Killing dissent in Europe: Mr. Nigel Farage won't be the last victim
The modern EU is not run by people who are committed to a pluralistic democratic political culture, and these days you don't need to be a traditional eurosceptic to see that
The shocking tale of UKIP (UK Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage’s grossly inappropriate fine for his sardonic remarks about European Council President Herman Van Rompuy appears to be drawing to an unhappy and worrying conclusion.
As Guido Fawkes, Britain's leading Westminster media outlet, pointed out on Tuesday, Farage has lost his appeal against the 3,000 euro ($4,000) penalty and will also have to pay costs.
Farage, a highly articulate eurosceptic, got himself into trouble back in early 2010 in the context of a typically withering assault in the European Parliament on the EU’s complete lack of democratic legitimacy. Van Rompuy had just been appointed to his new position which was created in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty – the most anti-democratic venture in the post-Cold War history of western Europe – and Farage was, rightly, in no mood to take prisoners.
“You have the charisma of a damp rag, and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk,“ he told a somewhat bemused looking Van Rompuy.
To be sure, that’s not a quotation from Virgil. But neither is it an assault composed of vulgarities.
Given that Van Rompuy acquired his position – a position of considerable power -- without facing the ballot box, he must have expected some pretty robust scrutiny including over his fitness to be one of the most important public faces of the European Union. Perhaps Farage took that concept just a little too literally.
But surely, anyone subjected to such a critique who was committed to a pluralistic democratic political culture would simply shake their head, shrug their shoulders move on and ignore it.
But here’s the rub. The modern EU is not run by people who are committed to a pluralistic democratic political culture. They aren’t used to being held to account in the manner that people like Nigel Farage at UKIP, and Daniel Hannan and many other Conservative MEPs are.
Neither is Van Rompuy an elected representative who can claim the kind of prerogatives that ministers might claim in a chamber such as the House of Commons.
In such a setting, the Speaker would object to personalised remarks not simply to uphold standards but also because to insult a member of parliament is also to insult the voters who put him or her there in the first place. That is a central principle of representative democracy.
In the end, the fact that the EU hierarchy could not just laugh this one off says far more about them than it does about Nigel Farage. Their approach smacks of a kind of vindictive opportunism.
The moment one of their critics said something that could be construed as crossing a red line, unable to believe their luck they came down on him like a tonne of bricks.
Maybe the eurocrats no longer care, but they need to be aware that across the political spectrum there is widespread concern in Britain (and increasingly across Europe) about the EU’s attitude towards democracy and dissent. The way things are going, it would not be surprising in the coming years if moves were made to make "misrepresentation" of the European project a sanctionable offence in itself.
Efforts to institute propaganda classes in schools on the benefits of the EU are already afoot. So, the mooted trajectory is frighteningly clear.
Among democratically minded people, even those who do not hold a candle for Nigel Farage and UKIP will still feel uncomfortable about the treatment of an elected British representative at the hands of an unelected clique in Brussels. In the context of moves towards a European superstate as a response to the crisis in the Eurozone, it is anybody's guess where we go from here.
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