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Posts tagged with: European Parliament Elections

“Wem gehört Europa? Welche europäischen Alternativen gibt es?” debate 17th May, Berlin – come along!


I’m the moderator of the European Alternatives debate in Berlin on Saturday between the MEPs Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (SPD), Alexandra Thein (FDP) (yes, her of the posters fame), Helmut Scholz (Die LINKE) and Michael Cramer (Grüne). The debate is at the end of the Transeuropa Caravans tour that has been running over the last couple of months. The debate will be in German and entry is free from 1800 at Café Engels, Herrfurthstraße 21, 12049 Berlin (map, nearest U-Bahn Boddinstr. U8), with the debate starting at 1900. From 2030 there will be free beer. You can follow on Twitter using the tag #askEurope, and I will also try to get some live streaming working too.

So come along – either virtually, or in person – on Saturday!

Vote at #EP2014, 22-25 May 2014. A selection of videos.

Never Forget to Vote
From the youth movement of the Swedish Social Democrats, SSU


The Danish Parliament’s official EP election film that was taken down, and hence I re-post someone else’s upload here


Choose Who’s In Charge
Official EP election film

I’ll leave you to decide which of these works best!

It’s a public sphere Jürgen, but not as we know it

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 11.27.08It’s European Elections time. That period every five years when people partially wake up to the issue that democracy is supposed to work in the European Union, and the press starts to worry why it does not. The media itself may of course compound the problem.

In both the media discussion, and in a fair number of MA theses too, this often comes back to the concept of a public sphere, and specifically Habermas’s contextualisation of this.

The familiar answer runs as follows: no European public sphere exists, that means European democracy cannot work, and that is why so few people vote in European Parliament elections.

This grates with me, and this blog summarises – very roughly – some of the reasons why.

First, the European Parliament still does not conform to Schumpeter’s definition of a party system – that parties present programmes, voters make an informed choice between competing parties, the successful party puts its programme into practice and the governing party is judged on its successes at the next election. So the EU has a structural problem as a democracy, not simply a problem of the public sphere in which people can debate it. Of course there is a chicken and egg issue here, but a lack of the public sphere is not the sole problem.

Second, the sheer complexity of the European Union, and the historical context in which it has been constructed, means that comparisons with public spheres that (partially) work in nation states in Europe or elsewhere are always going to be wide of the mark. There has not ever been a modern attempt to build a transnational democracy, so comparison between the European Union and whatever we know will always be tenuous. That is before we even get to the question of language.

Third, bloggers are not the ones who will build the public sphere in the EU, although they will play some small, marginal role. The things I write about, and my fellow bloggers at BloggingPortal.eu, simply have too few readers to become that sphere – we are also too nerdy to ever be mainstream. Some sort of EU-wide television channel, newspaper or radio station is not going to be the answer either, for the same reasons.

But all of this is not to say we do not have some sort of European public sphere. But it is still developing, and developing to a template we struggle to understand. Habermas had no room for the massive change in the media landscape that the internet has brought in the last 20 years, with anyone being able to produce content, where the role of the mainstream media has weakened, where campaigns such Hugh’s Fish Fight or against ACTA forge a consciousness as much as the traditional media, or face to face meetings, can do. This is a sphere being built more or less without a role for political parties or trade unions, EU wide. This is somehow being built in a post-modern, financially increasingly unequal environment. But issues like ACTA or the fallout from the financial crisis have forged some EU-wide debate, some EU public debate, some messy sort of public sphere.

The error, I think, is to measure all of this against the yardstick of the sphere or a public debate at a national level. That parallel just does not hold.

MyVote2014 – the European Parliament voting calculator based on data, not manifestos

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I’m very happy to be sat today at the launch event of MyVote2014, a new voting tool for the European Parliament elections 2014. I’ve been working with Michiel, Joan and Doru at VoteWatch Europe, the folks behind the site, to help them with some of the social media promotion of their tool. Yet while I am professionally involved with the project, I am also very committed – as a citizen – to making sure this tool works, and as many people as possible take the MyVote 2014 test.

The MyVote 2014 tool is the latest in a series of tools of this sort. I first worked on a EP voting tool in 2004, and similar tools existed in 2009, and similar tools have existed for national elections (Stemwijzer, Wahl-o-Mat etc.) but this time it’s different in one crucial way: MyVote 2014 uses data about MEPs have voted in the past (between 2009 and now to be precise), and uses this as the data for the tool. This makes the outcomes of the MyVote 2014 tool more solid than previous efforts. Rather than use aspirational manifestos, the tool is based on how politicians have actually voted, and hence should be more trustworthy. A political party may claim to be green, but if the data shows the opposite, the tool with reflect that.

The test is also available to take in 6 languages – English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish. You can now take the test here!

My result: I’m reasonably close to the S&D (which seems accurate enough)

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Labour’s EU vision in 5 points

roseI was at an event in Brussels this week where there was much discussion about Labour trying to find 5 points it could put on a pledge card during the 2014 European Parliament election campaign.

So, looking at what top politicians in the Labour Party have been saying about the EU over the last 12 months, what are the five clearest statements they could make?

  1. We don’t want an in-out referendum in the UK
  2. We don’t want any repatriation of powers
  3. We don’t want the Euro
  4. We don’t want a common foreign policy or an EU army
  5. We don’t want to increase the EU budget

Inspiring, eh? Who says Labour doesn’t have a vision for the EU?

[NOTE: this is not what Labour should say. It’s more of a critique of how little vision the party has right now.]

An open letter to Gordon Pattison, Regional Director of East Midlands Labour

Dear Gordon,

I am writing to you to ask some questions about the European Parliament selection process conducted in your region. I have been accused by Jonathan Ashworth MP of making ‘cheap accusations‘ as a result of my blog entry about the selection of Nicki Brooks so I am writing to you to try to set the record straight. I am doing this in public, here on my blog, as it is in the interests of transparency of the process.

Two facts are clear at the outset. First is that Nicki Brooks was a member of the original selection committee. Second is that Nicki Brooks was selected as one of the candidates for East Midlands. This leaves a number of outstanding issues:

  1. Did Nicki Brooks submit an application to become a candidate by 1st January 2013, as all other candidates did?
  2. Was the decision taken to consider Nicki Brooks as a candidate taken before or after all other candidates had been interviewed? If it was the former, why was she still a member of the selection committee? If it was the latter, is that fair to other candidates interviewed?
  3. If, as has been suggested by a commenter on my blog, the nomination process was re-opened to allow Nicki Brooks to become a candidate, for how long was the process re-opened? And hence how many people knew that the process had been re-opened? What communication was made with party members to inform them that the process had been re-opened?
  4. Bearing in mind the gender balance requirements of the nomination process, how many men and how many women initially made applications (by 1st January) in East Midlands? And how many men and how many women were initially interviewed by the original selection committee?

Until these questions are answered adequately then major questions remain about the conduct of the selection process.

I look forward to your reply, which I trust will also be available publicly. Do feel free to write the response in the comments form below this post, or to e-mail it to me for publishing here.

Many thanks,

Jon Worth, 24.4.13

Online networking: we can shine the light on their malevolence, but we cannot be them

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 19.10.15It has been an interesting week. My posts about Labour’s MEP selections, and the panel member in the East Midlands, Nicki Brooks, who seems to have selected herself, have prompted all sorts of debate, comments, and e-mails sent to me. My blog even already ranks 6th in Google UK if you search for ‘Nicki Brooks‘, and people like Mark Pack, Patrick Wintour and Charlie Beckett have mentioned my digging on other blogs or on Twitter. Hence at one level it has been a super week for this blog.

But then what?

I still do not know exactly what happened in East Midlands. I have made a clear case – that Nicki Brooks selected herself – and I know there are plenty of people in the Labour Party who know about this claim. But I have been unable so far to get any sort of response, any sort of statement, about what actually happened, and since my blog entry was written, East Midlands Labour has even formally announced its candidates on its website.

In short, I seem to be able to shine the light on the malevolence of a politician, and make sure that thousands of people know about it (the Brooks and MEP selection blogs have received more than 3000 individual visitors combined, and that does not count the Twitter exposure), but I cannot actually find a way within the Labour Party to force some change in this case. It was suggested in the comments of my Progress piece on this issue that I should push for a rule change in the party. OK, but that does not deal with the fact that the rules this time, even as the rules are, do not seem to have been respected.

As the commenter ‘East Mids Observer’ remarks, that East Midlands has a questionable selection process is not anything new, only this time five years on more people know about the malevolence than did previously. The online networkers can hence seem to shine the light on the malevolence of individuals, but we cannot actually yet use online networking to foster new, fairer, more transparent relationships between party members and the senior people in the Labour Party.

The problem is essentially is that this whole episode further confirms the prevailing impression that politicians in traditional parties is a grubby business. In the meantime Nigel Farage tours the country, filling halls and styling himself as the honest man of British politics. Labour might manage for things to not blow up this time, might manage to ensure the whole thing blows over. But unless the mainstream parties manage to find ways to inspire their own people, motivate their own members, and respect their own rules, then the seepage of legitimacy to the populists will only continue. And we will all be worse off as that continues to happen.

Right then, Nicki Brooks, Labour candidate for MEP in the East Midlands: what did you do?

09:05 on 9th April, this comment appeared in response to my blog post about Labour MEP selections, by a chap called Joseph who also did not leave a valid e-mail address and is hence untraceable:

Hi Jon, Interesting selections from Labour again ….. In the East Midlands Nikki Brookes was originally part of the selecting process (@NickiBrooksx see tweet 16Feb) she must have selected herself!! (original comment is here)

I investigated this issue and, sure enough, there were two tweets from @NickiBrooksx dated 16th February that seemed to show she had sat all day on the selection panel. I linked to those tweets here. I was also even decent enough to try to give Nicki a chance to reply, having tweeted this to her, also on 9th April. That tweet received no reply, nor to the tweet I wrote to Johanna Baxter and Ellie Reeves, NEC members, that you can find here.

Anyway, what has happened this evening? The offending tweets… have been deleted.

Well that was clever, wasn’t it. Because of course I have kept a screenshot to confirm what Nicki Brooks wrote:

Yes, that’s the same Nicki Brooks who is listed as one of Labour’s candidates in East Midlands Region. Someone who was on the selection panel who seems to have selected… herself. And then deleted the tweets. Well done. Ever heard of the Streisand effect, Nicki and East Midlands Region?

[UPDATE: in my haste to get the blog entry out, the last paragraph originally read ‘Eastern’ and should have read ‘East Midlands’. Now corrected!]

[UPDATE 2: following tweets with Sunny Hundal, apparently the blog entry is not clear enough. We know that Nicki Brooks was a member of the selection panel in East Midlands. We know that panel chose her as a candidate. We do not know if she submitted an application to be a MEP prior to the January deadline as all candidates were supposed to do. We do not know what the rationale was for why the panel, that she sat on, chose her.]