Thursday, 18 April 2013

Toot Toot, all aboard the gravy-train


If you are a councillor, Association officer, activist, party member or a paid employee of the Party, you are probably, like me, a little jaded with the stream of newsletters, emails and invitations emanating from our regional members of the European Parliament.  With the selection meetings approaching, where each incumbent will need to receive 60% of the votes to 'go through" to the members' ballot to be ranked on the Regional List, it is natural that they are keen to use every opportunity to raise their profiles.

Today I had lunch with a member of staff who works for an MEP and took the opportunity to discuss the level of activity, which in some cases is so overwhelming I fear it is damaging the incumbent's chances  by causing irritation. It was only today, however, I found out the real reason why this is happening.

Unlike our own MP's, whose "communications allowance" was abolished in 2009, Europe's 754 MPs still have access to a taxpayer-funded propaganda budget, and it is this allowance which finances their public meetings, mailshots and publicity, promoting their work and that of the EU. So whilst our own MP's lose their communication's allowances and face restrictions on expenses, the European Gravy Train trundles on regardless, with even the very modest budget reductions negotiated by David Cameron being fought tooth and nail.

Yes despite this allowance being available, there is surely no need for them to spend every penny of it. One of my own MPs, Sir John Stanley, never spent his own Communication's Allowance when it was available, as he simply thought it was an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money. Why cannot our MEP's set a similar good example?

And this goes to the root of the problem.

You would think that if an MEP didn't spend his or her allowance that money would return to the general fund and thus reduce the burden on taxpayers. Right?  Sorry - not in the EU, where prudence and financial responsibility are alien concepts.  Under the rules, if an MEP doesn't spend his or her share of the propaganda pot, the unspent money is transferred to other MEPs and they can spend it instead. So a diligent and financially responsible MEP  ends up handing additional financial resources to his or her opponents with no saving to the taxpayer whatsoever. What possible incentive is there with such a system to show restraint?

So that is why we have MEPs bombarding us with leaflets we don't want to read, holding public meetings and rallies we don't want to attend and spending every waking hour popping up in every conceivable town and village, when I am sure they would rather be spending time with their families; all to ensure that money which would be better off in the pockets of those who earned it is not passed on to the benefit of their opposition.

Anywhere else such a system would be called madness. In the world of Brussels, where no-one is ever accountable and no-one is every to blame, it's called normal behaviour. 


  1. Conservative MEPs often make the mistake of doling out EU goodies such as pens and bags and other assorted junk at events where they are speaking. Nobody is fooled by this. Countless times I have heard attendees complain in hushed voices that "this is paid for with our money". Totally counter-productive, but MEPs simply don't seem to "get" it.

  2. The selection system forces them to compete with each other for recognition, as few in the South East actively follow their work in the EP. In addition, the division of responsibility for the counties of the region means that its only during reselection time when they are free to enter each another's patch. So its a tad unfair to mock them from engaging in what is, at heart, the democratic practice.

  3. @Anon 19 April: - I don't mock them for engaging in the democratic process. But I do object to them doing so on taxpayer provided Communications Allowance, and I do mock the system which results in any MEP not spending their allocation having the money transferred to others. When MPs or councillors come up for re-selection, either they (or their party) pay the costs. I don't see why MEPs should be different.

  4. But what will happen - NOTHING!

  5. Stupid - don't read it if you don't want to.

    1. It's not the reading it I object to; it's the paying for it, which I have no choice over. MEPs (of any political persuasion) are welcome to send as many leaflets as they like, but not at taxpayer's expense!