Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Edward McMillan-Scott’

EU Action on Human Rights

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 12th July, 2012

When Cathy Ashton was appointed High Representative in charge of the EU’s external action service, she declared that she wanted human rights to run like a ‘silver thread’ through the service’s policies. But as Edward McMillan-Scott — Liberal Democrat MEP and a Vice President of the European Parliament — said at  a roundtable at Europe House in Westminster this lunchtime, human rights have sometimes played second fiddle to trade matters and other practical concerns. He, the Labour MP Michael Connarty (the senior Labour figure on the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee) and Nicholas Beger (from Amnesty International’s Brussels office dealing with the European institutions) were therefore not surprisingly all in favour of the proposed appointment of an EU Special Representative for Human Rights, whose specific job it would be to focus on human rights concerns, wherever they occur in the world, irrespective of other considerations. As Nicholas Beger pointed out, there is currently often a lack of balance in the EU’s stance regarding the transgressions of other states; Belarus rightly comes under criticism for its many shortcomings, but why not Azerbaijan? Oil is a sad but obvious answer, but the putative Special Representative must be above such considerations and look at the world’s nations objectively. I said that I thought the litmus test for the new human rights action plan — of which the Special Representative would be the most high profile part — will come with regard to Israel/Palestine. Michael Connarty rightly touched on Israeli violations in his introductory remarks, but I believe the EU’s credibillity on human rights will only be proven when it does take an objective stand and condemns various elements of the occupation, house demolitions, administrative detention and so forth — though the wide divergence of views among member states relating to Israel could prove to be a problem. By coincidence, while our roundtable was discussing these matters, the House of Commons was getting ready to debate to desirability of appointing the EU Special Representative. Michael Connarty was worried some eurosceptic Tories might use this as an opportunity to further their prejudices, but it is to be hoped that the British parliament will indeed give the initiative its blessing. It would be shameful otherwise.

 

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Europe’s Parliament

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 5th June, 2012

The European Parliament is little understood and in England, at least, much misrepresented. This is largely the fault of the British media, most of which either ignores or lampoons the institution. But many UK politicians — including some MEPs — share the blame. One expects UKIP to be misleading and nasty; after all, they want Britain out of the European Union (though I am sure the UKIP MEPs would be the first to bemoan their consequent loss of salary). But an alarming number of Tories also take part in the ritualistic slagging-off of the EU in general and the Parliament in particular. Three of the worst Conservative offenders in the last parliament, were Daniel Hannan (still there), Roger Helmer and Chris Heaton-Harris; they were apparently known to their fellow MEPs as “The H Block”. That is one of the myriad facts that even a longstanding observer of the European Parliament such as myself picked up from a new book: Europe’s Parliament (John Harper Publishing, £29), by Julian Priestley and Stephen Clark. Julian was an Oxford contemporary of mine, and our paths crossed again when I started covering the then appointed European Parliament in Strasbourg and Luxembourg for Reuters in 1974, when he was a junior official. He rose to become the Parliament’s Secretary General, and it is not difficult to work out which parts of this weighty but accessibly-written tome came from his pen. I particularly relished the description of Andrew Duff (LibDem MEP for the East of England) as an Ayatollah among the group of revolutionary constitutionalists. Inevitably the choice of personalities is somewhat subjective. Nigel Farrage, UKIP’s Leader, gets more than his fair share, whereas Sharon Bowles (the South East LibDem MEP who is sometimes rather grandly described as the most powerful women in European financial circles) doesn’t get a mention. The French and Germans not surprisingly receive full coverage, as they have been so key to the Parliament’s development. The early part of the book is largely about the three parliamentary sites and their buildings, which I fear will be red rag to the Eurosceptic bulls. Luxembourg now merely houses officials, but there is still a ridiculous and ridiculously expensive moving cricus of MEPs and hangers-on between Brussels and Strasboug each month, despite the valiant efforts of Edward McMillan-Scott and others to press for a Single Seat. That would, alas, require a Treaty change, which can only happen by unanimity; no prizes for guessing which country would block Strasbourg’s demise (though as Priestley and Clark point out, many Germans have a strong attachment to the Alsace city too. The book is probably too hefty to be of much direct use in schools, but certainly it will appeal to politics undergraduates, journalists and politicos, not least aspirant MEPs such as myself.

Link: www.johnharperpublishing.co.uk

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Edward McMillan-Scott Takes on the Tory Party

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th January, 2010

The Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who was expelled from the Conservative Party for opposing David Cameron’s unholy alliance with right-wing parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) in the European Parliament, is mounting a High Court legal challenge to his expulsion. Mr McMillan-Scott has been excluded from the party for a period of five years — the same punishment Lord (Jeffrey) Archer got after being sent to prison for perjury — despite the fact that he has been a hard-woking Conservative MEP for 25 years. His ‘crime’ was to stand against Michal Kaminski, a leading PiS MEP, for the post of one of the European Parliament’s Vice-Presidents — and winning — thereby putting a spanner in the works of the Conservative Party’s backroom bargaining with their unsavoury continental allies. Mr Kaminski then had to be appeased by the Tories by their agreeing to his becoming the leader of the new right-wing grouping in the Parliament, the European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR).

Edward McMillan-Scott’s line is that the Tory leadership has lost its way and that he has every right to be within the party to which he remains committed. He has accused David Cameron of having insufficient experience in dealing with European affairs and of making a serious mistake in promising to take the Conservatives out of the European Parliament’s largest political grouping — the centre-right EPP — as part of his domestic leadership campaign. In announcing his High Court action against the Conservative Party, Mr McMillan-Scott told a Daily Telegraph journalist, ‘The party seeks to prevent my candidacy in the next European election merely for taking a stand on matters of personal conscience. This raises very serious ethical, legal and poliical issues.’ It also highilghts how Cameron’s Conservatives are preapred to sacrifice their own stalwarts in their pursuit of miopic europhobia.

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What Some Tories Would Rather We Didn’t Know

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 18th October, 2009

Michal Kaminski ToriesToday’s ‘Observer’ has details of an attempted cover-up by someone who would prefer that the world doesn’t know the far-right past of Michal Kaminski, leader of the European Conservative and Reformist group (ECR) in the European Parliament, to which the British Conservatives belong. Mr Kaminski was formerly a member of the neo-fascist National Revival of Poland Party, before leaving to join the more mainstream but nonetheless ultra-conservative (and some say anti-Semitic and homophobic)  Law and Justice party (PiS). But this fact was recently removed from his Wikipedia entry by persons unknown, whom The Observer has traced to the House of Commons. What makes the affair even more remarkable is that someone else (this time operating out of Strasbourg, the main seat of the European Parliament) has doctored the Wikipedia entry of Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP,as well. Mr McMillan-Scott, regular readers of this blog will recall, was expelled from the Tory Party after he stood against Michal Kaminski to become a Vice-President of the Parliament, and won. Mr Kaminski was given the chairmanship of th ECR as a sort of consolation prize for this rebuff.

Edward McMillan-ScottSo what does Mr McMillan-Scott think of what is going on? He told The Observer, ”My record was … changed to paint me as a Euro-fanatic. More seriously, there is a systematic cover-up by the Conservative Party of Kaminski’s unpleasant political past.’ That ‘unpleasant political past’ didn’t stop the Conservatives inviting Mr Kaminski as a guest of honour at their recent party conference in Manchester. By their friends shall they be known. Nick Clegg’s take on all this is, ‘The Conservative Party should come clean. If this is the Tory party trying to airbrush the embarrassing past of their new friend in Europe from the record, they should have the courage to say so.’ That is the crux of the matter. Was this tampering with Wikipedia sanctioned by the party hierarchy, or was it some young researcher acting on his or her own initiative? We need to be told. Either way, this childish attempt to conceal the truth has spectacularly backfired.

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David Miliband Is Right to Berate William Hague

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th October, 2009

David Miliband 2British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has a right old go in The Observer today at the Tories — and especially his shadow opposite number, William Hague — for their alliance with Michal Kominski, of Poland’s innocuous-sounding Law and Justice Party (PiS) and Robert Zile of the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom party, both of which have dodgy records on issues such as anti-semitism and homophobia, not to mention a general far-right past. Quite right too. Far from beng party political point scoring, this is a necessary move to show just what disgusting people the Conservatives have got into bed with in the European Parliament. They were even parading them at their party conference in Manchester the other day. It was depressing to see Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle coming out in Kaminski’s defence earlier this week. Zionists often accuse those who defend Palestinian rights as being ‘self-hating Jews’, but how self-hating can you get when you stand up and defend someone who refuses to apologise for the massacre of Jews at Jedwabne in Poland in 1941, as Kominski has refused to do?

Michal KominskiBut William Hague, far from admitting that the Conservatives have made a huge tactical error in their leaving the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP) to join up with these East European fruitcakes in the new  ‘European Conservatives and Reformists’ Group (ECR), has been stubbornly arguing that right is on the Tories’ side. Just look what happened to former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott. He revolted at the prospect of supporting Michal Kominski as a Vice-President of the European Parliament, because of the Pole’s ‘anti-semitic, homophobic and racist past’ — and not only stood against him, but won. His punishment for this principled stand was to have the Tory whip wirthdrawn, then to be expelled from the Conservative Party, despite his long years of services to the cause, because — as William Hague explained it — he had made his allegations ‘against an individual who is a good friend of the Conservative Party and against a party (the PiS) allied to the Conservative Party in the European Parliament.’  By your friends you will be known, William. As a consolation prize, Kaminski was given the leadership of the ECR group in the Parliament. Pass the sick bag, Alice.

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The UK Conservatives’ European Hole Gets Deeper

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 10th August, 2009

Michal KominskiWilliam HagueAchilles had a heel, but Tory leader David Cameron has a hole: a continent-sized hole called Europe in which he and his mate William Hague keep digging deeper. In flagrant disregard for Britain’s best interests, the man who aspires  to be Britain’s next Prime Minister ordered his MEPs out of the largest political grouping in the European Parliament, in which representatives of the parties of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sakozy sit, in order to form a new fringe grouping of Euro-sceptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), alongside some pretty reactionary and non-inclusive Poles, Czechs and Latvians. As the biggest fish in this little pond, the Tories would normally have been awarded its presidency automatically. But because the dissident Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott stood against his new Polish ‘colleague’ Michal Kominski to become a Vice-President of the Parliament and beat him, Kominski had to be made leader of the ECR as a consolation. McMillan-Scott subsequently had the Tory whip withdrawn. But that was not the end of David Cameron’s Euro-woes.  Kaminski then revealed in a Polish media interview that far from opposing the Lisbon Treaty — a key plank in the British Conseratives’ European policy — he thinks it will be very good for Poland. This certainly leaves Dave and William with egg on their faces. But Hague says that if the Lisbon Treaty has come into force by the time a Conservative government takes over in the UK, that won’t be the end of the story, whatever that might mean. Hague the Vague,  once more filling us with confidence that he will make the perfect Foreign Secretary to defend Britain’s interests on the European and world stages. But never mind, William. Just keep digging.

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