Friday, 25 September 2009


It would be so easy to find myself hoisted by my own petard, accused of hypocrisy and with my words turned against me. There will be europhobe journalists out there just itching to put me down with a big headline.

In my angry speech at Liberal Democrat conference my venom was directed against those MEPs who took advantage of the slack procedures of the last Parliament to milk the system, finding ways to divert their office and staff salary budgets into their own pockets to the tune of hundreds of thousands each year.

The arrangements have been changed now. Opportunities for downright graft have gone but scope for unethical behaviour still exists, albeit on a much smaller scale. Reforms based on independent setting of payments, some straightforward cuts, and complete transparency are still needed.

The plain fact is that my personal income has increased by more than an average person's wage since the June election and I am only now starting to appreciate this. With the value of the pound going down the pan the salary of British MEPs has gone up (temporarily perhaps) AND pension contributions are made on top of it. An outrageous travel payment scheme from which I tried not to benefit personally has been replaced by still lucrative fixed allowances from which I do. And there remains a near €300 a day allowance that more than meets all away-from-home expenses.

Of course I shall move parliamentary amendments to make changes when I get the chance, but what do I do while they throw the gold at me? I don't see why I should put on the hairshirt and declare "I am principled so I won't claim as much as other MEPs:" it wouldn't win me an extra vote from a (rightly in this case) cynical public.

Maybe I should put on a banker's robe, ignore the criticism, and point out that if anyone wants the cash in future all they have to do is to join the Liberal Democrats and beat me for the nomination.

Or maybe I should work extra hard to justify the increase, except that I don't know how to work much harder than I already do.

My guiding thought has always been: "can I stand up in the village hall and defend what I do?" If not I shouldn't do it.
So long as the wealthy local doctor and dentist are sitting on the front row I can defend my new income as a price of democracy - but in some ways the reform in the MEPs' expenses arrangements has made it harder to do so.

Friday, 18 September 2009


I get up in the dark and pull on a pair of trainers; I know what's out there.

Returning to bed I look forward to another hour's sleep, but my ankle is itching. A CAT FLEA HAS GOT ME! Worse, I can feel it moving. I turn on the light and track it down. It jumps three times before I get it between my fingers. Cat fleas are hard to kill but eventually the black dot stays put. That's one down.

No point going back to bed so I get up, go to the kitchen and find the can of cat flea killer that I had meant to use last weekend. I spray and spray. Hang biodiversity, I want vengeance.

The instructions on the can say that it should provide 12 months' relief, but I don't believe them. EU laws have made this a safer world. Thoroughly nasty chemicals that were once used freely around the house have now been taken off the market.

It means that fewer people will die of cancer, but it also means that some cat fleas will survive.

Is this a good trade-off? It's a tough call.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


My first speech of the new session in the Parliament was a call for action against Israel's continuing economic siege of Gaza. Nothing is being allowed through the checkpoints for reconstruction, for business, or to create jobs and foster hope (no wonder extremist attitudes grow). "1.5 million people are being subjected to collective punishment," I said.

The following day the UN inquiry into Israel's assault on Gaza concluded that the incursion was "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity...and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."

My press officer drafted a news release. It was headed: "UN BACKS DAVIES."

Not quite!


Membership of the various European Parliament delegations that maintain links with our opposite numbers around the world has just been announced. I'm back as a full member on the delegation to Palestine and I'm a new, second tier, member on the one to Israel. More intrusive security checks at Ben Gurion airport beckon. Joy.

I had better keep an eye on my blood pressure. The sense of outrage at the injustice experienced by Palestinians is never diluted by frustration at their inability to unite sufficiently to speak with one voice. To that may now be added the pleasure of observing Israeli representatives avoid explaining just what future they envisage for Palestinians as they continue to change the facts on the ground with their confiscation and building programme.

While I attended my first meeting of the Israel delegation I got notice that the Jewish Board of Deputies had issued a statement following a meeting with Nick Clegg (whose support for a just settlement in the Middle East is unquestioned). It reported him as saying that he profoundly disagreed with Baroness Tonge and MEP Chris Davies on many issues (no idea which ones). "Their right to express their views did not mean that anti-Semitic comments would be tolerated."

No suggestion here that either Jenny or myself have ever made anti-Semitic remarks, but I suspect the authors intended to imply that we had. Nice.

Get real. Criticism of the policies of the Israeli government, or even of some attitudes towards Palestinians within Israeli society, is not the same as anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


UKIP started the week in Strasbourg on ranting form. "The European Union is founded on misrepresentation, deceit and lies," West Midlands MEP Gerard Batten told the Parliament in his usual balanced way. "When it comes to further political integration 'No' is always the wrong answer so far as the EU is concerned, and so the Irish are forced to have another referendum."

But although the Union flag on the desk in front of him incorporates the flag of St Patrick his remarks didn't go down too well with the Irish present. "An erroneous and condescending statement," said Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly.

"Ireland has not been FORCED by anybody to vote a second time. It was a decision independently taken by the Irish Parliament. We haven't been forced to do anything since we gained our independence from Britain in 1922."

Nice one Seán.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


"Coal will remain the world's single most important source of electricity throughout the lifetimes of most of us here," I have just told The Coal Authority's annual conference in Manchester.

The purpose of my speech was to provide an update on the latest state of play in Europe regarding the development of carbon capture and storage technology. The International Energy Agency predicts a huge increase in coal use over the next 20 years, and without CCS we have no hope of curtailing the emission of global warming gases.

Within 3 months I expect the European Commission to announce that it will provide support funding for 7 CCS projects across Europe, including at least one in the UK.

Parkside Colliery near St Helens was the last deep mine being worked in the once huge Lancashire coalfield. It was closed in 1993 but when Michael Heseltine signalled its doom it was still profitable and had access to years of reserves.

Now, some 15 years later, 35pc of the UK's electricity still comes from coal, although most of it is imported. That begs two questions: if coal continues to be so important why did we close some of our best mines? Worse, why did we demolish the winding gear and fill in the shafts so they could never be reopened?

Monday, 7 September 2009


I am in my Stockport office getting an update from my casework officer, Danny, on issues recently taken up when press officer, Richard, shouts across: "tell him about the lizard e-mails."

Danny explains that we get a number of e-mails from people who believe that lizard beings are trying to take over the world. Hilary Clinton is an example of one person now firmly under their control it seems.

Jen, who works for the party, quietly mentions that cows have turned into killers. Four people have been trampled to death in recent months. A farmer died when his cows were, allegedly, spooked by a fire engine. Two walkers died when cows were, allegedly, aggressive towards the dogs accompanying them.

"The lizards report to the cows," said Danny, sagely.

Friday, 4 September 2009


Norway has refused to invest any of the $400 billion in the 'wealth fund' managed by its central bank in an Israeli company, Elbit Systems, that has supplied surveillance equipment for the Separation Wall built in part on Palestinian territory.

The Norwegian finance minister is unequivocal in saying that this is because of the direct violations of humanitarian law involved.

But Norway is a semi-detached European; a member of the economic area but with no voice at the EU table in Brussels. Pity. I wish the EU's full members would display similar courage. Where were the French when Alstom won the contract to build the new metro that serves the huge illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem? Is there anything left of an ethical British policy?

The Norwegian government has a distinguished record of speaking out against the Israeli occupation. Perhaps you will never get the German government to follow suit - the accusation of anti-semitism that would immediately be levelled would cause political problems in a country struggling with the guilt of its history - but why do all the others stay silent, or refuse to back up their gentle words of criticism with any practical action?

Instead of hiding behind Obama it would be refreshing to hear at least one EU government saying loudly and clearly that EU policy in the Middle East must stop cow-towing to Israeli oppression and sidestepping the reality of military occupation.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Good to hear a European Commissioner hitting back hard against those in Germany, the UK and elsewhere who have discovered a great love for the incandescent light bulb, the sale of which is now being phased out.

"Romantic nonsense," Gunther Verheugen told the Parliament's environment committee on Tuesday (1 Sept).

Mindful of how much energy the old bulbs waste, the Enterprise Commissioner and friend of industry told MEPs: "we cannot keep saying that we need change if we then resist all change."

"I am not going to be swayed by 'bulb hysteria'."

Good stuff. Let's hear the same from the Prime Ministers (all 27 of them) who backed the ban.