Bloomsday

by Andrew Stuttaford

Amongst the many reasons to be thankful for being in America are the three thousand miles or so that separate this country from the EU’s mainland.

 

The story of Godfrey Bloom helps explain why. He’s a UKIP (Britain’s principal euroskeptic party) member of the EU’s ‘parliament’. Bloom is not the most sympathetic of characters, but the insult he recently threw at Martin Schulz, the unlikeable leader of this squalid assembly’s grubby Socialists was beneath even his dignity.

 

Daniel Hannan explains:

 

 

“Irked by Shulz’s [the Socialist leader] complaint that the UK was standing in the way of European integration, the UKIP MEP burst out “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!” There are times when British Eurosceptics cringe at the behaviour of one of their countrymen, and this was one of them. Bloom was out of order: whatever else he is, Schulz is no Nazi.”

 

 

True enough. Schulz is a sort of ‘left corporatist’, no friend of liberty to be sure, and with an enthusiasm for democracy that does not burn so very bright, but to link him to the darkest episode of his country’s past is unfair.

 

But the consequences of Bloom’s misbehavior were far more serious (not least in their implications) than his childish insult deserved. The parliament’s acting speaker, a snake redeemed only by the manifest insincerity of his convictions, called for a vote on whether to eject Bloom from the chamber. The claque said yes, and Bloom was escorted out.

 

You can see the whole thing over at England Expects.

 

As Hannan points out, it was a spectacle that raises some troubling questions:

 

Several aspects of this episode should alarm us. First, there is the democratic objection. Surely it is up to the electorate to decide who sits in a legislature. If Bloom can be denied his place by his fellow MEPs, what is to stop the federalist majority voting to expel every Eurosceptic?

 

Then there is the liberal objection. In a free society, the right to say what you will trumps the right not to be offended. We should allow people to be ignorant, ill-mannered, obnoxious; to condemn themselves by their boorishness.

 

Above all, though, there is the sheer one-sidedness….Euro-integrationists routinely dismiss their opponents as Nazis. The leader of the European Liberals, Graham Watson, has said that Eurosceptics put him in mind of “the National Socialists in the German Reichstag”. In the run-up to the French referendum on the European Constitution, Margot Wallström, then Sweden’s Commissioner, travelled to the Theresiendstadt concentration camp to and told “No” voters that this was where their ideology would lead. Only last week, Herman Van Rompuy, the Euro-President, said “we have together to fight the danger of a new Euro-scepticism. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war”.

 

Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that one MEP, furious because Eurosceptics were calling for a referendum, said this:

 

“During the Weimar Republic, some pursued a strategy of trying to shout down their political opponents. That was how Adolf Hitler behaved, and it was how I felt today”.

 

The author of those words? Martin Schulz…Now Mr Shulz was being silly as well as rude: calling for a referendum is not the same thing as bringing down the Weimar Republic. But no one suggested that he should be forced to apologise, let alone expelled from the hemicycle. Freedom, after all, includes the freedom to make stupid comparisons.

 

 

But then the EU parliament is not about freedom. Never has been. Never will be.