"There are local council elections in England and Northern Ireland - but the big one this year is the European election on the same day."I've noted before that I have always been a reluctant participant in any EU elections. To do so is to legitimise a system I completely and fundamentally disagree with. The EU would actually rather have copious numbers of UKIP MEPs in the EU Parliament on the back of high participation than a low turnout altogether. A high turnout would act as a comforting safety valve for the EU - it means citizens are participating. A sentiment which can be seen by the reaction from 2004 after a low turnout (my emphasis):
"A wake-up call" is the way the current President of the European Parliament Pat Cox described this week's [EU Parliament] election results; the Dutch used the word "disaster".With this in mind I have decided not to vote today. Previously I have done in Euro elections for UKIP and I did so through very gritted teeth (no reflection on UKIP at the time) for pragmatic reasons. I took the view that in order for UKIP to break through into the UK Parliamentary system the EU elections gave an opportunity for much publicity and funding to make a difference domestically against an unfair system.
But working out what went wrong is now crucial to working out how to put it right.
Officials labelled the turnout "pathetically low" in the new states, as ministers warned the political credibility of the whole EU was now at stake.
The election simply left most voters cold from Portugal to Poland. Where they did vote, most people chose to punish their governments or to promote Eurosceptic parties.
Certainly the elections were a shock for the political elite across Europe in the wake of the recent enlargement which they thought would provide renewed vitality for the European project.
As a result, despite UKIP's many failings, its current position in terms of dominating the media is somewhat of an achievement. It's worth noting that hardly any party in UK history has managed to break through the stranglehold that a two party system entails. One rare but obvious example is the rise of Labour in the late 19th Century.
However I've come to the conclusion that UKIP's rise is less a reflection of the party's competence more of an example of a 'canary down the mine' regarding our electoral system. Less of a solution and more of a warning of what's to come. A warning that came via the paper in 1971 named FCO 30/1048:
...the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government.Despite EU funds, the potential opportunity of UKIP finally "breaking through" properly has been squandered and it has been squandered for years. The significant funding has not resulted in a UKIP research department, a decent UKIP website and a coherent unified policy on how to exit.
Such a vacuous intellectual void leads to confusion and argument among UKIP supporters, acutely demonstrated by Suzanne Evans when interviewed by Andrew Neil. As Complete Bastard notes one UKIP activist even argued:
"Personally, I think it would be an alienating and self-indulgent mistake for UKIP to waste its limited resources on the withdrawal mechanism at this time."Limited resources? I'm not sure Farage struggles with 'limited' resources that prevent a policy on how to exit. And of course seventeen unpaid volunteers (helped by many others) produced exit plans within four months for the IEA prize - UKIP has been going for twenty years and has still failed to produce one. What a pathetic excuse.
Given then UKIP are failing to provide policy on exiting the EU, we have to consider then what is the point of voting in Euro elections. "People died for your right to vote" is sometimes the cry. Yet the right to vote and democracy are not the same thing. It's not a right to mark a piece of paper that counts but what that mark can achieve. The crucial question is always can we throw out the executive?
In terms of the Euro elections we can't - the executive is with the EU Commission whose Presidential elections are being held with no real reference to the "citizens" of Europe. As an example of ballot paper impotency, the people of North Korea have the right to vote via a piece of paper regarding elections to the People's Supreme Assembly, but no-one in their right mind would argue that makes FatBoy-Kim democratically accountable.
As Richard North observes regarding the Euro elections:
Certainly, there is nothing "democratic" about Mr Cameron's "top table", the Council of Ministers. There, when a vote is called, qualified majority voting (QMV) applies. Britain has 29 votes out of 352, representing eight percent of the vote. A qualified majority is 252 votes (73.9 percent), leaving Britain with a structural deficit of 223 votes.The impotence of the EU Parliament could not be better expressed than by the fact that if every one of the 73 MEPs elected from the UK were UKIP candidates, they simply could not execute their manifesto on behalf of their voters and remove the UK from the EU.
However, in the European Parliament, the situation is little better. There are 73 UK MEPs, and these represent a mere 9.7 percent of the 751 elected MEPs (post-2014 election). Given the party splits, this level of representation is notional. UK MEPs rarely vote together as a single bloc. Even if they did, they could never muster the 376 votes needed for a majority.
Furthermore, the powers of the Parliament and the Council are limited in important but poorly recognised ways. As an increasing number of laws come into being via international standards, these are most often implemented by the EU as delegated legislation (Commission Regulations) using the comitology procedure.
Every year, more than 2,500 measures are processed via this route, passing through one or more of the 200-300 committees set up for the purpose. That is approximately 30 times more measures than are processed via the mainstream ordinary legislative procedure.
That point brings me neatly on UKIP's exit policy. Aside from having no plan, we see from Autonomous Mind that UKIP intends to remain de facto members of the EU:
...An article today in the Financial News (£) might just explain why there is no exit plan for leaving the EU… UKIP is apparently developing a carefully crafted secret weapon that would see the UK stay inside the Customs Union! Not inside the internal market, but inside the Customs Union and negotiating its own trade agreements:As can be clearly seen from this Wikipedia page Turkey's 'customs union' is EU membership by default. I have tweeted and emailed Tim Aker (supposedly head of UKIP's policy) to clarify the party's position to as yet no response.
With UKIP failing to exploit their position as EU MEPs for domestic reasons - instead for personal gain - it's very difficult to not conclude that to vote UKIP today merely puts more of Farage's 'mates' on the gravy train thus shoring up his position. The EU quite deliberately makes expenses, or should I say allowances, easy to claim - it encourages people to go "native". And that is what exactly happens.
UKIP may win the Euro elections, but it will have no bearing on our exit, it will be irrelevant and nothing will change. But I guess it will give a few more MEPs a comfortable salary and pension.