It’s not often you get me defending UKIP on this blog, but this is one of those times. I second Nosemonkey in his disgust at the situation facing UKIP’s press officer in the EP Gawain Towler, author of the England Expects blog. Where Nosemonkey is wrong is assuming he disagrees with Towler on almost everything… Having met both of them I’m not so sure. But that’s another issue.

Back to the main point…

As Towler readily admits he managed to breach staff regulations but this breach has then been escalated up through the EP’s heirarchy to reach the Secretary General of the EP Harald Rømer no less, and Towler is threatened with disciplinary action that can lead to the docking of 4 months of wages.

First of all why does the EP have to be so damned heavy handed with this? Such a reaction plays right into UKIP’s hands. It’s not as if it’s the first time that something like this has happened – see the reaction in the RTL film for example. Towler removed the problematic passage from the blog, and a quiet word would probably have sufficed.

Secondly this episode shines a light on the grey area in the European Parliament – political group staff (of which Towler is one). These folks are paid for directly from EP funds (unlike MEPs’ assistants whose wages comes from MEPs’ staff allowances, and hence an assistant is contracted to a MEP, not the Parliament), but their role is political. So Towler, with a political job, ends up getting ticked off by Harald Rømer, the top official in the Parliament. Is that right?

I’m not sure what the EP’s powers that be think Towler’s reaction would be but he’s managed to position himself as the martyr in this and the EP looks silly.

14 Comments

  1. “Europe means democracy and freedom of speech…”

    Erm… not so far. Rather the opposite in fact.

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  4. These attacks on free speech are only going to intensify as the institutions of the EU become more powerful.

    The dismantling of national sovereignty – the central pillar of the European Project – is aimed at killing democracy. Without the former you cannot have the latter. I hope some of you so-called pro-Europeans will ponder the relationship between the two, preferably now before it’s too late.

  5. Why not Jon?
    What a very odd comment from someone who, supposedly, advocates free speech. Only for those with whom you agree? Do you work for the EU?

  6. Somehow reading lots of posts about this story the word “NAZI” comes to mind… Don’t mean to offend anyone, but its really WRONG!

    I’m a pro-European myself- but i wouldn’t ever suggest killing all the eurosceptic blogs.

    This blog must not shut down! (We will all contribute eponymously, and anonymously so that this doesnt happen…)

    Europe means democracy and freedom of speech…

    What we can do is try to convince Gawain that Europe is not such a bad thing after all 🙂

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  8. Now that made me smile Ralf! 🙂

    While I support Gawain on this one I don’t want UKIP getting any more free publicity than they absolutely need.

  9. The European Parliament has instituted the respected Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, inspired by the known dissident.

    Free speech – like charity – begins at home.

    Gawain Towler should be nominated for the 2009 prize.

    🙂

  10. “So, even Ukip Group staff must accept that they must abide to the conditions of their contract.”

    When the contract is an ass, when it is demanded that they give up that most basic of rights, that to free speech, no, they don’t.

  11. Igor Guerra

    Probably, the EP should have managed this issue in a more sensible manner.
    Anyway, as Mr Worth pointed out, EP Group staff are EU officers, fully subject to the Statute of Eu servants.
    So, even Ukip Group staff must accept that they must abide to the conditions of their contract.

  12. Jon, I concur with Nosemonkey and you. Creating free speech martyrs is not the way forward for the European Parliament, if it wants to become an institution respected by EU citizens.

    The EP should take criticism constructively – by reforming, not repression.

  13. Very silly

  14. Now you’re being politically correct.

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