Eurosceptic Tory-boy Daniel Hannan caused uproar in the European Parliament this week by comparing the procedural powers granted to the EP’s President to the way powers had been granted to Hitler (FT, PA). According to Euractiv his words were “It is only my affection for you [â€¦] that prevents me from likening this to the ErmÃ¤chtigungsgesetz” yet yesterday on the Today Programme on Radio 4 he stated “If it has caused offence, I have already apologised publicly and in private to Hans-Gert Poettering [EP President], for whom I have huge respect.”
So what has happened since then? Leader of the Tories in the EP Giles Chichester is supposedly deciding if any action is required to deal with the issue, while leader of the EPP Joseph Daul is sticking to his guns about expulsion of Hannan, although he says for some reason that he respects Hannan as a MEP.
Let’s cut through all the gentlemanly language here. Hannan knew his words were going to cause offence – an apology afterwards is not good enough. Hannan is a calculating and unpleasant individual, and sticking It is only my affection for you at the start of his sentence did nothing to change the nature of what he was saying. To me it just makes him sound rather smug – surely not the typical behaviour of a Tory. Oh no.
Then the political point. Hannan is known as one of the two most eurosceptic Tories in the EP and was the only member of the delegation who stuck to the issue of leaving the EPP in November’s leadership vote in the group (detail from Richard Corbett’s blog). His remarks this week cause a dilemma for the more mainstream Tories in the EP – if they do not distance themselves from Hannan while the EPP pushes for his expulsion, and David Cameron also takes no action, Hannan will have achieved his aim of widening the gap between EPP and the Tories. On the other hand if the EP Tories distance themselves from Hannan they look at odds with the party leadership in London that was so keen to leave the EPP back in 2005. Oh, and there’s that small issue of the reselection of MEPs and the forthcoming 2009 election on the horizon. So don’t expect much principle in any of this, and plenty of nervous middle aged Tory men looking over their shoulders.