For the upcoming European parliamentary elections, the voter in East Anglia is spoilt for choice. Or, should I say, the Little England voter is spoilt for choice, with a selection of rabid anti-Europeans prepared to take on the barbarians at the gates in Brussels on behalf of the good burghers of Colchester.
Passing over the BNP, whose odious presence I noted in Frinton the other week, and the even more obvious UKIP, I am being urged to vote for UKF (United Kingdom First) and their local candidate, one-time presenter of One Man And His Dog, Robin Page: "NOW is the time to free Britain from the EU, political correctness and the gravy train". From the leaflet, I can't establish whether these three constraints are, in his mind, separate issues or same thing, despite the fact that Robin "is famous for his straight talking". I would beg to differ and suggest that, actually, he is famous for explaining the nuances of dogs chasing sheep.
Robin's main policy, it would seem, is not to do anything at all - he will "only attend the EU Parliament when it's in Britain's interests". While I commend Robin on his commitment to reducing expenses, I can't help feeling he is missing the point about the most effective way to represent my interests. Maybe he is hoping the other MEPs will be shamed by his empty chair, and agree to dismantle the entire EU apparatus?
At the other end of the political spectrum the no2eu party have engaged an equally unattractive famous face to press for my vote - none other than Bob Crow, strike-happy RMT headbanger. Bob is clearly a busy man, but he has managed to find time to read the Lisbon Treaty and find something that no-one else has mentioned: that it "enshrines privatisation as legal requirements [sic] at a time when this discredited dogma has clearly failed". Being an ex-member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Bob probably knows a thing or two about discredited dogmas, though I was interested to note that in most parts of the EU, Trades Unions have supported the treaty, including in Ireland in the referendum campaign.
Something both Bob and Robin (and their anti-EU peers) seem to have missed about the Lisbon Treaty: for the first time it introduces an exit clause for members wanting to withdraw from the Union. While there has been one instance where a territory has ceased to be part of the Community (Greenland in 1985), there is currently no regulated opportunity to exit the European Union. So, ironically, all these parties should actually be campaigning for ratification of the Treaty/Constitution, which makes me question exactly how much they know about the EU in the first place.
Another thing all these campaign leaflets have in common is they made terrific firelighters for my first barbecue of the summer. No doubt the contents of the resulting meal would have offended the sensibilities of the most recent leafleteer in the neighbourhood: The Animals Count party, who are fielding candidates for "a political party for people and animals" under the incontrovertible slogan "animals can't vote, but you can!" I am not sure what it says about the upcoming political process that this is the first pro-European leaflet I have received.
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