Monday, April 13, 2009

UK Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Richard Corbett on BBC appearence with "breathtaking hypocrite" Ganley

UK Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber (visit his website at
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Non-debate with Declan Ganley

Last week, I had a discussion on BBC TV about democracy in the EU with Declan Ganley, the Anglo-Irish businessman who financed the “No” campaign in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty and who is now trying to field candidates in the European elections in every Member State under the banner of “Libertas”.

“Discussion” is a term that might be applied to the first five minutes, but can scarcely be used for the remainder, (it is still up for a few days on the BBC website at if anyone wants to see), as his tactic in the latter part of the discussion was to interrupt, heckle and shout to make inaudible any point he disagreed with.

What stands out is the breathtaking hypocrisy of the man.

In the discussion, he sometimes claims not to be anti-EU at all (he said, “I like the European Union”, “I have particularly benefitted from the European Union as a businessman”, “It is essential that this European project succeeds”), yet the allies he has selected to fight with him in the European elections are invariably anti-EU groups, usually on the extreme right, and the arguments he uses draw heavily on the clichés of the eurosceptic British tabloids and the more sophisticated lines drafted for him by Jens Peter Bonde. When he gave a press conference last year in the EP, he was flanked by MEPs from UKIP, the French Front Nationale and Dan Hannan.

Of course, he knows that, in Ireland at least, he has little chance of success if he is classed as anti-Europe, so he will try to keep his alliances quiet and shout from the rooftops that he is simply for a more democratic EU – and deny that the Lisbon treaty actually makes the EU more democratic. Indeed, EU legislation must pass a double democratic check: acceptability to elected governments in the Council of ministers and acceptability to the directly elected MEPs in the European Parliament – the only case of an international structure with such a degree of accountability. But don’t expect him to highlight that!

His allies will be a severe embarrassment. But, as with questions about the source of his finance, instead of answering, he will attempt to smear anyone who questions his actions. When I mentioned Libertas’s links with the League of Polish Families, he accused me of lying (a bit rich coming from the man whose No campaign said the Lisbon Treaty would lead to children of 3 being incarcerated!) and claimed that “we have nothing to do with these people”. Yet Libertas’s own website shows the League’s former minister Daniel Pawlowiec as the head of Libertas in Poland.

Talking of lying, his website also claims that the European Parliament “is spending 9 million euro of taxpayer’s money on an aqua gym for its members and employees”. It is doing no such thing, and the BBC interviewer (the fiercely impartial Shirin Wheeler) took him up on this (in a part of our discussion that sadly wasn’t be fitted in to the broadcast programme). She pointed out that Ganley had already been told some time ago that this was untrue, yet he has kept the lie on his website. This illustrates his tactic of spreading myths of the sort that lazy journalists will lap up if they are looking for sensation and aren’t too bothered with facts.

So, what actually bothers him about the treaty of Lisbon? He says it is “what the treaty takes away from national parliaments” (nothing – it strengthens their role). Apparently “Brussels” or “bureaucrats” want to seize more power from the Member States. Yet it is the Member States, not the EU institutions, who decide on the EU’s remit and then anyway authorize any EU action within that remit. The Lisbon Treaty was agreed by the Member State governments, not the European Commission, and in any case is not so much about increasing the EU’s remit (on the contrary, it delimits it more carefully than in the past) as about improving the way it handles its existing responsibilities, with a more efficient structure but with more checks and balances.

As to what kind of reformed EU Ganley would like to see, he remained extremely vague. He seems to have dropped his idea of an American style elected President of Europe, but has no concrete suggestions for the reforms he would want instead of Lisbon, simply saying in our discussion that “We need to rid [the EU] of a system of governance which is undemocratic and unaccountable” (same old cliché), “I would like to see a lot more accountability and power given to the European Parliament” (which, of course, is what Lisbon does), and “I would like to see real political parties in the European Parliament” (maybe parties with actual members and democratic internal structures, like most of its current member parties, instead of a businessman’s appointees, as Libertas is offering?).

He remains confused as to how the EU actually works, repeating the old canard that “well in excess of 70 percent of new laws in most Member States originate from this town [Brussels]”, yet saying also that “they can’t initiate law, here”. He complains that “The European Parliament doesn’t function like national parliaments normally do in their legislative role” (its legislative role is precisely like national parliaments, voting for or against or amending proposals for legislation put before it, with the one difference that it is not a parliament controlled by a governing majority which accepts everything its government proposes – something one might have thought that Ganley would approve of) and that “for it to function properly, it needs to have real political parties” (has he never seen or read about the parliament?). He also says “We would like to see the Commission ‘opened up’ … it’s very secretive right now…we don’t know who these people are, we don’t know what they look like” (eh? membership of the Commission is secret? Granted, he is so ill informed that he appears not to know that the Commission is elected by Parliament and is dismissable by it too, but to claim that the Commission’s membership is secret is wilfully misleading).

When caught out in the debate, he occasionally beats a hasty retreat. The Lisbon Treaty, he eventually admits, “marginally increases the powers of the European Parliament”. “I haven’t called the EU unelected and unaccountable”. “Even its harshest critic would have to admit that this has been the most successful peace process in the history of the world” (the last an unacknowledged quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume).

Not an illuminating discussion, but at least it illustrates some of the tactics of Ganley’s anti-Europe “Libertas” campaign, which plans to have candidates standing in every EU country in June.

P.S. For anyone interested in finding out more about the mysterious Mr Ganley and some of his past political and business dealings, the following wevbsite looks interesting:
Older post on this

Declan Ganley versus Richard Corbett MEP BBC video

Look at how Ganley behaves with Richrad Corbett, he refuses to debate or listen Democracy? Transparency?

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