Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Can we expect a cheque in the post?

A little squall has broken out following the approval yesterday of the EU parliament's budget committee to spend £6 million from the parliament’s contingency fund on an "information campaign" on the EU constitution.

This was picked up by BBC Radio 4's Today programme, which had UKIP MEP Nigel Farage denouncing the allocation as "a monstrous abuse of taxpayers' money". It is not “neutral” he said, as it would be directed at explaining the benefits of the constitution to ordinary people.

Farage was joined by Tory MEP Den Dover, who led the fight against allocating the funds told the BBC that he though giving the money was "unacceptable" and possibly "illegal".

In the absence of Denis MacShane, who refused to come on the programme, it was left to hapless EU parliament official Hosé Liberato to claim that the campaign was not intended to influence the result of any vote in any country.

However, one blog points out that the sum involved represents only one penny for every person in the EU, which is hardly going to make a tremendous difference. It is hard to disagree, not withstanding that I would prefer the money to be in my bank account than spent on such a fatuous enterprise - especially as the council tax bill arrived today.

This notwithstanding, our experience is that the more Europhile MEPs open their mouths about the constitution, the less likely people will be to vote for it. In that context, there is an argument for them being given more money to spread the word.

I suppose though, that if the EU parliament is really genuine about wanting to provide information on the constitution, it could do no better than fund this Blog. Does anyone think we should make an application for a grant?

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