Recently in Europe Category

A belated election review.

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Now everyone else has hashed and rehashed the Euros, here's a wee review. At every level, the silver lining comes with a black cloud attached. (image from b3ta)

Scottish good news: It was our best ever result in a Scotland-wide election, even above the famous 1989 surge, and we continue to move up as the Liberals move down again.
Scottish bad news: The Westminster parties have never been less trusted, and we should have done better. Despite their total chaos, Labour won almost three times as many votes as us. 

UK good news: Our friends down south saw the biggest increase in their support of any party, and came out on top across Brighton and Hove and also Norwich, the party's two top targets for the UK General.
UK bad news: Seeing Nazis get elected, especially in the Northwest, where just 5,000 more Green votes would have seen the wonderful Peter Cranie returned to Europe instead of the vile Nick Griffin. The BNP's vote fell and they gained seats. More than a quarter of a million more people voted Green, but we got no more seats, narrowly missing out in a few regions.

European good news: Greens were the big winners across the continent, with great results in France, Germany and elsewhere.
European bad news: The far right in Hungary, Netherlands and elsewhere also did well. Nick Griffin will have plenty of friends, even if they're furriners.

Looking again at the Scottish result, it seems clear that the SNP have positioned themselves as anti-Westminster, despite some shocking abuses of the expenses scheme, and so were ideally placed to pick up the reform/protest votes here that we might otherwise have won.

Vote Green.

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It's too late for policy arguments, so here's something more shallow. You'll be in good company, including Alexei Sayle, Mark Steel, Joanna Lumley, Jonathan Freedland, Mark Thomas, George Monbiot and Peter Tatchell (who's a member), not to mention local blogger Malc in the Burgh

Even better, drag someone else out to vote too, ring your family and make sure they vote, all that good stuff. 

One vote counts for three or four with a turnout this low: think how much difference a handful could make.

Just to encourage you, here's a cute picture of a baby fox.

Alexei Sayle voting Green.

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Perfect. I'd never have predicted that both Alexei Sayle and Joanna Lumley would be voting Green this time. Here's what he said to Peter Cranie, the Green lead candidate in the English North West.

"One of the great things about Britain is that, unlike in a lot of Europe, we have never let extremist parties of the right get anything but a tiny toehold in our electoral system. I'll personally be voting Green this time but whoever you support you should use your vote to continue our noble tradition and keep the BNP out."

Herewith a classic Sayle moment:

Numbers just out from ComRes* put us in a great position UK-wide. I couldn't resist a bar chart, although I refuse to label it "Only Greens can win here".
Jeff and others always love their Scottish subsamples, so here are the eye-popping Scottish numbers for your delecation.
That's right, it shows us in third, ahead of the Lib Dems and the Tories. It's a small sample, and it's only a poll, so no-one get complacent, mm'kay?

* note: our Green colleagues down south commissioned the poll, so feel free to tell me the customer is always right.

A promising Euro-poll.

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Friday's Times will have the following numbers (Political Betting thread here):

Tory: 30%
UKIP: 19%
Labour: 16%
Liberal: 12%
Green: 10%
BNP: 5%

If you're a real optimist like me, you can look at it this way. If one more Labour voter in seven and one more Liberal voter in seven switched to the Greens we'd beat the pair of them into fourth and fifth place respectively. 

56% also want to see PR brought in to help clear up politics.

The pessimist in me looks at the share above, though, and sees 55% of the electorate voting for Cameron and points right of him.

Invisible Nat MEPs.

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invisiblemanpicture.PNGWhen you "send someone to Brussels", shouldn't they actually take part in debates? It turns out the Nat MEPs are, of all Scotland's European representatives, the most regularly absent from the chamber. 

Inconveniently, they sit as part of the European Free Alliance (very Star Wars), which is in turn part of a larger group with our European colleagues, the Greens-EFA. So have they dragged our EU-wide average down? Clearly, but even with this dead weight on our stats, the Greens-EFA remain the most diligent in the European Parliament. 

Another curiosity from that same site - click here to compare the voting record of ALDE (the group the Liberals are in) with the other parties, and you see they're closest to the centre-right EPP-PE.

Greens on the telly.

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The Euro PEB, with great visuals, and good clear messages. Love the globe..

tebbitspittingimage.jpgThis morning he's urged a boycott of the major parties for the Euros, but hasn't explicitly said which of the other parties he would recommend. Presumably there's a clause in his Tory membership that says "calling for a vote for any other specific party will get you disfellowshipped", but I think we can all work out what he means. 

The largest Westminster parties have had their snouts in the trough for too long, and cannot be supported. The BNP are racist thugs, while UKIP went to Brussels in large numbers in 2004 and have lived high on the Euro-hog ever since. No decent person could back either of those parties. 

Can he really be issuing a coded message backing us? Could this endorsement sink our entire campaign?

When Europe works properly.

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carolinevoting.jpgEarlier this week, the European Parliament backed a carbon limit for power generation in the EU, setting a figure of 500 grams per kilowatt hour. As the Guardian reports, tougher limits were proposed, but were voted down. 

Even at this level, it's the (eventual) death of un-captured coal power in Europe, and about time too.

So what did the British MEPs do? The Greens did the right thing throughout, in case you're wondering: the pic to the left is Caroline Lucas casting voting on this actual issue. Exciting or what?

The first vote was on 350g/kwh, and the three Tories voted against that, as did the Labour MEPs. The only UK Liberal voted the right way, as did the Plaid rep and also Sinn Fein. The good guys lost 24-37 this time.

Next up, 400g/kwh. Again, the Tories and Labour voted against. This one was closer, falling by a single vote. In other words, if the Committee had one more Green (or even another Liberal, Plaid or Sinn Fein member) and one fewer Tory or Labour MEP we'd have got a tougher law. So too we would have if either group had done the right thing.

All the UK MEPs then voted with the Greens on the 500g motion, and that went through overwhelmingly.

The most tiresome part of this is that Cameron pledged himself in June this year to:

"..follow the Californian model, and implement an Emissions Performance Standard. This would mean the carbon emissions rate of all electricity generated in our country cannot be any higher than that generated in a modern gas plant. Such a standard would mean that a new generation of unabated coal power plants could not be built in this country."

A combined cycle gas turbine power station emits just 320g/kwh (2003 figures given in evidence to the House of Commons). Sure, his speech cited the 500g/kwh figure, but he must know that's seriously out of date. The figure above is five years old, after all, and I have no doubt technology has moved on, bringing the current figure down even further. 

It's another bit of evidence about the limits of the Tories' new-found interest in the environment, and it confirms the equal uselessness of Labour on the same issue. Having said that, a limit is better than no limit, and to that extent I'm pleased. 

The voting numbers are here, in case anyone wants to check my rollcall (thanks to Mark Johnson for those). The Committee's affiliations are listed here for cross-reference purposes.

Chasing a sinking ship.

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eurodesign.JPGVince Cable is apparently bouncing the Liberals into a more sceptical position on the Euro. 

First, it's tactical, of course, being the Liberals: " is a ship that has sailed out of the harbour. There is no point in jumping into the sea and swimming after it." 

Second, it's a slightly vague recognition of the problems the Euro has caused a number of European economies: "There are various things that we have learnt about euroland, and about the eurozone, which are clearly problems that need to be resolved." 

Consider the problems the MPC have each month here - do they cut rates to try and kick-start the housing market, or do they raise them to try and bring inflation back within Brown's targets? For five months they've been stuck in these headlights, and have kept interest rates steady at 5%.

Now imagine trying to set one interest rate across a continent with varying inflation rates, and varying economic conditions. For example, Spain's inflation is at 5%, Italy's at 4.1% (same link), while the Dutch are at 3.25%. Simultaneously, the Guardian reports that Latvia's house prices have fallen 24.1% over the last year, Germany's have gone down 6.9% over the last two years, while in Spain, France and Greece they're still rising at a little over 3%.

How on earth should the European Central Bank reconcile all that? How would you feel if you lived in Latvia, and interest rates were set to suit Germany, or vice versa? Where's the democratic oversight? (Note: Latvia are part of European Monetary Union but have not yet adopted the single currency, but their currency is pegged to the Euro).

Anyway, if the Liberals do come round to the flaws in monetary union, this would leave the only British party wishing to subscribe to a Europe-wide interest rate as... the SNP. I've never understood their argument that we shouldn't let London make our economic decisions for us, but instead they should be taken in Frankfurt. 

To quote an SNP press release: "With distant London in charge, Scotland will just keep on slipping further behind." Isn't Frankfurt even more distant?

In that same release, the Nats cite Iceland, Ireland and Norway as the so-called "arc of prosperity". They're an interesting experimental lab, actually. Ireland's on the Euro, while Iceland and Norway are out of the EU altogether. Personally, I'll take the latter model, but let's see what happens.

Footnote: there are plenty of Greens who believe in the single currency, including many here in Scotland. For some, it's a key symbolic part of being pro-European. Personally, though, I am comfortable being utterly pro-European but against monetary union, as per the party policy, set in an internal referendum in 2001, which reads as follows:

"The Scottish Green Party believes that governments should be free to set their own levels of taxation, public spending and public borrowing in areas that only affect their own country. We consider that European Monetary Union will undermine local and regional economies and that it takes no account of environmental or social criteria. It is run by a collection of bankers subject to no effective democratic control, but able to override democratic decisions made by member states. We therefore oppose Scottish membership of the Euro."

This selection just from the last week. 

"We will continue to work closely with the Saudi government to bring oil prices down to sustainable levels" - Gordon Brown, Britain, so they say 

"I wanted to kill somebody.. you know very well who, like every other Pole" - Donald Tusk, Poland 

"We represent 80% of the electorate and a wide range of public opinion within society. Any reasonable assessment by Irish people has to lead them to vote yes." - Brian Cowen, Ireland 

"We've all had to drive the porcelain bus at some stage" - Kevin Rudd, Australia

Today's lesson is..

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sinstra.jpgKeep clear of dubious alliances. Our Italian colleagues joined one, and took a complete shoeing. Cooperation after an election can make sense with almost any party on an issue-by-issue basis (say, the Tories, on, say, ID cards), and unlikely coalitions can work too (see Ireland). But joint lists in elections, especially with the likes of Communist Refoundation?

Hidden in broad daylight

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eurostack.jpgThe Observer today exposes how massive amounts of "oor money" get used by the European Investment Bank, an official organ of the EU, to subsidise oil pipelines, dams, privatisation projects and the like, all allocated by EU-style carve-ups in almost total secrecy. 

My first thought was "hang on, surely a little exposure will make this stop". Then I wonder if any amount of exposure can stop a £150bn slush fund that makes a lot of friends for the right people. Let's find out. And let's spend our money backing proper sustainability, not dams and motorways.

Anyway, hats off to Greig and Anders for this one. Keep up the good work.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Europe category.

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