Liberal Democrats and the ELDR
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 31st October, 2008
It would probably surprise most Liberal Democrat members and supporters in the UK to learn that the party is the largest Liberal party in Europe, in terms of the percentage vote received in national elections. Because of the first-past-the post electoral system in Britain, however, the party’s strength in the Westminster parliament is only half what it should be and it hasn’t been in government since the War. By comparison, most of the contintental Liberal Parties are quite small, but often have considerable influence. Indeed, six European Prime Ministers are Liberals (from Andorra, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Romania). Other Ministers are legion.
It is all the stranger, therefore, that while several present or former Prime Ministers and numerous Ministers from continental Liberal parties have been present at the ELDR Congress in Stockholm, as well as a couple of European Commissioners, during the past two days, the large British contingent is light on parliamentary eåpresentation. Simon Hughes, MP, the Party President, is here for the day today, and he should be congratulated for the seriousness with which he personally has taken the Liberal Democrats’ international links, including with Liberal International. But there is no other Westminster MP here, and only two out of the eleven British members of the European Parliament (Andrew Duff and Sharon Bowles, though Graham Watson, the Leader of the ALDE Liberal group in the European Parliament did send a video message). This is all the more shocking given that this Congress is fashioning the manifesto for the 2009 Euro-elections. The unfortunate message going out to sister patries here is that despite their Euro-credentials, the LibDems don’t take Europe seriously and consider relations with ‘foreigners’ of secondary importance.