Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ashley goes to Europe

It's just three weeks until Ashley Fox, Conservative councillor for Westbury-on-Trym, takes up his seat in the European Parliament. Congratulations and good luck to him. Ashley took the last of the three seats won by south-west Tories, with UKIP having taken a couple more, and the LibDems taking one.

Our Green lead candidate, Ricky Knight, polled 144,000 votes across the region - 12,000 short of taking that sixth seat that would have kept Ashley as a solicitor and councillor in Bristol.

Apparently, Ashley intends seeing out his term as a local councillor until next May, while at the same time carrying out his European Parliamentary duties on behalf of the people of south-west England and Gibraltar. That's not a good start, especially after his own party has been calling for action against those councillors who fail to attend council meetings!

Today saw another ominous cloud threatening our Tory MEPs' ability to represent us in Brussels. They've formed an alliance (in order to win funds from the Brussels pot as a recognised political grouping) with a ragbag of small parties across 7 other states, some with very dubious records. For instance, the 15 MEPs of Poland's homophobic 'Law and Justice' party (PiS), which has strong links with the misogynistic and anti-Semitic Catholic radio station, Radio Maryja. There's also the MEP from Holland's Dutch Christian Union, with a religious agenda that includes opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage.

So much for David Cameron's professed conversion to 'progressive conservatism'.

In the run-up to the election, I deputised for the Green candidates at a local hustings. What came over most strongly from the audience was that they didn't feel they knew enough about the EU to make informed judgements in the election. And this was a small group of people who'd taken the trouble to try to find out! They're right, of course. The media ignore Europe - unless it's some 'straight banana story) - being obsessed with Westminster politics. The MEPs themselves barely attempt any dialogue with their constituents. Maybe that accounts for our woefully poor choice of MEPs.

I know that Ricky Knight fully intended to set up an office in Bristol if he'd been elected (you may well have seen the office he provided in Old Market in the weeks before the election). In the past, when MEPs had single constituencies, it was customary to have an office base there.

We've got three Tory MEPs now, all on very comfortable salaries and with access to funds to provide offices and staff. Can we hope they might use some of it to provide a local presence here in Bristol?

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