Jack Straw, Labour’s former Foreign Secretary, has decided, in his infinite wisdom, that because the European Parliament suffers from low voter turnout, people treating it as a referendum on the government, and a lack of connection between the EU and the citizens… something radical is needed.
He proposed that we, effectively, scrap the European Parliament. Direct elections are a ‘waste of time’ and we need instead to have an assembly of national Parliamentarians. It’s similar to the Parliament of the Council of Europe, or to how the EP did things before the ’70s.
Yes, it’s a #logicfail of epic proportions.
1) If lowering voter turnout over time means an institution loses its legitimacy and should be done away with, I think we need to do away with Westminster, city councils, by-elections, and student politics. These have all, largely, seen declining voter turnout – it’s endemic in established democracies the world over. It doesn’t mean we should stop voting.
2) Yes, it’s a massive problem that European elections are treated as an opportunity to ‘send a message’ to the government. I agree wholeheartedly. But having an assembly of national parliaments will just mean the European Union is even further subject to the internal politics of member states, despite having responsibility over entirely separate issues. The way to deal with this is by increasing voter recognition of separate European-level issues. Besides, aren’t national political situations already represented enough by the representative of the largest party showing up in the Council?
3) Straw, correctly, identifies that European integration is all too often a ‘project of elites’. Bafflingly, he wants to sever the one link between the common man and the European project, and instead, you guessed it, place its powers in the hands of yet more members of the élite. how does this make sense inside his mind, what kind of Labourite, Eurosceptic doublethink is Straw considering?
This is where the Liberal Democrats critical pro-Europeanism shows itself as the only way forward. Co-operation with our European allies is a prerequisite for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Britain. Membership in the EU is essential to have a seat at the table and ensure we’re not ‘on the menu‘. But ever-closer union is the wrong ideal – it ensures a policy of centralisation. The best future for the European peoples comes from a federal but decentralised European Union – with strong controls and necessary regulation over a wide variety of areas, but power, accordant with subsidiarity, devolved to the lowest effective level.
Jack Straw’s idea is simply awful – it disassociates the general populace even further from the European project, and offers even more power to the political elites. He ignores that this isn’t a crisis of democracy but of participation – a crisis which can only be answered with further democratic powers for the Parliament, pan-European constituencies, European-level tax & spending powers, and the further development of European culture and homo Europam or some combination of the above. It should be rejected at all costs. Here’s to localism, regionalism, federalism and decentralisation. Cheers.