Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ukip pull off forming a group at the European Parliament after allegations that David Cameron’s Conservatives had operated a dirty tricks operation to marginalise them, oddly a new Cameron ‘ally’ is a party that is the political enemy of Angela Merkel, how does that play for Cameron needing Merkel’s help on reforms!

Dear All

Ukip did very well in the European elections, even in Scotland, they managed to capture a seat which the Scottish National Party had banked on getting, in an attempt to kick start their failing and ultimately doomed independence campaign.

Face with the threat of being branded ‘racist’ by the SNP, the people of Scotland, and I include myself in that, decided Ukip represented the best possible chance to deny Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon's proxy, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh an MEP spot.

Ms. Ahmed-Sheikh didn't deserve to be an MEP.

And you don't play the race card politics when your candidate is from a minority, I guess some SNP people aren't the 'master strategists' that Salmond and unpopular Nicola Sturgeon would have you believe they are.

That is the George Laird view, which incidentally should be the Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh view as well. Ukip did her a favour by default; they afford her the opportunity to learn politics, not out of a book but as an activist.

Ukip went on to become the first party in 100 years to win an election as neither; the government or main opposition party!

It was and is a remarkable achievement by any stretch of the imagination, overall the European election campaign was rather poor I felt by the major parties; they just went through the motions, they had no vision either of a new Europe or a reform one.

At its core, the Ukip approach was to speak out on behalf of the British people over matters of concern that the major parties ignore or at best give lip service too.


The offshoots of that are jobs, schools, housing and social cohesion. 

To the winner go the spoils, sometime the spoils don't seem at first glance to be worth it, Ukip has been in negotiations to form a group in the European Parliament.

Why is this important, well an alliance with at least six other parties is essential in order to attain group status under the rules of Brussels! You might think, so what, Ukip and six other parties are in a group, big deal, well it is a big deal.

Being in a group comes with major political advantages such as membership of key committees. At some point in the EU there will be reform, the current setup with 28 members has had serious problems, even if you were not Eurosceptic, everyone in the club knows this coming, shaping the direction of that new future is important.

One of the changes I wish to see is the EU internal immigration policy.

My policy allows member states in conjunction with the EU to set criteria for an EU citizen to go and work in another member state. The policy would also allow for the removal of an EU citizen if there are breaches of the rules. Free movement of Labour is important, however, this principle is being abused and importantly nothing can be done about it under the current setup.

Other advantages of being in a group under the rules of the EU are priority of speaking rights in the parliament. Speaking time when the big players are in the chamber to present an alternative view point, and substantial grants to hire staff to support the group’s MEPs in the work. The value of research and think tanks cannot be overstated for what is needed to be done now.

If Nigel Farage hadn't managed to pull off setting up a group, Ukip and other parties with a similar view point would have been marginalised in Brussels. He has previously managed to pull off having a group called the Europe of Freedom & Democracy (EFD).

UKIP made great advances in the European elections, no one can dispute that, but politically in other countries so did several other Eurosceptic parties across the continent.

Interestingly, Nigel Farage says that by the Conservative Party has been involved in a 
‘dirty tricks’ operation to try and break up his group by courting its members. On the surface there is nothing wrong in making allies, even new allies. David Cameron keeps talking about reform and has done so for several years. Some of what he says doesn't quite gel together because he appears to be promising things he can't deliver without major help.

Farage says his allies from Finland and Denmark along with others were offered goodness knows what to go and sit with David Cameron’s much reduced band of Conservative MEPs. Oddly, Cameron accepted into his group MEPs from a new Eurosceptic German party, the AfD. I can't say I have heard of them but apparently they are the sworn political enemies of Angela Merkel. Given the influence of Germany in the EU, perhaps this decision may not be as wise as first envisaged. Cameron would need to get Merkel onboard for his platform of change in Europe. In truth, the Conservative Party rank and file has never been fully in love with Europe even although it was Ted Heath who led Britain into the EU in the early days of the 1970's.

Although things are going well for Ukip, and they deserve their success, they need to wake up and smell the coffee as well, they just cannot be a party of protest, they have to engage in the EU reform process and in a meaningful way. It is not enough to just complain because people get tired and drift away from listening to you. if played properly this could help strengthen Ukip as a political force not just in Europe but also domestically in the UK for both Westminster and Holyrood elections.

Politics in Europe could possibly be interesting again over the next few years, how Nigel Farage and Ukip play it will certainly be worth watching.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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