Friday, October 15, 2004

A response and statement of principles

I’ve had another one of those comments which deserves a response in full – this time about a post I did about a pamphlet highlighting how shit the UKIP are which has been produced by the Labour MEP Richard Corbett, and which the UKIP are trying to have pulped as they claim it might jeopardise the forthcoming fraud trial of Mr Ashley Mote MEP. This might be very dull. If so, sorry. Normal (hopefully non-dull) service will be returned asap…

Please note that my anonymous respondent points out that: "the order banning reference to Ashley Mote's legal problems was only made on 5th October, after the document went to print". Now I can't claim any particular legal expertise, but when courts make such orders, I'm pretty sure they are not retroactive. As my respondent also notes, “There is no justification in publishing old material and claiming that you didn't know the rules,” but as he/she him/herself admits, the ruling hadn’t been made when the pamphlet was printed. At best, distribution of the document might be temporarily suspended while the trial is running, but considering that all it states in relation to Mr Mote are facts of public record, I very much doubt that even this will happen. I quote from the pamphlet:

"UKIP's MEPs were forced to expel Ashley Mote MEP. It transpired that Mr Mote was facing nine criminal charges of alleged false accounting and one of allegedly making a false representation regarding housing benefit."

This is a point well worth raising as (to quote from the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002):

"A person who-

"(a) is a citizen of the European Union, and

"(b) is not a Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland,

"is disqualified for the office of MEP if he is disqualified for that office through a criminal law or civil law decision under the law of the member state of which he is a national."

A conviction for fraud disqualifies one from becoming an MP, and would therefore disqualify Mr Mote from being an MEP - should he be convicted. But this is beside the point: he was aware of the forthcoming trial throughout the elections, yet neglected to tell anyone. As the UK Independence Party admits on its website:

"The whip has been removed because Mr Mote did not inform the party of this situation before, during or immediately after the European Election campaign."

Had they known of the impending court case beforehand, they would not have allowed him to stand, as it case would - if it returns a guilty verdict - disqualify him from office. This would then force a byelection, and leave a decent chunk of the electorate unrepresented in the European Parliament. Not very democratic, eh? Would this not imply that Mr Mote may not have been acting in his contituents or party's best interests?

Why are the UKIP leaping on Mr Corbett (about whom I have little knowledge and certainly no party loyalty, having never voted for his party and not being a member of it) when on the same page of their website on which they explain Mr Mote’s dismissal they themselves say almost exactly what the document Mr Corbett has produced does, namely:

"Mr Mote faces a court case in the autumn concerning allegations of housing benefit fraud."

By the same logic, shouldn't they be taking out court orders against themselves? The section in Mr Corbett's pamphlet under which the short paragraph about Mr Mote is listed is indeed entitled "They have scant regard for rules or for the law", and I can see how it could be inferred from this that Mr Mote is guilty before his case has even been tried. But the wording is clear - the charges are described as allegations twice in a paragraph of only about 50 words. Plus – and this is the crucial point – it doesn’t go into any details about the charges. Had it done it would indeed have jeopardised Mr Mote's trial, and the pamphlet should indeed be withdrawn.

As it stands, Mr Mote is no longer a member of the UKIP anyway, and was barred from attending their recent party conference, so why are they leaping to his aid? He's now an independent MEP - why can't he fight his own battles? Or is it because they don't like the other contents of the pamphlet and that was the only part of it they had any hope of exploiting. Their calls for it to be pulped will be thrown out of court. At best they might get the pamphlet temporarily withdrawn until the result of the trial is clear, but I doubt it.

As for me offering to host it, I was being glib to indicate my approval of its contents. I didn’t say “if it gets taken down because of a court order”, simply “if it gets taken down”. This is because I feel more people should be aware of the factual contents of the pamphlet, and thus that it should remain online (preferably not in .pdf format, but I lack the knowledge, skills and software to convert it…), and also because I am 98% certain that it is not in breach of the law. It is, however, possible that Mr Corbett could come under so much legal pressure that he may be forced to take it down even without it actually breaching any court order due to the potential costs of defending its publication.

The whole point of this blog is that I have switched from a Eurosceptic perspective to a pro-European one, from the centre-right to the centre-left. I have worked for a Conservative MP, and I have worked for the European Commission. I hope it gives me a decent perspective on both sides of the argument: I am now broadly pro-European, but still agree with certain Eurosceptics on certain points - the EU is in bad need of reform and has lots of areas which are, frankly, unsatisfactory - in fact in some cases which are borderline disgraceful.

However, I despise the UKIP. I will regretfully admit to having voted for them in the 1999 European elections, and my uncle even stood for them in the 1997 General Election. Then they were a misguided but principled party, staffed and backed by people who truly believed that what they were doing was right. Now they are packed out with some of the most unpleasant people in British politics – racists, xenophobes and petty nationalists – and I disagree vehemently with pretty much all of the few policies they have.

Any excuse to show the UKIP up for what they are, or just to take the piss out of them, I will take it. I know that ukipwatch is a biased website – that’s pretty obvious from the fact it’s got a Labour MEP writing for it. As you may have noticed in my post, I was calling for non-partisan material of a similar sort because, as is evident from the reaction I have received, the fact that a Labour MEP was behind the pamphlet ensures that certain people will automatically dismiss it as propaganda.

This has almost turned into a statement of principles. As such, a brief final summary:

I was once Eurosceptic, now I am not, but retain certain suspicions about the precise nature of the EU as it currently stands. I come from a centre-right, fairly nationalist Tory background, but would now describe myself – were I to want to sound pompous – as a liberal internationalist. I am a member of no political party, and never have been. I have no loyalty to any one political party either. I base my voting decisions on the individual policies of the various parties presented to me on the ballot paper, and have voted, over the last few years, for at least six different parties based on my concerns at the time. Hence this blog having taken the piss out of all of them at various times.

The last few years of terrorist threats, war and chaos have convinced me that close co-operation between nations is vital, and in Britain’s best interests. I consider the responses of the UKIP and their ilk to the European project to be reactionary, backward-looking, and harmful to Britain’s best long-term interests. I also consider the UKIP to be a laughably pathetic excuse for a political party, so will continue to rip the shit out of them until they go the way of the Referendum Party, and vanish into the historical footnote which is all they deserve to be.


Blogger Nick said...

This would then force a byelection, and leave a decent chunk of the electorate unrepresented in the European Parliament.Actually, I'm not sure it would - from what I recall, under the party list system if an MEP resigns/dies/is removed from office, they're replaced by the next unelected person on that party's list from the election. IIRC, that's already happened to UKIP once when one of their MEPs resigned around 2002. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

10/16/2004 01:04:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, Correct, Farage wants Mote to stand down so that No 3 on the SE list takes his place. Under UK law disqualification isn't based on a criminal conviction per se, otherwise there would be a lot more by-elections. I can't remember without going back to my law books whether it is a sentence of one or 2 years that bars someone, but you can look it up. The other disqualifications in UK elections are bankruptcy or IVA, lunacy and, for Parliamentary elections, being a peer of the realm (presumably amended for the defunct hereditaries).

I didn't mean to light the blue touchpaper; I only discovered this blog yesterday! Still, debate is healthy and like it or not UKIP is here for the next 5 years at least. No, I'm not a member of any political party either, but did vote UKIP at the EU elections. I voted Tory at the last Parliamentary elections and Green for my County Council. I supported Independents at District and Parish level. I am susceptible to reasoned argument, but I don't find snippets taken out of context to mean that all of UKIP are as bad as made out.

Some of Corbett's facts relate to people's support for political parties in the 1970's. By implication he suggests that nobody matures, nobody changes their views; once a racist, always a racist etc (although some NF supporters where I lived were just right wingers fed up with the Heath government). Taking Corbett's logic, that once somebody supports one party then their views are set for life, this throws the whole democratic process into disarray. What is the point of debate if you accept that nobody will ever change? Where does Corbett sit on comedian Ricky Tomlinson ('Royle Family')? Ricky was a NF candidate and yet was also a Shrewsbury picket and did time for flying picketing related offences.

I am of the view that people can change and have met in my nearly 50 years many who have swung from left to right and back. I've also studied a lot of history, although both of my degrees are in law. Remember Moseley was a Labour MP!!!!!!!! Churchill moved effortlessly between Liberals and Conservatives. Shaun Woodward moved from Conservative to Labour. Owen, Williams, Jenkins and the other one (Rogers?) left Labour to form the SDP. Dick Taverne left Labour and became Independent Labour. Tony Blair was a CND supporting, anti-EU, anti-America, anti-war student and he has infiltrated to the heart of a pro-nuclear, pro-American, pro-nuclear bunch of war mongers! If these changes are acceptable then people deciding that the NF or BNP are too extreme or, that with experience or hindsight, their views are distasteful is also acceptable. Knapman is an ex-Tory MP, Kilroy-Silk is ex-Labour. You yourself accept that you have moved fom centre right to centre left. This is the real and continuing nature of politics and proves that much of Corbett's pamphlet is unsupported bunkum! It's not what people said 30 years ago that matters, but what they say and do now.

Lord alone knows who I will vote for at the forthcoming general election, but I already know that if the same fat old bag who stands as the local Tory at County Council time stands again I will vote for just about anybody else (God she's horrible)!!!!

10/16/2004 10:51:00 am  

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