Straightforward honesty, clear ethics, transparency of motives and behaviour, and an ability to acknowledge when one is wrong, are personal values I personally hold dear, and they are – I would argue – values that the general public would like to also see from their politicians.

The problem is, as I am finding to my cost since I announced I would try to run for the Grüne European Parliament list, they seem to be the very opposite of the values necessary to actually get oneself into political office.

Today brought this into sharp relief as never before.

Yesterday the European Parliament voted its amendments to the Copyright Directive, passing amendments to Article 11 (on the so-called Link Tax) and Article 13 (on Upload Filters), both of which are dangers to the future of the free internet. I’d not expect anything else from christian democrats or social democrats to back this stuff, but we Grüne ought to be solid on this topic.

Not so, it turns out.

6 Grüne MEPs from Germany, and 3 others in the Greens/EFA Group, voted in favour of Upload Filters and in favour of the report as a whole. 3 of the Grüne who backed the report – Bütikofer, Häusling and Heubuch – are seeking re-election at the next European Elections in 2019.

So I summed up what happened in a Twitter thread:

Note that this thread links to the PDF from the European Parliament website that lists how each MEP voted on the roll call votes (that happened on Article 13 and not on Article 11, and for the report as a whole).

I specifically, but politely and firmly, asked Bütikofer, Häusling and Heubuch to explain themselves:

The response from Bütikofer?

To accuse me of lying, not once but twice:

The Roll Call voting list have sometimes in the past been wrong, but at no point in his responses to me has Bütikofer stated that was the case here. Were that the case I would have been very happy to have corrected the thread (as I did when Michel Reimon pointed out an error). But instead he tried to manoeuvre his way out of the whole thing, saying the report does not provide for upload filters. I see it very differently, and I am in no way alone in that.

Then a couple of Bütikofer’s acolytes join in by liking his tweets calling me a liar. My style, apparently, is wrong. But a MEP of many years standing accusing someone of being a liar without being able to substantiate that… well, that of course is not in any way under the microscope.

Let me get this right – publicly asking a MEP to explain their vote is not right, but a MEP branding someone else a liar is?

Ultimately this is about patronage here in the party. Kefferputz and Fuchs, and indeed others who stayed silent about questionable behaviour in the past, fear what will happen to them were they to say anything. Neither Kefferputz nor Fuchs (who’s also running for the EP) were willing to answer whether they thought I had lied – because had they said there was no lie they would have contradicted the MEP with power of patronage, but had they said there were a lie then they’d have looked as unethical as Bütikofer.

There would other ways here. Bütikofer could have tried to explain why the amendments to Article 13 do not equate to an upload filter, or even defended why an upload filter was OK. Or – as Häusling and Heubuch did – simply say nothing. But no, he chose to dig in and throw his weight around.

And so back to the values outlined at the start of the blog post. Straightforward honesty, clear ethics, transparency of motives and behaviour, and an ability to acknowledge when one is wrong. I still hold those things dear, but as today’s little spat shows, these things do not work in the party. Indeed quite the contrary, for my chances when the list is chosen in November will suffer as a result.

The Grüne had as a slogan “Wir bleiben unbequem” (We’ll stay the uncomfortable ones) at a recent party congress. Days like today make me think that is pretty far from the truth.

2 Comments

  1. Paul Delors

    As someone close your this environment I must say that I agree with you on this individual case and I would have many more to tell from pretty much the same people but that I also know many Green MEPs, in fact the clear majority who have all these qualities and who absolutely deserve to be in the EP. I hope you move into the EP as well and that these politicians who forgot what they used to stand for get a democratic reminder.

    • There are a good number of excellent and ethical greens. Were that not the case I would not be a member of the party. But the incentive structure in the party is not much different to that in any other party I fear.

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