Thursday, 8 April 2010


UK elections attract a good degree of interest amongst European MEPs. Our continental colleagues are interested in the fortunes of their political kin, they wonder whether the Conservatives might prove as hostile to the European Union as some of their spokesmen suggest, and they never cease to be amazed that we tolerate an election system that can give a party with 34% of the vote a huge overall majority in the House of Commons. So there was an undercurrent running through debates in the European Parliament's environment committee last Tuesday - enlivened I think by a bit of good humoured banter between the British representatives present.

Most of us face the same dilemma, should we be working on legislation in Brussels or devoting all our time to campaigning in our regions? The general election had been called that morning. BNP leader Nick Griffin was not present, and nor was UKIP's Paul Nuttall (he rarely is), but Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader (contesting Brighton Pavilion), was sitting behind me moving proposals to outlaw the sale of imported timber from sources that cannot be proven sustainable. I supported her in that, but then was on my feet myself attacking the Greens for opposing EU plans to promote carbon capture and storage projects. (I noticed that Caroline left the room before that exchange took place - environmentalists in the UK are mostly supportive of CCS development).

Labour and Conservative MEPs joined with me in other debates about legislation to improve the recycling of electrical waste. With questions also about how we improve upon the EU's dismal performance at the recent world conference on trade in endangered species (hopelessly outmanoeuvred by the Japanese), and an exchange with the EU's excellent new environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, my own portfolio was well exercised that day. I'm glad I was there.

But a big part of me wanted to be back in the North West, campaigning in our target seats. Our prospects look good, and having fought five British parliamentary elections myself it is still a delight to know that my own neck is not on the line. There's a lot going on now in the European Parliament so I have to be back and forth, but it will be less of back to Brussels and a lot more forth to the North West election frontline.

1 comment:

Jen said...

we tolerate an election system that can give a party with 34% of the vote a huge overall majority in the House of Commons

*checks today's opinion polls*

Well, hope springs eternal!