Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Something stirring in the European Parliament

Some of our readers may have noted that there have been developments in the Roger Helmer case.

Last seen, our intrepid hero was being publicly dressed down by EPP Group Leader, Hans-Gert Pöttering for daring to sign up to Nigel Farage’s Motion of Censure of the free-loader (surely free-marketeer) Commission President Barroso and compounding his errors by revealing that pressure had been put on the Conservative MEPs to withdraw their signatures. Up with this the EPP will not put.

“You can’t just get up in the European Parliament and attack your own leadership,” – said one outraged spokesperson.

Why not, precisely? People in real parliaments do that all the time. Well, apparently it was a whip, just like it is in the British Parliament, to make people vote the right way and Mr Helmer did not do so.

Actually, people often do not in the British Parliament either. Apart from the odd occasion when a prime minister (such as John Major) throws his toys out of the pram, they do not get suspended. Or not often, anyway.

This was not an important enough issue. Or, rather, the ostensible issue of the vote of confidence was not, but the real one of group discipline (such as the Conservative Party was not going to have imposed on it when it joined the EPP-ED group) is immensely important. How dare Mr Helmer suggest that British MEPs should not be ordered about by German politicians?

Well, our hero has now been expelled from the EPP-ED group. Mr Helmer, with great flourish, voted for his own expulsion from the group.

In his press release he points out that he
“… remains a member of the Conservative party, and of the European Parliament,and insists that his new status as an unattached MEP will not prejudice his ability to represent his East Midlands constituents, nor to fight for Conservative principles”.
Rather the opposite, one would say, if being attached to a group means total obedience to the leaders of that group.

In his speech to the group before the vote for the expulsion he explained that he objected to the left-wing tendency of many of the group’s policies and, especially, to the assumption that all members must fight for further integration.

When the Conservative Party rejoined the group, it was promised, or so they told us, and Mr Helmer has just reminded them, that their different outlook would be respected. (Of course, even at the time there was the option of not joining but setting up their own right-wing more eurosceptic group with the new East European intake, but let us not remind them of such matters.)

We now await the decision on the other four Conservative MEPs who had signed the motion: Chris Heaton-Harris, Dan Hannan, Martin Callanan, David Sumberg. Perhaps, they, too, will vote for their own expulsion. They can start setting up a salon des refusés.

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