and if the word in his ear is ‘no way, not under any circumstances’ then Juncker would have to ask Cameron for a replacement commission nominee.

While accepting that Google translate is not the best, there is a great deal of difference between ‘not possible’ and ‘cannot be ruled out’. Perhaps Open Europe should have clarified this section of their press summary, because what their press summary alludes to is the idea that Hill, as an individual, can be rejected.

If we now look at the transcript of the interview with Deutschlandfunk we find that what Schulz said is that a Commission which included Hill, or any other eurosceptic, may not be accepted. Pressed further it is then that Schulz says:

Yes, of course! This is not ruled out.

Not only that but we learn that Schulz spoke to David Lidington about Lord Hill – something which it appears is not mentioned by the British media. Note also the ‘slur’ by Schulz when he refers to Lord Hill as Mister Hill – but I digress.

Open Europe is not renowned for authenticity where matters EU are concerned and their views are quite often picked up by the media, either being quoted verbatim or ‘interpreted’ – the latter then presenting an entirely different story for public consumption.

This example is but another that shows being economical with the actualité only leads to the public being misinformed. While this practice continues just how is the public supposed to form an opinion on which to base their views, or vote come any referendum?




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The continuing EU saga

Jean Claude Juncker is reported to have said that that Britain will be able to repatriate powers from the EU ahead of an in-out referendum. The actual words spoken were:

I would like Britain to stay as an active constructive member of the European Union. If Britain puts forward a proposal it will be taken under consideration……I am not in principle saying that no kind of repatriation can take place. If Westminster wants to recover competences, OK. If the others agree, it shall be done.

Juncker is not yet Commission President, being subject to a vote of ‘approval’ by the European Parliament next week, so technically his words carry no weight. In any event David Cameron has admitted that some of that which he seeks will require treaty change – something that will require a Convention and an IGC, which means that that route for Cameron is no use whatsoever if he wishes to meet his 2017 schedule – and that is something that Juncker must also know; so the question that has to be asked is just what is Juncker actually saying? Presumably it will be along the lines of: Lets give this sop a few sops with which he can pull the wool over the eyes of the British people once again.

Juncker has been ‘appearing’ before some of the European political groupings; the European Conservatives & Reform Group (ECR); the Socialists & Democrats (S&D); and the Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – with the European Peoples Party (EPP) holding a summit on 16th July, prior to the meeting of the European Council.

The ECR have decided that they cannot support Juncker next week; the S&D don’t seem to have made up their mind, although no doubt they will ‘fall into line’; ALDE will support him although they have made quite plain that under no circumstances will they allow the United Kingdom to be treated as a special case, stating:

We strongly oppose the idea of allowing for a special treatment for the UK. Any adjustment or modification of the treaties can only be done on a collective basis including all member states and should if necessary require the holding of a convention

On such ‘unity’ will the European Union continue its inexorable march towards its Utopian dream.




Playing with words

Yesterday, Ambrose Evans Pritchard had an article in the Telegraph in which he maintains that the Cromwellian method by which Jean-Claude Juncker was foisted upon the nation states is a breach of the Treaties and that the Treaty that emerged did not give the European Parliament powers to pick the head of the Commission. Yes, the Spitzenkandidaten process is not mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty, but then neither is a renegotiation of membership terms process – outside of Article 50.

Article 17(7) of the Treaty of Lisbon is quite specific, namely that the nominee for the position of Commission president is subject to a treaty process:

This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.

Do note the word ‘elected’, also that the European Council could propose who they liked (and have more than one attempt) but until they came up with the name that was acceptable to the European Parliament, only then would the position of Commission president be filled.

It seems to me that the continual ‘bleating’ by Cameron of the Spitzenkandidaten process - and supported by articles like the one linked to above – is a red herring as a cover for his acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty, something which he did when he informed the people he was now unable to give them the referendum he promised.

AEP also writes that:

The prerogative lies entirely with elected EU leaders accountable to their own voters, a safeguard that anchors authority in the sovereign states.

Leaving to one side, as I have shown, the fact that elected EU leaders have no prerogative, even if they did the fact that such leaders are not directly accountable to their own voters over their choice of Commission president (at least in the UK) is but another Telegraph smoke and mirrors exercise – neither is there, therefore, any safeguard.

AEP, continuing his rewriting of the actualité continues:

Euro-MPs have the right to turn down the Commission. They may not appoint it.

At the end of the day it is the European Parliament that decides who will become Commissioners. Consequently all those politicians (and journalists) complaining about a sideshow need to learn to read and understand that which they have read.

AEP also writes:

Yet the earthquake upset in May went entirely in the opposite direction, a primordial scream by Europe’s peoples against (EU overreach and the job destruction of crude austerity).

But, back in May 2010 was there not a similar primordial scream by the people of the UK against the then three main parties – in effect saying that they didn’t want any of them? As with the EU and Juncker, so with the people of the UK – the only difference is that instead of getting one unwanted person , the UK got two of them.




Nelson, among others, turns a blind eye

I have refrained from writing about the Juncker debacle as, in my view, it is pointless becoming excited until we know the result of who will be ‘nominated’ for the position of Commission president. That has not stopped journalists working themselves into an apparent frenzy and two such articles appear today in the Telegraph and the Independent.

Fraser Nelson, in the Telegraph, believes David Cameron is the only leader with the courage to take on Europe, maintaining that the meeting of EU Heads of State is a ‘summit’ – one can only suggest Nelson refers to a dictionary for the meaning of that word.

He writes that Cameron arrived shocked at the fact that people say one thing in private and another in public, but then doesn’t Cameron when he gives his press conferences after these meetings? 

Nelson also writes that  the European Parliament is an obscure institution that now wants to make a power grab and appoint the head of the European Commission. Nelson needs to go and read the Treaty on European Union – and specifically Article 17(7) bfore he writes such tosh again. He would then know that the Lisbon Treaty did not introduce a vague pledge that national leaders need to take the Euro elections “into account” when choosing a new Commission chief; that it was quite specific that they should and it was also quite specific that if the Council’s nominee did not get a majority vote in the European Parliament then Council leaders would need to have another go.

One again in Nelson’s article we get the meme that Cameron vetoed a fiscal treaty, so perhaps Nelson can inform us of the name of that draft treaty and when the required convention and IGC was held and where.

The other article is one in the Independent by Chris Blackhurst who writes that most business leaders want the UK to remain in the EU to facilitate their ability to trade with the EU.

What Blackhurst and the business leaders do not seem to realise is the fact that to trade with the EU one does not have to be ‘in’ the EU – one needs to be in the Single Market. This could easily be accomplished by a sideways move to EFTA (if they will have us) and retaining our membership of the EEA – a move which would have no impact on our trading relationship with the EU. To that suggestion one can already hear the voices raised about influencing decisions etc; but then neither Blackhurst nor the business leaders appear to have the faintest idea about the origin of law and standards.

When we have idiots such as all the above pontificating, telling us what is not what, is it any wonder the public know squat-diddly about anything?



What if? (Scotland)

An ‘interesting’ paper has appeared from the European Policy Centre, authored by Graham Avery who is a Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre, Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and Honorary Director-General of the European Commission.

The caveat in the paper is that the views expressed are those of Graham Avery – no wonder…………


Horse trading in Brussels

Following the European elections the process has begun by which the candidacies for President of the European Commission  are discussed by the Heads of States at an informal dinner this evening. Also beginning is the process by which the formation of official groups within the European Parliament will be decided.

The Financial Times reports that David Cameron has already begun an attempt to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP candidate, with Merkel giving what is described as ‘lukewarm’ support. However Open Europe quotes Merkel saying: It’s always been said that it’s up to the strongest group to put forward the candidate, but just being the strongest group is not enough, a majority is required.

The FT also reports that as Cameron’s position is weakened to a certain extent, he would however agree to Juncker being appointed as President of the European Council – which would, one could say, result in Van Rompuy being ‘juncked’.

The Treaty of Lisbon does allow the European Council to consider the candidacy of someone who is not one of the candidates who took part in the recent series of debates, however there is the small matter of the European Parliament being able to reject any suggestion that the European Council makes for the position of  Commission President. It should also be remembered that during the last debate between the candidates both Schulz and Verhofstadt stated that this person must come from within the candidates, Schulz adding that any other nominee would be rejected by the European Parliament.

With the statement by Schulz, it is logical to assume that the hands of the  European Council are somewhat ‘tied’ – interesting days ahead, methinks.

Update: See what I mean about horse trading – and what deals within deals will be made?

Update 2: The European Parliament flexing its muscles?


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