Matthew 7:3-5 KJV
“Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
A good lie, by which I mean a persistent lie, a lie with legs, a lie that can get you through the day, a lie that is easily transmissible and will be readily accepted by others, such a lie will have a kernel of truth to it. There will be some small element that is relied upon as demonstrably true, with the implication that everything the wider lie is used to promote enjoys that authority of the bit that is true.
It’s the key fallacy at the heart of any successful propaganda.
For instance, it can be fairly said that there is something of a democratic deficit in the structures of the EU. The EU’s enemies exaggerate it, but because there is layer upon layer of deferred authority, in which we vote for representatives to actually get on with things, it can all seem a bit remote. However, it must be remembered that all democracies have these layers. They must: we don’t spend our days, each of us, in endless referenda, approving or dismissing every bit of defence spending or building regulation, it would be impractical. Rather, we elect representatives to interrogate and decide upon the business of government for us.
EU structure: the complicated bit
We in the UK are no longer citizens of the EU, but when we were we elected our MEPs. We also elected our national governments so that they would form policy and make decisions for us, in domestic matters in the first instance, but our domestically elected representatives also operated in two bodies as part of the EU on our behalf, two bodies with annoyingly similar titles:
1) The Council of the European Union; often referred to as the Council of Ministers, made up of ministers from member nations as per their respective responsibilities, so our agricultural minister would discuss agricultural matters with their counterpart agricultural ministers in other EU member governments, our science minster would discuss science matters with those EU counterparts, etc.
2) The European Council: made up of each member state’s national head of government, their Prime Ministers or Presidents.
By one means or another, all these people who constitute the members of these institutions – the European Parliament, The Council of the European Union and The European Council – had been voted into their position by the people of Europe. We Brits, when still members, had elected the British contingent in the EU. We voted for our MEPs in the parliament, and we also voted for the British representatives in The Council of the European Union, and the British representatives in The European Council, because they were the people we voted into our domestic government. We voted for them. That’s democracy. I’m stressing this rather laboriously because I know how often we’ve heard the “unelected bureaucrats” nonsense. We need to get over this, because, with all the people mentioned thus far, we voted for the British cohort, and the electorates of other nations voted for theirs. But there is one further element.
EU Structure – the very complicated bit
Thus far, many would find the connection between the EU’s governance to the man or woman on the street, be that street in Sunderland, Naples or Warsaw, readily traceable – they could vote in elections that would decide thier MEP, and they could vote to decide the people in their own parliaments, their national ministers, prime ministers or presidents, and those people, in addition to their domestic duties, served legislative functions in the EU. Some hardline eurosceptics objected to Italians who voted for Italians having some say in the affairs of the UK, but, after all, Brits voted for by Brits had a say in the affairs of Italy. Such objections are a bit like a Devon constituent objecting to the MP for Glasgow North having a say on environmental policy that impacts upon Bideford. Big matters need the input of a wide gathering of perspectives towards a common goal, hopefully a common good, and the EU is simply that with knobs on.
No, the chief bone of contention is the bit we haven’t yet looked at: The European Commission. It’s often cited as being undemocratic because its members are appointed. It is, in fact, true that they are appointed.
Are they appointed by those faceless Euro bureaucrats we hear so much about?
The President of The European Commission is proposed by the European Council which, I remind you, consists of the heads of government, the prime ministers or presidents, of the member states, who hold those positions as the result of national elections. Our elected representatives propose the European Commission President.
Then, The European Parliament, the MEPs voted for by the citizenry of EU member states, approves that proposal, or not, as the case may be. Once there is a president approved, The Council of the European Union – the “council of ministers” (ministers of the governments of member states who were voted into domestic government by their respective electorates) nominates the rest of the commissioners, one from each member state. Which will give you, as things stand today, 27 commissioners.
The commissioners and their president are therefore proposed and approved by the people we as EU citizens (when we were EU citizens) either voted directly into the EU parliament, or voted into power to attend to the governance of our respective sovereign states. Our authority, as expressed through the exercise of our vote, which empowers representatives to govern on our behalf, decided who held these positions.
Now, I’ve conceded that the commissioners are a bit remote. This is a common complaint that is made by supporters of the EU, never mind its detractors. However, it is only fair to recognise that no one has ever, in all of human history, attempted so grand a collegiate enterprise as the EU, and, do you know, it’s quite possible that everything isn’t perfectly bang on from the get go. Trenchant supporters of the EU have often raised reservations on the point of the commissioners, on how they are appointed. It is an aspect of the EU that could be improved. It could be improved to make it less remote, more democratic, but is false to say that it therefore isn’t democratically constituted. It is. It could be better, but it is democratically constituted. And whilst it is The Commission which proposes policy, that policy then has to be approved by MEPs, The Council of Ministers, and our heads of government before it is actually enacted. The Commission cannot dictate, whatever UKIP tell you.
I’ve heard people say “well, we tried to improve The Commission”, but we really didn’t. As a consequence of poor engagement from the UK’s electorate we sent a succession of clowns and petulant disruptions to just throw spanners in the works, posturing prats pulling stunts. Nigel Farage might have decried the influence of the EU upon the British fisheries, but do you know how many of the 42 European Parliament Fisheries Committees he attended that sat whilst he was an MEP? One. He attended one. So, whatever he was there for, we may assume that he wasn’t there to fix things.
And so, with this propaganda of democratic deficit to the fore, the UK ran away in a hysterical and embarrassing paranoid fit. That’s the very same UK that is the member state possessed of the most profound domestic democratic deficit of all member states, with a first past-the-post electoral system that disenfranchises much of the population. This has permitted extremists to hijack our country as marginal issues are fought over by fringe elements. The more reasonable parts of the population have no option other than to vote for the same parties the extremists are leveraging in the hope of seeing policies dimly remembered, from more sober traditions of yesteryear before the Culture Wars. Hard cheese on that one, as they’re largely ignored in practice because they’re taken for granted, and only the nuttery extremists can sway a constituency win. Then factor in an uncodified constitution that has facilitated that hijacking by depending on a notion of splendid chaps being decent when there are no splendid chaps left, and a revising house largely stuffed by political patronage to give vested interests – including hostile foreign powers no less! – a means of circumventing the wishes of any inconveniently uppity plebs. You may then add a dash of profound democratic deficit as, should a Conservative Prime Minister be ousted (and there’s emerged something of a tendency for them to be ousted), it was not even a matter of the deferred authority of elected MPs that decided the successor, but, rather, an extremist cabal of private individuals, of party members, an extremist rump that had not yet resigned from the party in disgust at its betrayal of its tradition like anyone with a shred of decency. They are unelected, unrepresentative, and there with their power to install a new Prime Minister just because they’d paid their party subs, and boy, didn’t that go well!
Therefore, the modicum of truth to the accusation of European democratic deficit is proven and demonstrated, at least as a valid reason for leaving the EU, to be, in essence, a lie, because, were we, the people of the UK, so very offended by the merest whiff of democratic deficit, we really wouldn’t have started with Brussels.
The objection to the EU, therefore, is not, and never was, about democratic deficit.
To maintain it ever was about democratic deficit is a lie.