What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Mar 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

“Isolated and Marginalised”?

Tuesday, 9th June 2009

Amidst the rout of the left across the EU, and especially the rout of Labour in the UK, the lefties have scored one minor success. Labour, and their fellow-travellers in the media, have repeated their mantra about “Tory MEPs sitting with extremists and fascists” and Tories being “isolated and marginalised in Europe”, until it has started to seep into the public consciousness. I realised we had a problem when, before election day, a Conservative voter phoned me to ask for an assurance that if elected I would not sit with the BNP in Brussels. Taken aback, I replied “I am astonished that a Conservative would even ask such a question, but No, we will not sit with the BNP”.

It came up again at the count in Leicester. A candidate for another party (even if only for Sir Paul Judge’s Jury Rigs) asked me how I would feel about sitting with the BNP. I replied that I should not be sitting with the BNP — why on earth should he think I might? “Well”, he replied, “the BBC says you’re going to sit with right-wing extremists like the BNP”. I should add that I talked to this feckless young man for some time, and it was clear that he simply had no idea about the EU, and the opinions he purported to have might have come straight from a Labour propaganda sheet. Where on earth did Sir Paul find these guys?

After the count, Bill Turncoat Dunn, newly re-elected as a Lib-Dem MEP, used his acceptance speech to attack the Conservatives in vindictive terms. Cameron had made “an extremely stupid decision”. He would be “isolated and marginalised”. By leaving the EPP, he was condemning Conservative MEPs to impotence, and was destroying British influence and letting the country down.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is a bit rich coming from Bill. In 2000, he did exactly the same thing that he condemns us for doing. He left the EPP and joined a smaller group, where (according to his own analysis) he is presumably isolated and marginalised, and letting Britain down. And he did it for exactly the same reason as we are doing it: because he profoundly disagreed with his colleagues on the future direction and shape of the European project. I suspect that his leader in the European parliament, Graham Watson, would not agree. I heard Watson on the radio arguing that the group of the European Liberals, though much smaller than the EPP or the European socialists, “frequently acts as the King-maker”. There is some truth in Watson’s claim. It does often happen that where the EPP and the PES disagree, the Liberal group vote can be the decider. As a result, the Liberals have considerable influence with the big groups.

So, reflect and contrast. A small Liberal group has great influence and can act as a “King-maker”. But a small Conservative group will be “isolated and marginalised”. Doesn’t make sense, does it? In fact our new group, like the Liberals, will exercise considerable influence with the large groups, and for the same reason: we will often be able to influence the outcome of a vote. So we will have far more influence than we had when we were buried in the belly of the EPP beast, when they safely could (and did) ignore us.

Aha, I hear you ask, but surely your proposed partners are racist and homophobic? Didn’t the Guardian say so? It is true that if you scour the records you can find that a few individuals made foolish and disobliging remarks. But that comment applies equally to the EPP, and to the socialists, and to any group you care to look at. Certainly some EPP sister parties have been racist and anti-immigrant. The fact is that we are forming a group with respectable, mainstream, centre-right euro-realist parties who are in, or close to, government. And at last, after ten years in Brussels, I will find myself sitting with colleagues that I broadly agree with. I can’t wait.