Tag Archives: MEP

Note to the Telegraph: Green MEP is not an avid bee keeper

Molly

Molly Scott Cato MEP – not an “avid bee keeper”

I was pleasantly surprised to see in today’s Daily Telegraph (not the natural bedfellows of The Green Party) an article that seriously examined the idea that the 2015 General Elections will be a ‘5 horse race’. It wasn’t long however before I started to spot the usual stereotyping that blights so much of the media coverage of the Green Party.

As a precursor to the rest of this blog it is worth highlighting the notable rise in quality media coverage the Greens have enjoyed over the last 6 months. This is, at least in part, thanks to the recently re-elected leader Natalie Bennett, who worked as a journalist including a number of years as an editor at The Guardian.

And yet it still feels like they are fighting an up-hill battle at every turn.

Using this latest Telegraph article as a case in point…The article is generally positive towards the Greens highlighting 7 reasons why they will be a major factor in May 2015’s General Election and yet a patronising whiff exists over the article and manifests itself in the smallest of details.

Take for example the section on last May’s European elections:

While Mr Clegg’s party lost 10 out of 11 MEPs, the Greens not only held their two seats but added a third – Molly Scott Cato, an avid beekeeper who became the party’s first ever South West MEP.

Why on earth would Ben Riley-Smith, the author of the article, choose ‘an avid beekeeper’ as a description for Molly rather than say, ‘a published economics author’ or ‘a former district councillor’ or ‘a former Professor of Economics’…?

This was a point that earlier today I raised on twitter copying in Molly Scott Cato MEP.

Her response just makes this point even more remarkable:

Curious. Not only did Riley-Scott choose the frankly bizarre description of ‘an avid bee keeper’ to describe this acclaimed author and academic but, bizarrely, this then turns out to be a complete falsehood anyway.

I then googled ‘Molly Scott Cato beekeeper’ to see where this apparent myth might have come from and sure enough, it appears in a number of other media outlets from the BBC (including the pun ‘making a buzz of her own’) to our local rag the Gloucestershire Citizen.

As Molly said in her tweet… #stereotypes.

This type of lazy stereotyping by the press perpetuates the myth that Greens are only interested in the environment. Even when an economist is elected the media look to describe her in outdated environmental terms.

This is in turn reinforces the perception of voters that Greens do address the issues that most concern them. Of course the irony is that ‘the economy’ consistently tops the list of issues concerning voters and yet journalists, like Riley-Scott, think it more pertinent to mention a completely made-up hobby of Molly’s rather than the fact that she is acclaimed economist!

Things are improving for the Greens in terms of media coverage but to say this is an uphill battle is an understatement.

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Filed under Climate Change, EU politics, Gloucestershire, Politics

Watch: MEPs perform rap battle

A few weeks ago I reported on a story that was circulating about a planned rap battle in the European Parliament in an effort to win over ‘youth votes’.

It seemed too good to be true, but no…here it is.

I…am…lost…for…words!

Hat tip to Brussels based journo Andy Carling for tweeting this!

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Filed under EU politics, Music

MEPs to perform rap battle to try and win over youth vote

rap battle
Go on…re-read that title. I shit you not!

Earlier today Brussels based journo Andy Carling tweeted a link out to his New Europe article highlighting a planned MEP rap battle that will try and win over young voters. My first thought was, ‘this has to be a spoof’…doesn’t it?’.

It seems it doesn’t.

A little bit of Googling seems to suggest that this is a real thing.

MEPs are actually going to enter, and be filmed, performing in a rap-battle in the belief that they are helping to win over the youth vote.

At this stage are you, like me, wondering which MEP in his/her right mind would agree to this?

Luckily for us, EU40 have already set up this events page which names and shames some potential MEPs. It names:

For the EPP (conservatives): Radvile Morkunaitè & Lara Comi

For the  S&D (socialists): Ismail Ertug & Sandra Petrovic Jakovina

For the ALDE (liberals): Vice-President Alexander Alvaro & Marietje Schaake

For the Greens: Ska Keller (both tbc)

Boy oh boy…do these MEPs employ Press Officers?

I mean…this is up there with the time Lempit Opik tried his hand at wrestling.

The event is on the 9th April in the Yehudi Menuin Room at the European Parliament with an after party at at Coco, Place Luxembourg. The event starts at 18:30!

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ACAA and human rights – a chance for the Lib Dems to show what they are made of

On the 18th September the committee of International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament will vote on a protocol attached to the EU-Israel Association Agreement called “the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products’’ – commonly known as ACAA.

ACAA seeks to facilitate the EU’s internal market through eliminating technical barriers to trade, specifically in industrial products.  It will save some time in accessing markets and save some costs. European and Israeli consumers will have access to a broader choice of pharmaceuticals and competition will lower prices. It is being pitched as a win win for both the EU and Israel.

So what’s the problem?

Human rights. Perhaps more specifically, Israel’s continued violations of human rights and international humanitarian law – even when the EU has asked them (repeatedly) to stop it.

The EU has openly, and at times boldly, condemned Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses within the occupied Palestinian territories. It is important that they do this. These statements however are just words unless they are followed up by action.

It is time for the EU to put their money where their mouth is.

Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement states that the “Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”.

In the EU’s words, “Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights are the values on which the European Union is founded…Countries…must respect human rights, and so must countries which have concluded trade and other agreements with it”. In other words, business and trade deals cannot be separated from the human rights standards that the Union was founded upon.

The European Parliament must suspend its vote on the ACAA protocol. All I am asking here is for the EU to live up to its own standards.

This is not anything new either. In 2008 the European Parliament withheld assent to the Protocol on the participation of Israel in Community Programs for similar reasons.

So what can the European Parliament actually do?

The EP can accept, reject or postpone the vote on the proposal but it cannot amend it.

It would be madness to reject a protocol that holds such clear mutual benefit but, at the same time, the EU cannot accept it for as long as Israel refuses to budge on so many human rights issues. As such, the EP has to suspend its vote on the ACAA protocol until Israel complies with its obligations under international humanitarian law.

As you might expect, the Socialists and Democrats (Labour) and the Greens in the EP are ‘opposed to ACAA’. Equally as you might also expect the ECR (Conservatives) and EFD (UKIP) are voting in favour. The balance of power therefore sits with ALDE (Lib Dems). ACAA needs their 85 votes to get through.

ALDE, like the EU, has a strong position on human rights. In their own words, “Promoting human rights throughout the world regardless of nationality has been and remains one of the top priorities for the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats for Europe… The European Union has now come to define itself in terms of the promotion of these rights and democratic freedoms.”

Lets hope that ALDE and the EU live up to their own standards. If they don’t, all they will have are words on a website. The world needs the EU, the Lib Dems and human rights to be more than that.

 

UPDATE – 2 MEPs have responded. The first was Keith Taylor MEP (Green, SE) – you can see his comments below.

The second MEP was Sarah Ludford (Lib Dem) who responded to Keith Taylor’s accusation that we couldn’t rely on the Lib Dems on this occasion. She tweeted:

 

This is not a boycott, it is a suspension of a vote until basic human rights and IHL standards are met. Sadly, it looks like Keith Taylor was right. Once again let down by the Lib Dems.

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Filed under EU politics, Human rights, Middle East, Politics

Richard Howitt MEP “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”

Spot the contentious comment:

The European Parliament “welcomes the reintroduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end

Or

The European Parliament “calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification

Or

The European Parliament “reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive roadmap against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations

Spotted anything contentious?

Apparently the 266 MEPs who voted against this amendment to the EU’s human rights report did. This included many UK Conservative, UKIP and BNP MEPs.

Richard Howitt MEP

As a result, the Labour MEP who tabled the amendment, Richard Howitt, commented, “Whatever Cameron claims, Tory views on LGBT issues are neanderthal and we saw that in yesterday’s vote”.

Daniel Hannan, one of the Tory MEPs who voted against the amendment however had another view. He succinctly responded to Howitt’s comments saying, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business”.

I have strong reason to believe that some MEPs, such as the inglorious Roger Helmer, who voted against this amendment could be described as homophobic, or at best, ignorant.

Hannan however who represents a slightly more complex consideration which is worth quickly looking at.

Hannan (in his own words) was “virtually the only Conservative, not just to back the scrapping of Section 28 in 2000, but to oppose its introduction in 1988. I supported the equalisation of the age of consent in 1994. I backed civil unions in 2004, and am quite relaxed about upgrading them to marriages”.

A gay rights campaigner? Not quite.

At best you could describe Hannan as indifferent towards issues of sexuality. Hannan in the past has said, “On balance, I suppose I mildly favour the idea [of gay marriage]”. Not excactly a Peter Tatchell.

So why did Hannan vote against this amendment?

He responded to Howitt commenting, “sexual orientation is none of the EU’s bloody business…[I] can be in favour of gay equality while none the less believing that moral questions ought to be decided by each nation through its own democratic mechanisms and procedures”.

Daniel Hannan MEP

The conclusion here is telling. I don’t believe he voted down this motion because he is a homophobe, but simply because he has an alarming placement of priorities.

Hannan believes these sorts of ‘moral issues’ “ought to be decided by each nation”. I disagree with this statement but that’s fine. The problem comes when he decides to vote against an amendment aimed at (among other things) offering protection to LGBT asylum seekers, a life and death issue for many, because of this belief about doing things at a nation state level.

The EU might not be perfect Mr Hannan but you have an obligation as an MEP to use it the best you can. On this occasion you have put politics above people’s safety. That is not OK.

It is important however to not lose sight of the 265 other MEPs (including Mr Farage, Griffin amongst others) who voted against this motion. I cannot, for all that I have tried, find one good reason why any MEP opposed this amendment.

The full text of the amendment reads:

“108a. Commends the Council, the EEAS, the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States on the reengagement in favour of LGBT people’s human rights in bilateral relations with third countries, in multilateral forums, and through the EIDHR; welcomes there introduction by the UN General Assembly of sexual orientation as grounds for protection from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, and welcomes the EU’s efforts to this end; calls on the Commission to advocate the withdrawal of gender identity from the list of mental and behavioural disorders in the negotiations on the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and to seek a non-pathologising reclassification; reasserts that the principle of non-discrimination, also embracing grounds of sex and sexual orientation, must not be compromised in the ACP-EU partnership; reiterates its request that the Commission produce a comprehensive road map against homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, also addressing human rights violations on these grounds in the world; calls on the Member States to grant asylum to people fleeing persecution in countries where LGBT people are criminalised, taking into consideration applicants’ well founded fears of persecution, and relying on their self-identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;”

Did your MEP vote against the amendment? Maybe you would like to write to him/her and ask why? I would love to hear their response!

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Filed under EU politics, Far-right politics, Human rights, Politics, sexuality

Tory MEPs run riot in Brussels and put us all at risk

The greenest government yet? Maybe. This will mean nothing though unless Cameron regains control of his rogue MEPs in Brussels who are threatening to scupper any chance of an ambitious climate change agreement.

The coalition agreement states “We will push for the EU to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change, including by supporting an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30% by 2020“. Equally, David Cameron has repeatedly used climate change as a tool for his PR machine to soften the Tories image.

He is facing embarrassment tonight then when a number of his MEPs are vowing to vote against any move to increase the EU emissions reduction target.

Once again, Tory MEPs like climate change sceptic Roger Helmer are running riot and putting us all at risk. As it stands, these few rogue ECR MEPs have the potential to make or break an EU deal which will affect us all. You might recognise Helmer’s face from a previous blog.

It is irresponsible for Cameron to let his MEPs run riot. He must, without delay, implement a bit of party discipline and accountability. If he doesn’t it is not only the Tories that will suffer, but all of us who need a binding EU deal to help reduce our chances of facing the worst consequences of climate change.

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Filed under Climate Change, EU politics, Politics