On Tuesday 21st February as part of his seemingly new weekly column for the Bristol Evening Post, UKIP’s Trevor Colman went on a bit of a rant about European Parliament under the new ‘regime’ of German MEP Martin Schulz: (note the spelling Mr Colman)
“We (that's you and me) have a new President in the European Parliament. His name is Martin Schultz. He's German and when speaking glares through his spectacles, punching the air with tight fists. Schultz is an ardent federalist. For him there is only one solution to all problems: 'more Europe'."
The reason for this rant: an exceptional event in the Chamber during a voting session on 2nd February (almost three weeks earlier), an incident I shall allow Mr Colman to colourfully describe:
“Suddenly he pointed out that the next dozen or so amendments to a piece of legislation, each of which were to be voted on individually as RCVs, could be lumped together and voted on as a block with just one vote. This would save time. Uproar in the chamber. Outraged members pointed out their intention to vote in a variety of ways on the up-coming amendments and one vote could not properly represent their views.
Schultz was unshakeable, one vote would do.
Amongst the furore one member stood up, waving his voting paper, and shouted, 'If that's the case, why not have just one vote for the whole bloody lot of this'. Schultz remained unmoved. Imperiously ignoring the mayhem before him, he demanded the vote be taken in the manner he described. It was. The members did as they were told.
Schultz won the day and in so doing revealed the lunacy of the whole voting process.”
Since Roll Call Votes
(RCVs) are the only way we the public can properly see how an MEP votes on a particular amendment and on a report, I too cannot agree with the Parliament’s new president and his decision to proceed in this manner. But for Mr Colman, this was the ideal trigger for a ‘what is the point?’ reflection and yet more colourful UKIP language:
"None of it matters. Everything goes through on the nod. The MEPs have virtually no power and no real influence. That resides with the Commission.
The European Parliament is a sham, a pantomime put on to give the illusion of democracy where none exists. Schultz patently isn't going to waste time pretending that it does.
He has given the lie to those who, self-importantly, preen and strut in this house of hypocrisy."
In response to this article and while not defending Mr Schulz for his actions, Sir Graham Watson
- an experienced MEP for more than 17 years - wrote the following reply
sent to the same newspaper for publication: (my emphasis added in bold)
"As I am not in the position to provide readers of the Bristol Evening Post with an alternative viewpoint to Trevor Colman's Tuesday Thoughts column (BEP 21st February), all I can do is write a letter to offer a rebuttal to his comments.
With a parliamentary attendance record of just under 75%, one of the lowest of all MEPs, Mr Colman has very little credence to stand up and talk about what goes on in Parliament when he is very rarely there. Mr Colman also rarely proposes any amendments to legislation or scrutinises the work of the European Commission. During this parliamentary term, he has tabled just 1 parliamentary question.
Since 2009 and the adoption of the Lisbon treaty, which Trevor Colman and his UK Independence Party staunchly opposed, the European Parliament has greater powers of scrutiny over the EU budget and legislation, putting more powers in the hands of directly elected members.
If readers would like to find out more about the activity of their 6 MEPs, I would invite readers to visit www.votewatch.eu, an independently run website designed to scrutinise MEP activities.
If Mr Colman would actually like to know more about what happens in the Parliament when he's not there, I write a weekly newsletter on Parliament's business each Friday which is posted on my website.
Sir Graham WatsonTouché.
Liberal Democrat MEP for South West England and Gibraltar"
I have to say the newsletter sign-off is a particular highlight, but now let’s see whether the Bristol Evening Post publishes this reply…
Bristol Evening Post have indeed published the letter! See it online here
Labels: Graham Watson, Trevor Colman