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Off to the Tower with him

Posted by Richard Friday, December 03, 2004

With the passage of a little time, various MEP’s through their routine newsletters and by other means, are conveying their thoughts on l'affaire Barrot – the transport commissioner denounced by UKIP MEP Nigel Farage for having an undisclosed conviction for electoral fraud.

One such offering comes for South Western MEP, Caroline Jackson. It is a reflection of her grasp of the details that she refers to Barrot continuing "in the humble post of transport commissioner."

This is the man who, next week, will in front of the transport council proposing that the member states back the EU's Galilelo satellite positioning system which, at over €3 billion, is the most expensive and ambitious single project ever undertaken by the commission. And that is "humble"?

But what takes the breath away is Dr Jackson's casual dismissal of the whole affair who, she writes, the UKIP spokesman claimed, should not be in the Commission at all as he had been convicted in a political party funding scandal, along with all the senior members of his party.

"But since then," she explains, "he had been amnestied, pardoned and his criminal record wiped clean. This is, apparently, how France operates, and French politicians from other parties acknowledged that scandals about public funding for political parties are par for the course."

So that’s all right then.

Despite being on the other side of the political spectrum, a very similar perspective comes from none other than Richard Corbett, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside. In an e-mail sent to one of his constituents, he writes:

What I have been told… is that Mr Barrot (and a large number of other French politicians from different political parties), as the office holder responsible within his party, was condemned by the courts on the grounds that his party had used monies for campaigns which they were not entitled to use them for.

There was, at least, no question of personal enrichment in the affair. From what I understand, several French political parties had operated in a way which the courts found to be illegal and the arising scandal has now given rise to new, stricter and clearer legislation as to what is admissible and what is not admissible in terms of party spending. At the same time, the President of the Republic gave a pardon to those who had been found guilty (who were in any case not due to serve custodial
sentences).
So, everything in the garden is rosy. M. Barrot can continue in 'is 'umble position.

But, while being utterly relaxed at having a pardoned crook for a transport commissioner, Corbett is highly critical of the man who raised the issue. "Instead of being raised as a serious issue during the confirmation hearings of the Commissioners," he writes,

…the MEP in question (a certain Mr Farage of UKIP) simply mentioned it in the middle of a string of abusive comments about various Commissioners - and did so, not during the evaluation process, but at the moment of the final vote of confidence on the Commission as a whole. The Parliament, at that point, had no prior knowledge of the issue and no opportunity to look into it.

Had he raised it earlier, it could have been properly investigated and looked into before the vote on the Commission rather than afterwards. This has led many to conclude that Mr Farage's motives were not to ensure that the highest calibre of Commissioner be appointed but, instead, to achieve maximum publicity for himself by raising the issue at a time when the TV cameras were focused on the Parliament rather than at a time when it was still possible to look into the issue before the vote.
Now there’s something entirely novel – a politician seeking to achieve "maximum publicity for himself". That would never do, would it Mr. Corbett. Clearly, that is a much more serious crime than electoral fraud. Off to the Tower with him!