Thursday, 26 March 2009

THE LE PEN PROBLEM

Much debate amongst MEPs stemming from the awful realisation that Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front Nationale, convicted racist and known Holocaust denier (or diminisher) could chair the first session of the next Parliament in July.

The job is to preside over the election of the Parliament's next president, and the rules say that the job goes to the oldest elected MEP, who might well be 80-year old Le Pen.

"We will have to change the rules," say many MEPs. A British Labour MEP has just told me of looking at pictures of Nazi Party members in full kit sitting in the Reichstag before Hitler came to power. "You can't give them an opening," she says.

My liberal instincts come to the fore. I draw the line at someone advocating violence against others, but I want to support the principle of defending the right to speak even though I may detest the words that are spoken. Changing the rules with the aim of discriminating against one specific elected representative seems squalid to me; it brings the Parliament's defence of freedom of speech into contempt.

I expect to vote against any such proposal.

3 comments:

Jonny Wright said...

How awful to think of Jean-Marie Le Pen chairing the European Parliament! It's a really unpleasant thought.

I think your approach is the right answer, on balance, to a really tricky situation, and I imagine I would vote against such a proposal too if I were in your position. But I reckon you and others who take that line are going to come under a lot of flak, and get labelled as "apologists" for Le Pen, or worse.

Jimmy said...

The answer is for a Liberal minded political party to make sure they have an 85 year old on the slate for a safe seat or high on the list systems in place in some countries. My suggestion would be a holocaust survivor rather than a holocaust denier.

There is no need to change the rules, but I would hope that one of the political parties in Europe could take a stand to stop this from happening.

placidwilbur said...

You'll be attacked, but it's the right thing to do and you'll keep this constituent's support. Let him take the prominent position, but please don't ever let his bigotry go unanswered.