The Corner

A Parliament Without Free Speech

Just a few days after the European parliament punishes one euroskeptic MEP for being as rude to the EU Council’s president–and to Belgium–as they both deserve, it’s punishing another for making an awkward point or two. The Daily Telegraph has the details:

First, Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader in Strasbourg, was fined for describing EU President Herman Van Rompuy as having the “charisma of a damp rag” and the appearance of “a low-grade bank clerk”. Now the Earl of Dartmouth has been asked to leave a debate for saying that for hot countries such as Greece and Cyprus to have an “Arctic Policy” was “as bizarre as the appointment of Baroness Ashton as the EU’s high representative”. Lord Dartmouth was taking part in a debate on policy towards the Arctic as the ice melts and sea lanes open up in an area until now not governed by international maritime law. Diana Wallis, the UK Liberal Democrat MEP who was chairing the debate, objected when Lord Dartmouth raised what he called the absurdity of southern European states being involved in any policy to do with the Arctic.

If you take the view that man-made climate change is a global threat that can indeed be headed off/minimized, then it is in fact easily possible to construct a rationale for Greece and Cyprus having some sort of Arctic policy. Nevertheless, it’s not entirely bizarre to find it bizarre. That said, if anything is bizarre it’s the appointment of Baroness Ashton as the EU’s “High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.” A lifetime of patronage jobs (and a stint as a nuclear disarmament activist during the later Brezhnev era) is now, it seems, thought to be suitable training for such a magnificently titled role.

The real problem, of course, is that the EU parliament, a body noticeable mainly for the stupidity of its opinions, the greed of its representatives and the reluctance of voters to participate in its elections, just doesn’t seem to get free speech.

For a reminder of a more robust approach, here’s Frederick Forsyth writing in the Daily Express:

Over 200 years ago an outraged Lord Sandwich rose purple-faced in the House to shout at an opponent. “Wilkes, you will die either on the gallows or of the pox.” “That,” drawled John Wilkes without a pause, “must depend on whether I embrace your Lordship’s principles or your mistress.” Terribly rude but what a put-down. We should have more like that, not less.

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