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Tories look for new partners

Mark Mardell | 08:20 UK time, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Brown's in town later in the day, but at first light it is the opposition who are more interesting.

It's the longest divorce in history, but the relationship between the Conservatives and the European People's Party seems to be tottering towards a final parting of the ways.David Cameron, 19 Mar 09

One longstanding MEP, Christopher Beazley, has told me he is applying for full membership of the EPP as a protest. He's already announced he won't stand at the elections in June because of the move.

Another MEP, Edward McMillan Scott, makes me laugh telling me of his search under previous leaders, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, for suitable partners. He recalls wryly the discussions with a Dutch religious party which he says believes it is a sin for women to ride bicycles. He has promised to follow his leader and join a new group if partners can be found and expresses the hope that the intention is not to sit with what he calls "the mad and the bad" .

One of the men who first encouraged David Cameron down this route, Dan Hannan, has already left the EPP. He has a trenchant view on the subject of nutters as partners, making the point that all groups have their share of oddballs. But he suggests that a new umbrella group could change the very nature of the parliament, with a big group arguing for a Eurosceptic approach.

To form a European Parliament group you have to have seven nations involved and that has always been the tough hurdle for the Tories. The Czech ODS (main ruling party as I write, but maybe not by the end of the day) will join in, but no others are certain. But there are plenty of rumours. Law and Justice from Poland? The Italian Pensioners' Party? A Bulgarian or two? The only one I have managed to confirm as interested is the Danish People's Party.

But the Conservatives are being coy and say they won't tell us who their new chums are until after the election. My longstanding view has been that this was because they could not reach the desired numbers, but I have changed my mind. I think they will find enough new bedfellows, but that there is no need to invite them under the duvet until the votes are in. When they see the strength of other parties they can pick and choose new partners with greater ease: bringing the odd (but not strange) single MEP from here and there, and making more serious alliances with larger parties. There is no point linking up in advance with those who might fail, and no point alienating those who might do well. Listen to my report on the Today programme.


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  • 1. At 08:42am on 24 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    There is always the possibility that the torries don't care what happens in the EU over the next few years, because they estimate that nothing is going to happen in the EU during this period, because every member state will be focused on domestic matters.

    They may (correctly perhaps) judge that they can tap into the huge anti EU popular sentiment among large swathes of the labour vote, and win a national election on a eurosceptic platform. And after they win the national election, they can always rejoin a pro EU CDP. Indeed, they will be able to join on far better terms.

    I mean, what are the terms the CDP are currently offering? that the tories stand up in front of millions of britons who are losing jobs and seeing their economy fail, and say 'We love europe just like gordon brown!", or else?

    Else what? What can the EU do to punish britain at the present time? If they threaten britain with retribution, that will improve the torries standing in the eyes of an unhappy britain. The torries will be the churchill to the EU hitler.

    And after the torries win power, the EU will have britain back. The CDP will embrace the torries like long lost friends and continue their agenda as if nothing had happened.

    If there is one constant in the history of the EU, it is the ability of the Europhiles to forget the past and concentrate on convincing the people of the present to give up just a little bit more sovereignty. For the good of the people!

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  • 2. At 08:42am on 24 Mar 2009, Matthieu123 wrote:

    This illustrates how isolated the British views are in Europe. A party that represents about half of the country cannot find partners in 7 countries out of 26.

    And UK will be even more isolated when the Conservative Party gets to power.

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  • 3. At 08:50am on 24 Mar 2009, the-real-truth wrote:

    It has taken the British Tories (probably the largest eu-sceptic party with representation on the euro parliament) many years to get around to actually leaving the EPP.

    The argument they made was that the existing MPs had sat on a manifesto of being in the EPP.

    It is no big deal if it takes several more years for them to find enough partners to form a new grouping - it may even take another full term of the parliament - if that is the case then so be it. Better to sup alone than dine with the devil.

    However once a major group (like the tories) are free to reassociate - the whole dynamic may well be changed. There may be some who are just keen on being biger fish in a smaller pond of a new grouping, but with a real alternative maybe other individual MEPs will decide that their parties compromise towards frederalism in the EPP is something with which they will no longer put, and they may drag their parties with them... (remember it is the tory MEPs who forced the party to be part of EPP so far...).

    Until now the negotiations have been at party level, once the tories are free it is a whole new ball game.

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  • 4. At 08:57am on 24 Mar 2009, Menedemus wrote:


    As you may have pre-recorded your report for the Today Program already these questions and my thoughts may be superfluous but I will ask away anyway.

    What is the value of a political party nominated and then elected-by-default MEP joining up with similar or dissimilar EU Parliamentary groups? Do the UK MEPs for the Conservatives (or Labour or other UK political party)get to represent their constituents any better?

    Do these Conservative MEPs' constituents actually care about who the MEPs get into bed with in the factions formed within the EU Parliament and, if they don't care, should the constituents care?

    I somehow find the relevance of the forming of factions amongst the political party nominated EU parliamentary representatives somewhat low down in the matters of importance regarding the EU but, maybe, within this factional process there lies a clue to the lack of democratic accountability by EU MEPs of whatever politic persuasion?

    These factions may result in political voting that is contrary to the wishes of the very people who put the MEP into a position of power in the firts place and whose manifesto-persuaded votes may be overturned by in-house consensus voting to meet the faction's political intent of which the voters may not have any knowledge or clear understanding! It does not seem to me to be very democratic or representative of the voters' best interests?

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  • 5. At 09:09am on 24 Mar 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    The internal politics of the EU and EU Parliament are totally irrelevant to British politics.

    The subjects that are very relevant - and of interest to the British electorate - are the issues of 'ever closer union', the Lisbon (aka Constitutional) Treaty, ever-growing EU powers - and ever-diminishing national sovereignty, etc. These subjects, however, seem to be 'taboo'.

    To be fair though, the Tories promised to withdraw from the Federalist EEP group - and it's refreshing to see a Part stand by its manifesto commitments and not treat them just as 'aspirations'.

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  • 6. At 09:16am on 24 Mar 2009, britishandeuropean wrote:

    Leaving the largest group in the European Parliament to sit in isolation (or with some pretty odd characters) is throwing away power and influence.

    And why? Supposedly because the EPP has some federalists? Yet, it also has many non-federalists (Swedish conservatives, Ulster Unionists, Poles, Czech ODS, French Gaullists, etc etc). In any case, so what? It is national governments and parliaments that decide on the degree of integration - the European Parliament decides on the content of EU legislation in areas that the EU is already responsible for. On most such legislation, the Conservatives and other centre-right parties agree.

    So symbolism prevails over reality! Britain, which had a strong presence in the two main groups, will now have no presence in one of them.

    Indeed, most of the Tory MEPs are in favour of remaining within the EPP-ED. They know the reality of how it works and they know it is silly to leave. They have been badgered into making this move by Cameron, despite it being a manifesto pledge from the last election that they stay with the EPP. There will be some who do not follow Cameron's silly instruction.

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  • 7. At 09:17am on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    We may as well get used to the idea that this has nothing to do with European politics for which the mainstream Tory party has little interest and everything to do with domestic politics. The European elections come a poor second place to the general election some time in the next 15 months and they are positioning themselves to be seen as the eurosceptic party of choice when that time comes. They want to undermine UKIP and expose weaknesses and inconsistencies in Labour on Europe. It looks as though they may have written the Lib Dems off altogether which some might consider a dangerous folly if they need coalition partners to squeeze Labour out next time round. This exposes the Tories as opportunistic and pragmatic at a time when they should be promoting them selves as leadership material of substance.

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  • 8. At 09:28am on 24 Mar 2009, IanA75 wrote:

    The interesting point that no one seems to be making is that by leaving the EPP the UK Conservatives are effectively increasing the chances of the European Socialists being the biggest party in the European Parliament, which even for a generally eurosceptic centre-right party is a little strange. Being the biggest party comes with certain priveleges and, perhaps most importantly, increases the chances of a left-leaning Commission later this year. Surely the Conservatives would rather see Barroso back as President of the Commission and should stay in the EPP if only to achieve that. It's not as if other large EPP member parties such as the German CDU is wanting to kick out the Conservatives or that the Conservatives have always to toe the EPP line in votes...
    The Conservatives should think through the consequences of this action and base their decision on those rather than chasing a few headlines that will soon be forgotten. The Conservatives should do well in the coming EP elections regardless of which group they'll sit with.

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  • 9. At 09:29am on 24 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Menedemus wrote:
    "These factions may result in political voting that is contrary to the wishes of the very people who put the MEP into a position of power in the firts place and whose manifesto-persuaded votes may be overturned by in-house consensus voting to meet the faction's political intent of which the voters may not have any knowledge or clear understanding! It does not seem to me to be very democratic or representative of the voters' best interests?"

    You make a fine point, but could not this be said to correctly define the whole process of representative democracy WITHIN the UK?

    After all, people vote for their so called "local member". But what is he or she? They are chosen in advance by their party to stand for the seat, and afterwards they are expected to vote according to party policy, or face extreme censure.

    The pro EU camp will say, in response to your point, "That is how representative democracy works. You must choose carefully when you choose your representative. They are put in power to exercise their best judgement, and you cannot complain if you do not like their judgement. You should have chosen better representative."

    The premis of this argument is that the voter has a range of representatives to choose from, and that some of them are not governed by party doctrine over loyalty to their constituents. But nevertheless, I can't the EU being defeated by suggesting that representative democracy is flawed.

    And in a very cynical way, the pro EU folks have a point. What is the point in fighting a non democratic EU for the sake of a non democratic UK? Folks in the UK look at brussels and point to the commission and say negative things about real democracy, but the french and the germans just point back at the house of lords and the queen, and they laugh out loud.

    And I suspect that if the UK does slide towards further european integration, it will be because of this apathy towards all politics, rather than because a majority thought the EU was a good idea. But your point is well made.

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  • 10. At 09:58am on 24 Mar 2009, Padav wrote:

    This story is set to run and run and as other contributors here (@Menedemus, @britishandeuropean, @threnodio) have already indicated, this move holds symbolic significance because it highlights the fundamental flaws within the EU's institutional architecture; namely its "Europe of Nations" template

    Cameron's strategy is high risk to say the least because he is gambling with chips that don't belong to him! He can be reasonably confident about the prospects of Conservative candidates standing for election in June, his party will almost certainly increase its total number of MEPs at the expense of Labour. However, what happens elsewhere is anybody's guess and the rules about offical party blocs and funding (vital) within the EP mean he must find partners from six other member states. All of a sudden the orthodox "Europe of Nations" model works against his long term goals - how deliciously ironic!

    If this gamble fails and there are not sufficient credible partners to team up with, Cameron will be in a dilemma of his own making. He has made good on his pledge, yes, but may well succeed in simultaneously marginalising the UK even further (if that was possible) within Europe.

    Mr. Cameron will certainly be facing a few sleepless nights between Thursday 4th June (when the UK votes) and Sunday 7th June (when everybody else does) to see if his big gamble has paid off?

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  • 11. At 10:52am on 24 Mar 2009, Padav wrote:


    Your post is a good summary of the hypocrisy prevelant within the arguments routinely advanced by groups/individuals against closer European integration, on the basis of democratic principle, whilst conveniently overlooking the manifest democratic shortcomings within the UK's governance framework.

    Many of the flaws you describe would be addressed by changing the voting system used to elect MEPs in the English Regions, Scotland and Wales to that used for Northern Ireland, in other words from the closed party list system to the open list STV method. The reason why this obvious improvement doesn't happen is because it would further illustrate the grossly inequitable nature of Westminster Parliamentary election outcomes.

    The benefits of this change were highlighted in the recent excellent series of Brian Wheeler articles about the role of MEPs.

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  • 12. At 11:58am on 24 Mar 2009, bogatty wrote:

    This is a particulary good broadcast exposing as it does the very real threat of the elected Conservatives ending sitting up with the 'non inscrits', or as Edward MacMillan-Scott says 'the mad and the bad'. They encompass the extreme right of European politics - Lista Mussolina, Front National, and Vlaams Blang. They are the rather unsavoury and self-confessed neo-fascists on the political spectrum, and no mainstream centre-right political party of one of the largest members should be in that position. I am delighted that Christopher Beazley has spoken out, and applaud his choice. Perhaps it should be noted that Dan Hannan did not 'choose' leave the EPP-ED but was expelled for his outburst in the Parliament, comparing it to the Nazi regime. Odd then that he thinks the Conservatives should align themselves with the aforesaid members of the Parliament, amongst whom he currently sits.

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  • 13. At 12:28pm on 24 Mar 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Ahhah the Tory "cadaver at the party" - Mrs T's handbag!

    I have long campaigned against the use of the term euro-sceptic to describe anti-euopeanism. I look upon its use as a conspiracy of the far right press to destroy the UK for the benefit of the non-dom super rich media barons and oligarchs and their apologists and poodles.

    This is the unacceptable face of the far right of the Tory party something they must strive to hide if they wish to govern again, yet no sooner than they seem to be rising in the polls than they start up the internal anti/pro Europe battle once again. Why can't they grow up and smell the stale caudite. They are yet again re fighting an ancient battle that they lost several decades ago. They need to live in the present and make the best of things for the country.

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  • 14. At 12:37pm on 24 Mar 2009, Wonthillian wrote:

    Presumably this is David Cameron repaying his side of the bargain with the Eurosceptic wing that helped get him elected as leader. It may do him no harm in the short term, but if the tories really want to influence policy in the longer term they really need to be part of one of the large party groupings (you can criticise the party system, but there's really no avoiding it. Even if you elected all MPs or MEPs as Independents, it's almost certain that they'd form themselves into parties once they got elected)

    As has been said above, the largest political grouping will have a big say on who the next leader of the Commission will be, and that will greatly affect the flavour of the next administration. The tories seem to be turning their back on having any influence here.

    I wonder what Ken Clarke thinks of all this?

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  • 15. At 12:45pm on 24 Mar 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    I keep hearing about Britain being 'marginalised' in the EU?

    Assuming that we maintain our national veto and opt-outs, what's the downside?

    Besides, when deep in the brown stuff, maybe on the margin is the safest place to be....

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  • 16. At 1:03pm on 24 Mar 2009, Kilkenny59 wrote:

    I think Mark's comments are quite fair. The key question is not if the Conservatives can form a new group - only 20 MEPs are required from 6 Member States - but will a new group have the necessary critical mass and cohesion to be influential. Somewhere around 80 MEPs is likely to be the required size to play any effective role and that goal still seems someway off. Acting as an "opposition" as suggested by D. Hannan is wholly ineffective and will condemn a group to oblivion in the real world.

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  • 17. At 1:10pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:

    I am utterly ashamed of my party at this moment. The day we opt to sit alongside the 'Law and Justice' crew over a maintream centre ground pragmatic EPP-ED group is utterly shameful.

    A eurosceptic coalition? What on earth is that all about, other than pursuing a rather meaningless europhobic agenda. For one, I'm not going to vote for my party in the European elections- as a Conservative and good European I will not vote for a party that in the European parliament has clearly lost touch with the realities that we face.

    I thought Cameron was a moderniser? Whats progressive about isolationism in the Eurpean Parliament?

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  • 18. At 1:29pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #14 - Iantownhill

    "I wonder what Ken Clarke thinks of all this? "

    Don't be silly. Ken Clarke dragged the UK out of one recession, laid the foundations for a recovery and recognised the importance of a constructive relationship with Europe. In other words, he knows of what he speaks and the last thing anyone else needs is some is competition of that calibre.

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  • 19. At 1:40pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    The Tory Party is a broad church, in the respect of Europe maybe you'll just have to accept your in the minority of the congregation.

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  • 20. At 1:46pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:


    It is a broad Church, but where is the unifying consensus building within the party? Cameron and the cohorts of Redwoods have simply ignored the elements in the party whom are favourable to a costructive relationship with Europe.

    Consensus and compromise is what our party requires on all issues EU- not such divisive single minded acts like this. This will only divide us ahead of future elections. What is desirable about that?

    As for Ken, he, being on cabinet is powerless. SAD that .D.C. see's a need to chain Super-Ken silent.

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  • 21. At 2:05pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    "Consensus and compromise is what our party requires on all issues EU"

    How can people with diometrically opposed opionions reach a Consensus and compromise that would suit both groups?

    The E.U is an issue that divides like no other, mostly because people are too entrenched with there opinions to debate and compromise. Many EUphiles are blind to there fears and reservations of the EUphobes, and many of the EUphobes are just not willing to listen to arguements that they have heard time and time again that do not address there fears.

    I do not see the Tory party ever being able to reconcile the two extreme's over the E.U. What it needs to do is decide one way or the other then stick to it.

    If it decides to be E.Usceptic it will give a voice to the E.Usceptic Majority in the UK and prevent the rise of more extreme parties like UKIP and BNP.

    If it decides as you wish to follow a EUphile line then the rise of the BNP in particular is much more certain.

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  • 22. At 2:11pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:


    What jingoism you seem to spout! Are you seriously saying that by pursuing a policy of 'keeping an open mind on Europe' we are letting the BNP in power? This is rather weak scaremongering sir!

    And it is possible to reach a consensus in the party, one which allows for both groups of opnion to keep their principals and see them implimented in policy terms- its what we had as a policy throughout 1990-97 called "keeping a fair and open mind on Europe", this does not mean submission on Europe for the europhobes, all it means is both sections of the party can be heard on this issue. We need to deal with the EU issue by issue on this, and not divide the party as you seem to suggest, as we wont ever win a general election by fighting each other on the centre-right.

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  • 23. At 2:19pm on 24 Mar 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To WhiteEnglishProud (21):

    What the Tory party and any other party should and must do is to tell A) what kind of country and society they want, B) on what values and logic they are founded on and C) on how they are going to get there.

    A pragmatic line for the point C would have been that they use any available mean and a way to achieve vision of what they want the country and society to be, point A, as long they follow their convictions, point B.

    From my point of view, the Tory party braking away from EPP-ED group is destructive to their aims on achieving their vision of Britain and the British society as many things are decided on the European level that affect Britain. Thus any actions that decrease abilities of the Tory party to affect and reshape European politics goes against their ability to achieve their goals.

    Frankly I see that the Tory party is making a big mistake. In my opinion people elect representatives on the parliament and parties into forming governments quite largely on their ability to deliver their promises. The Labour party could very well hurt the Tories campaign by saying that "the Tory party puts ideology before practise" and putting ideology before practise may not sell so well in these post Bush and Neo-Con era days.

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  • 24. At 2:21pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    We are all just going to face the fact that the entire British political apparatus has shown itself utterly gutless in the European debate. Phobes and enthusiasts alike must get used to the idea that no party has the will or guts to represent their view. Nobody with electable credentials is going to go to the people with a definitive policy commitment and, needless to say, since they can't make up their own minds(assuming they have minds to make up), they are sure a hell not going to let the people decide for them.

    There are two major electoral contests in the offing and I hope that the more tech savvy amongst the voters will use the internet aggressively to orchestrate tactical voting but, failing that, I would suggest that you vote for whoever you like providing it is not one of the big two parties. Of course one of them will come out on top but if it is on a derisory share of the national poll, they might just get the message.

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  • 25. At 2:56pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    "'keeping an open mind on Europe' we are letting the BNP in power"

    Regardless of what the Tories do i don't think the british public will ever let the BNP into power however there will be a rise in support if no-one of the three major parties decide to support the (supposed) majority opinion of the UK on the E.U

    "keeping a fair and open mind on Europe",

    Is the worst of both worlds as it falls as a "definitive policy commitment " it smacks of the current "sleepwalk into a E.U Superstate " policy we seem to have at the moment.

    Whilst I do not dismiss the idea of a E.U superstate out of principle, we need a clear choice of the ways forward not a one route map to the end goal. No more take it or leave it. Lets have different Blueprints for the E.U then have a choice of the one we want.


    "the Tory party braking away from EPP-ED group is destructive to their aims on achieving their vision of Britain and the British society as many things are decided on the European level that affect Britain."

    This depends on what the Toey end game really is. Your right that if they intend to stay in the E.U that they need to actively engage with it. However i don't believe that the EPP-ED grouping is really representative of the broader Tory view of the E.U. The Tory party is best positioned to become the main E.U Change/ E.U Sceptic Party in the U.K. I think they are right to wait and see the mood of E>U citizens in the EP elections before committing to a grouping. I think the pro E.U parties around the E.U may get a bit of a bashing at the polls.

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  • 26. At 3:13pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    "Phobes and enthusiasts alike must get used to the idea that no party has the will or guts to represent their view"

    The Liberal Democrats are strongly Pro-European

    I hope your wrong about the Conservatives they do seem to be starting to make moves to possition themselves in a more pessimistic possition than labour on the E.U.

    Your right that "People who want out" won't have a definitive policy commitment from any of the main Parties. But i hope the Conservatives will move to a more cauious approach. Ensuring that the right solution to the E.U problems are found and not just solutions that are acceptable to the majority of the political elites that have to put the E.U before what is right for the people who vote for them.

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  • 27. At 3:15pm on 24 Mar 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    democracythreat #9

    I would agrre with the main thrust of your comment as I have as much belief for Parliamentary Democracy being democratic as pigs can fly. The only thing in the favour of Candidate selection is that, for the main part, local chairpersons and local people do have some say in who their propsective Parliamentray Candidates are.

    Regionally, MEPs are foisted upon the regions by the Central Party HQ selecting them and local party members have no voice or, if they do, it is drowned out by the larger regional HQ or the influence of the Central HQ.

    The UK party political system is disjointed, corrupted by the parliamentarians' misbehaviour and dysfunctional decision making. It is no more truly democratic than the EU. That is the problem when politicians are put in charge of any project - it tends to get easily broken, twisted, derailed or simply ruined. The EU is no different to the NHS or the Ministry of Defence - too big, too grandiose for its own good and out of touch with reality.

    In my view that is a shame as the idea behind the EU project remains, in my opinion, yet a good idea. The mistake was politicising it and putting career politicians in charge of it!

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  • 28. At 3:35pm on 24 Mar 2009, Wyrdtimes wrote:

    #11 Padav

    "English Regions" remind me Peter - who voted for the "English Regions"?

    Answer - no-one. The "English Regions" are a despicable attempt to break up England once and for all.

    Home rule for England.

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  • 29. At 3:40pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:

    @ White English Proud

    I'm confused as you seem o be sayinf two different things here:

    "i don't think the british public will ever let the BNP into power"
    -see 25

    but before that you said something different:

    "If it decides as you wish to follow a EUphile line then the rise of the BNP in particular is much more certain."
    -see 21

    Well, what would the effect of my Europhilia be? Perhaps you should read less of the daily mail and start to consider what might the effects be before stating wild assumptions.

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  • 30. At 3:54pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #26 - WhiteEnglishProud

    The Lib Dems used to be pre-Clegg. I was a supporter for many years when, towards the end of her tenure, Mrs.T appeared to lose the plot completely and I broke away from the Tories. The problem is that they seem far more interested in politics than principle these days. They should be looking forward to the possibility of a hung parliament and setting out a stall of PR being the price of support. I think they have sensed the public mood and gone quiet if not luke warm on Europe.

    The whole political structure is scared stiff of Europe. They simply do not know which way to move because they are terrified of the possible electoral consequences. So they do nothing while everyone around them gets more agitated by the day. They can't ignore the elephant in the room much longer.

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  • 31. At 3:59pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    There is, as you know a major difference between the rise of the BNP as a political party and them actually getting into Government (into Power)

    If it (the Tory Party) decides as you wish to follow a EUphile line then the rise of the BNP in particular is much more certain.

    Maybe I could have put it more clearly.

    p.s Personal attacks seem to be the first resort of the Pro-E.U lobby

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  • 32. At 4:00pm on 24 Mar 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    deanthetory @17

    Good. That's one extra vote for UKIP in your constituency.

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  • 33. At 4:02pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:

    31. WhiteEnglishProud

    It is entirely misleading to say that Tory Europhiles will lead to the rise of the BNP as an important player in UK democracy. Its simply nonsense.

    Where were you in 1992, or 1997? When we europhiles are central to the Major government? Where was the BNP rise then? Oh, wait it wasnt anywhere because the voters have more brains than you seem to suggest.

    Stop scaremongering, just like a good little Murdoch reader arent you?

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  • 34. At 4:13pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    Its started already Sevenoaks in Kent elected a BNP Councillor just the other day. If it can happen in the South East where Pro E.U feeling is probably at its higest level it can happen any where. The whole situation now is different to the 90's. The Ecconomic , Political and Social situations have all changed open your eyes.

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  • 35. At 4:23pm on 24 Mar 2009, Dean MacKinnon-Thomson wrote:

    34. WhiteEnglishProud

    It is much more likely that its to do with economic hardship rather than the EU. Especially in the S.E where this recession will hit hardest- as the kind of jobs that will be going are the white collar kind most prevelent in the S.E.

    It a bit much to blame the EU, when it isnt even a major issue for voters during election time; economics, NHS, schooling Iraq are much more likely to lead to potential rises in far right support than the EU issue would ever do.

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  • 36. At 4:27pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #31 - WhiteEnglishProud
    #33 - deanthetory

    I am not sure why you are both getting so hung up on the BNP. The BNP has a broad based agenda much of which many of us find distasteful and it it is by no means the only option open to the sceptic wing of the Tory party.

    MaxSceptic brings UKIP into the debate and that, to my mind is the far greater threat to the Tories since the anti-EU voter can migrate there quite safely without having to contend with the racist baggage that is, rightly or wrongly, associated with BNP.

    It is interesting though for another reason. The polls would seem to suggest that it is all over bar the shouting on the centre ground. The Tories can and probably will knock Labour into a cocked hat. It is on the right wing margins that they could lose it. As a unionist party, they could struggle against an upsurge of English nationalism for instance.

    It may be that the Tories will have to work out a coherent and unified policy on the UK's relationship with Europe not in the national interest but for pragmatic reasons even if that means the church is not as broad as once it was.

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  • 37. At 5:02pm on 24 Mar 2009, Padav wrote:


    Your online moniker seems rather apt?

    Mere mention of the phrase "English Regions" and you rise to the bait?

    It may have escaped your notice but MEP's are elected on a closed party list system. Those party lists are limited according to territories corresponding to the official UK government Regions - it was in that context I mentioned English Regions, no other.

    This debate is about the role of the European Parliament and how the Conservative Party's pledge to leave the EPP-ED bloc within it might affect their capacity to shape the European political agenda, so "English Regions" are therefore off topic?

    As an aside, your bold claim that "no-one" voted for English Regions is, strictly speaking, not quite true - Greater London is an official English Region and the people of London were certainly in favour of the idea when asked?

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  • 38. At 5:20pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    threnodio @36

    WEP@21 If it (The Tory Party) decides to be E.Usceptic it will give a voice to the E.Usceptic Majority in the UK and prevent the rise of more extreme parties like UKIP and BNP.

    Sorry I was not intending to get hung up on the BNP.

    The point i was trying to make much less concisely than you did was pretty much the one you made in your last two paragraphs.

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  • 39. At 5:33pm on 24 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    deanthetory shows his true colours! He is really deantheEurophile.

    Oh well, I suppose it is allowed.

    threnodio wrote, in relation the the options open to voters under the representative system:

    "There are two major electoral contests in the offing and I hope that the more tech savvy amongst the voters will use the internet aggressively to orchestrate tactical voting but, failing that, I would suggest that you vote for whoever you like providing it is not one of the big two parties. Of course one of them will come out on top but if it is on a derisory share of the national poll, they might just get the message."

    What message? That the people have no chance to dislodge the party based system, and that they continue to scramble around the mad parade in a futile way?

    I believe they know. I do not believe they care. Look, these folks in government are ALL hard core party animals. Every one of them got to where they are by putting party above community. That is precisely how you get places in a party based system. The people who think otherwise, those are the people who lost, and whom you vanquished in the great game of public life.

    I refuse to accept that an election process that returns one of two major parties, despite widespread feelings of misrepresentation and apathy by the voters, can be described as fixable from within.

    Systems evolve, and this two party system has evolved to be durable and strong, able to withstand efforts to change it. It is cunning and deceitful in the way it perverts democratic sentiment into useless, wasted effort. It builds apathy by taking hope and opinion, and turning them into irrelevancy and hot air. That is what it does. that is the point. If parties were not effectively manipulating the system to their advantage, they would try harder to do so.

    At the very core of representative democracy is this notion that the people NEED someone else to make their decisions, and that their democratic input should be restricted to merely devolving their right to have an opinion about which laws should be made in the land. That is the defining characteristic of any "representative" system.

    If people willfully and voluntarily take part in giving up their dignity, by choosing to proclaim other members of society better able to think and to decide matters than themselves, i do not think they can expect to be treated with dignity or respect.

    The entire system is based upon the premise that ordinary people are not fit to make decisions. The entire system is based upon the superiority of party members to the ordinary voter.

    The only way the system can be changed is if this premis is rejected. People need to organize, and simply refuse to take part. They need to establish counter models of democracy, and demand that their decisions be respected and enforced.

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  • 40. At 5:37pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #38 - WhiteEnglishProud

    Yes. Obviously I would not be entirely happy coming from a less sceptical position than you but, in a way, I would see this as a good thing. The somewhat laisser faire approach to Europe from the Tories is understandable. Clearly they cannot afford to have an internal battle in the run up to an election. But I do think that, sooner rather than later, a mainstream political party has to grasp this nettle in the national interest. Given what Mr. Brown has said in Strasbourg today - insofar as you can take them seriously (I have noted your remarks on the later thread), he does seem to be nailing Labour's colours firmly to the European mast. If this is a statement of Labour policy, perhaps we are seeing the trickle of clear blue water at last?

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  • 41. At 6:10pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #34 - WhiteEnglishProud

    It is probably more in the south east where well to do leafy suburbs are walking distance from neglected and disrupted social housing that the contrast between the haves and have nots is most evident. Sevenoaks is also very close to Folkstone, Dover and the Sussex seaside towns where once genteel bed and breakfast houses are now lodgings for benefit dependent immigrants. I don't know what kind of ward it was but it is not hard for a politician of the 'this is all down to immigration and we want our country back' variety to make headway. Of course, its nonsense but it is far more likely to win a local election than lofty debate about the small print of Lisbon. I bet that was a local aberration rather than a symptom of a wider political trend.

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  • 42. At 6:37pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    threnodio @40
    "he does seem to be nailing Labour's colours firmly to the European mast"

    I understand he need E.U money to prop up the UK if it is a statement of labour policy i don't see that it would be a vote winner for him though.
    I hate to say it but xenophobia in the U.K, is on the rise again nailing his colours so openly to the E.U is almost an admitance that he doesn't want to win the next election.
    If thats the case maybe the U,K is in a worse state than we actually realise

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  • 43. At 6:40pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    I hate to say it but xenophobia in the U.K, is on the rise again or maybe people have just started being more open about it either way its not encouraging.

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  • 44. At 6:42pm on 24 Mar 2009, JimmyDutch wrote:

    You state:

    "To form a European Parliament group you have to have seven nations involved and that has always been the tough hurdle for the Tories."

    Not entirely correct. It's actually a recently raised hurdle:

    The European Parliament, or more accurately the Labour MEP Richard Corbett, managed to amend the rules of the European Parliament in July 2008 so that the number of MEPs needed to form a group was increased from 20 MEPs to 25 MEPs and the number of states from which they are chosen also increased from five to seven.

    Gotta love EU Democracy!

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  • 45. At 6:44pm on 24 Mar 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    What happened to your instant posting i used to like that we could actually converse.

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  • 46. At 8:00pm on 24 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #45 - WhiteEnglishProud

    There were some sour grapes over non Mr.Cricks blog when I jumped a queue of 20 or more so someone shopped me. Having said that, I put my hands up to it repeatedly and I never abused it. I am with brownedov. If listeners to R4 can be trusted with reactive moderation, so should we be. If anyone gets out of line, one can always hit the panic button (complain about this comment). Meanwhile, back on topic (vaguely). . .

    I fear xenophobia is a byproduct of hard times. It is really only the unacceptable face of protectionism. Our friend Mr. Brown's 'British jobs for British workers' is the same mentality really. It avoids the racism trap but the message is clear enough and it is a discriminatory one. It isn't so long ago that the same people who want the jobs now would have turned their noses up at more menial work. Human nature, I am afraid.

    #39 - democracythreat

    What message?

    The same one you want to convey. That a large slice of the public have had it up to the eye teeth with two party system and that they want change. They won't get it. I agree with you about that but if the leadership are sufficiently spooked, they may address some of the more glaring errors of their ways. Look at it as a football league in which the same two clubs end up battling it out for top spot every season. If the ref hands out enough yellow cards, maybe they will stop the professional fouling for fear of a red. That probably sounds very meek but it's likely the best you will get under FPTP.

    However, the Tories opting out of mainstream centre right politics in Strasbourg does them no favours. The message it sends is that they don't really believe in the EU at all but they don't have the guts to say so. Courting unsavory allies abroad while confronting them domestically smacks of hypocrisy to me.

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  • 47. At 00:26am on 25 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I don't think the two party system can be changed without changing the fundamental basis of the representation system. Either people need representatives or they do not. If they do, how can anybody police the representatives to ensure that political parties do not form?

    And, looking at the EU, how can people police the parties so that they do not form one body of professional politicians?

    I don't think you can reasonably expect the people who benefit most from the system we have now to change it. That doesn't make sense. The politicians who have been selected by the two dominant parties have been selected precisely because they will do absolutely anything to get ahead in the party, and because they are loyal to the party, and the people who fund the party.

    Maybe there is room for one last party in the UK: the party for direct democracy, based on the swiss model of allowing any group of citizens to raise sufficient signatures to veto legislation or to propose law, and where every major change in law is put to the people for referendum.

    The party to end all parties! Maybe if such a party arose, then it could campaign within the current system to end it, and to instigate a system where parties did not have the power to deny the will of the people.

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