European elections, beyond just not voting for the BNP

// 2 June 2009

The pressure is on to keep the BNP from gaining seats in the European elections on Thursday. Voting for other parties makes it harder for them to gain ground – and, especially if you’re in the North West, where the party needs just 9% to get a seat, which will be much harder to achieve if the turnout is high.

But.

I keep hearing this idea the people should be voting for anyone but the BNP, just to keep them out. Hmmm, well, I think that needs re-examining – some of the alternatives are not that much better.

In particular, UKIP (the UK Independence Party) is set to make major gains – according to one poll, the party could gain 19% of the vote.

But let’s remember, UKIP wants a “a five-year freeze on immigration into Britain” and wants to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights. In fact, it wants to totally disengage from the EU.

As do the Conservatives, who have said they will leave the ‘mainstream’ right wing party in the European Parliament. As Polly Toynbee points out:

There is little difference between Conservative and Ukip votes – both open the EU exit door. The pro-European Tories came out to warn that David Cameron’s promise to take his party out of the centre-right grouping in the EU parliament will lead down the Ukip road to total disengagement. A British government inside a ragbag of Gypsy-bating, gay-bashing outcasts will smear our reputation. Leaving Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy’s mainstream group will make future EU dealings infinitely harder. Why should other countries grant the endless compromises and opt-outs Britain has insisted on? Should those exemptions be refused, it would ignite yet more anti-European virulence.

It was a UKIP peer who invited far right Dutch politian Geert Wilders to the UK – Wilders “wants a vast and vigorous extension of state controls to halt immigration and crack down on expressions of the Islamic faith within Dutch society. He has advocated that all Muslims be offered money to return to their own countries”.

What are they like on gender? One of their MEPs, Tim Worstall, wrote in the Guardian that attempts to close the pay gap and workplace discrimination are “sexist” and “racist”. He said:

I’m not in favour of this attempt to wipe out structural discrimination: that’s something that we’ll not only never get rid of, it’s something we really rather want to have anyway.

Then there’s what happened back in 2007, when another UKIP MEP, Godfrey Bloom, was named to European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. As UKIPWatch reported at the time:

Proudly proclaiming that he would be representing “men’s rights” on the committee, Bloom made clear his views on a number of gender equality issues.

On maternity leave, he said that “[if] you want to have a baby, you hand in your resignation and free up a job for another young lady”, explaining that he would like to overturn EU maternity legislation if his position allowed. He said maternity laws that gave women six months of paid leave and the option of another six months unpaid leave, had resulted in women losing jobs and employment. Many businesses only employed women over 40, he said.

“Regulation in protection of women is all well and good in academic and government circles. If you’re a small business, you’d be a lunatic to hire a woman of child bearing age.” A party spokesman then backtracked from Bloom’s position, suggesting that an exemption for businesses with less than 20 employees could solve much of the problem.

He also claimed that he wanted “to deal with women’s issues […] because I just don’t think they clean behind the fridge enough.” He added: “I am here to represent Yorkshire women, who always have dinner on the table when you get home.”

The report Holly linked by the European Women’s Lobby is well worth a read if you’re still deciding how to vote, and want to know where the parties stand on gender issues (notably absent from campaign material I’ve seen!)

(Map from Wikipedia)

Comments From You

Gary // Posted 2 June 2009 at 1:41 pm

In 2008 the BNP withdrew one of its London Assembly candidates after he reportedly wrote that it was a “myth” that rape was a serious crime.

The Evening Standard reported that Mr Eriksen was the author of a far-right blog on which he had written: “Rape is simply sex. Women enjoy sex, so rape cannot be such a terrible ordeal.

“To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting that force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence.

“A woman would be more inconvenienced by having her handbag snatched.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7326987.stm

HarpyMarx // Posted 2 June 2009 at 3:06 pm

I agree Jess. UKIP are a bunch of reactionaries who need politically defeating as well, the so-called ‘respectable racists’.

Was handing out the Hope Not Hate leaflets at the train station today. Couple of people asked me who to vote for as the main parties pissed them off, and they wanted to vote for a progressive party.

As a Labour Party member I told them to vote Green….

Amy Clare // Posted 2 June 2009 at 3:29 pm

The UKIP views on women are repellent in general but I’m surprised that the ‘party spokesman’ thought that he was being reasonable when he suggested that an exemption for companies with 20 employees or fewer would solve the ‘problem’ (what problem, anyway? The problem of human reproduction?).

Having worked for a small company, I know how much pressure there can be to be the ‘perfect’ employee (i.e. always staying late, never getting paid overtime, being happy with low pay, never being off sick, never having a baby, health and safety what health and safety? etc). This pressure is unacceptable and yet small companies enjoy plenty of ‘exemptions’ already which adversely affect their staff. To make a distinction between women who work for large companies and women who work for small companies is compounding the discrimination. Who does Mr Party Spokesman think works for small companies? Oompa-loompas? No – it’s actually human beings, believe it or not. Who often have no choice but to work for a small company.

But then what should one expect from a right wing party – business first, people second, as per usual.

Lindsey // Posted 2 June 2009 at 4:19 pm

The backlash against workers rights by businesses of all sizes really annoys me, as their main argument seems to be that it will make them less competitive. If all companies have to coply to these rules surely it’s a level playing field?!

maggie // Posted 3 June 2009 at 10:09 am

I’m with HarpyMarx on this one. If you want to register your dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties you would be wise to…

Vote Green.

maggie // Posted 3 June 2009 at 10:42 am

Actually just come from the badscience.net website. LInk to why voting Green is not good, in particular thier flaky scientific ideas. Worth a look.

I would like to retract my previous support for the Green party. I’m going to stick with the party I’ve always voted for.

Labour.

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 June 2009 at 10:46 am

@maggie @HarpyMarx

I voted green… it was the first time I’ve ever not voted Labour…!

But it really was a toss up for me, whether to vote Labour or Green. In terms of the Labour and Green blocs in the European Parliament, I’d happily support either…

I’m really not in favour of using the European elections to express disfavour with the government in Westminster… I mean, sure they’re connected, it’s the same parties, but I think we do a bit of a disservice to ourselves if we don’t consider the vote as what it is, which is our most direct democratic say in EU politics and vote for the party which is in the European coalition we most support, and pursues policies in Europe we most support.

That’s one reason why it makes no sense at all to vote for the Tories, because they’re seperating themselves off and pushing themselves to the fringe of EU politics.

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 June 2009 at 10:48 am

@maggie Interesting link – Ironically, their opposition to nuclear power was one of the things which helped me decide to vote green not labour this time!

Jessica B // Posted 3 June 2009 at 11:27 am

I’m voting Green as they seem to adhere to the Labour policies I’m interested (nationalised railway and public service spending) they also do have a mention of gender in their policies, which is borne out in my area as there are three men and three women standing for the six seats.

Also, in my area (South West) in the local elections, while a mix of Con and Lib Dem got in, the “second place” was not taken by the other party, or Labour, it was Green. So a good many people vote green here in the locals, making, I think, Green a viable alternative vote to go for.

Sabre // Posted 3 June 2009 at 12:22 pm

I think the whole idea of not voting for the three main parties simply because of the expenses fuss is ridiculous! There are bigger things to worry about!

As a scientist, here are my concerns:

Echoing earlier comments, I am not going to vote for the Green party because of their anti-nuclear stance (come on people, let’s be realistic and choose the lesser of the energy evils), they are anti-GM (yes being able to feed the world’s population is bad) and they are proposing a total ban on use of embryonic stem cells, with the vague reasoning that ‘experiments on human embryos could have unforeseen outcomes harmful both to individuals and to society’. Right.

UKIP are climate-change deniers, which is a big no-no for me. Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity and already is causing a great deal of human suffering which will only get worse. Additionally, climate change will require international working and I don’t think a party that essentially advocates ‘silo’ Britain’ will be much good at that.

I will vote, as usual, for the Lib Dems. Expenses claims are the topic of today but climate change (and good science underpinning policies) are long-term concerns.

This website is very informative too: http://www.layscience.net/node/581

Laurel Dearing // Posted 3 June 2009 at 12:58 pm

id want to know how much of http://www.wanttoknow.info/deception10pg is true before i supported GM crops. obviously if youre starving youd prefer to eat either way, but as someone that gets to eat food im not sure id want something a rat wouldnt even touch

Sabre // Posted 3 June 2009 at 3:33 pm

I don’t know enough about the subject to promote GM, but I am wary of those who take an anti-GM stance, because the fact is that nobody knows for sure what the effects of GM would be.

Monsanto, to be frank, acted like a bunch of money-grabbing pigs over GM and a lot of the anti-GM backlash was actually about disgust at the way the company acted.

It’s worth remembering that there is really no such thing as ‘natural’ agriculture any more. For centuries plant seeds have been selectively bred to increase the prevalence of various properties (e.g. resistance to pests) in crops. In its simplest sense, GM just provides us with a tool to do this much more quickly and effectively. It’s making more efficient something that farmers have been doing since agriculture began.

I guess my point is that it’s not perfect but since GM could potentially do a lot of good, it’s silly for any political party to develop a stance against it without hard evidence that the risks outweigh the benefits.

Sense About Science are better at explaining this than me! http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/PDF/MakingSenseofGM.pdf

Amy Clare // Posted 3 June 2009 at 4:20 pm

Re: GM

I’ve read extensively around this subject and there is much cause for concern about GM. Firstly, it is not just like selective breeding. The biology is complicated but essentially, with GM, you end up with chemicals in the plant, produced by these new genes, which the plant hasn’t evolved to deal with – and the results of this are unpredictable.

Secondly studies have shown that consuming GM food has led to serious health problems in animals, and this has implications for human consumption.

Thirdly, studies have also shown that what causes famine is not the lack of food per se, it’s human behaviour and politics dictating where this food should be distributed. We have enough food on this planet to feed everyone. In order for this to be done however, the developed world needs to eat less meat and waste less food generally, and many political obstacles need to be overcome (not least developing world debt).

This article explains why GM will not ‘feed the world’…

http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?content_id=1185

The Green Party are right to be anti-GM. I voted Green.

Sabre // Posted 3 June 2009 at 4:36 pm

Fair comments on GM. For me the key word is ‘unpredictable’.

Sorry for derailing the conversation! ;-)

Laura // Posted 3 June 2009 at 6:02 pm

While the ecologist used to be a respectable journal, under Zac Goldsmith (a Tory candidate and former UKIP-er), it has turned into a peddler of conspiracy theories that makes me wary of anything within its pages.

European Parliament-wise, the Lib Dems are as pro-environment as the Greens, but take a less prescriptive and less statist view (stricter carbon taxes, taxes on internal flights, used to subsidise public transport, etc) that I think has better long term prospects. This is one of the major reasons why I support them.

Also, although it’s difficult to work out exactly how individual MEPs voted, but the Green block opposed a reform to the agricultural subsidies system that would have stopped people like the Duke of Westminster getting hundreds of thousands of pounds of CAP money. Not a fan of subsidising those who really don’t need the money.

Also, for me my attitude to Europe comes into it a lot. The Lib Dems are the only explicitly pro-European party in the UK (the Greens are on a par with Labour – pro expansion but not integration, and not really committed to any specific procedural reforms that would make the EU more democratic and efficient). Since I’m pretty pro-European, that’s really important to me.

And while I’m plugging the Lib Dems, I like their policy, designed by the wonderful Susan Kramer, on maternity leave and childcare – 18 months to divide between a couple of which neither party can take more than a year, and subsidised childcare for the littleuns.

Oh, and the Tories want to pull us out of the Social Charter. That’s the one that guarantees us the right to maternity leave. So don’t vote Tory. Not that I think anyone here would.

A Different Helen // Posted 3 June 2009 at 7:48 pm

I have been very tempted to vote Green as some of their policies are very good. On abortion for instance, they are in favour of good sex education, and removing the need for two doctors in order to get one etc. However their policy on prostitution has lost them my vote. They want legalisation, and have no intention of tackling the demand side. That seems like a recipe for sex trafficking and exploitation to me.

polly styrene // Posted 3 June 2009 at 8:49 pm

Well I never thought I’d say this, but I’d prefer a Tory to Nick Griffin anyday. However if you’re in the North West I recommend voting green, not because they’re necessarily my party of choice, but to keep Griffin out. Sometimes in a democracy tactical voting is the answer as the French found out when faced with Chirac and Le Pen.

More on why to vote green here.

http://www.stopnickgriffin.org.uk/sites/stopnickgriffin/election_info.html

Shea // Posted 3 June 2009 at 10:10 pm

Vote Green – I haven’t looked at the link but I think a few points:

“Echoing earlier comments, I am not going to vote for the Green party because of their anti-nuclear stance (come on people, let’s be realistic and choose the lesser of the energy evils).”

It isn’t. It is not and has never been a RENEWABLE energy source. But it will make the nuclear energy industry very very wealthy. De -centralised energy, solar power and reducing energy loss, through insulation and energy saving would reduce the energy burden for the average home by about 65%.

Seeking out natural energy sources such as Tidal (we are an island after all), wave, wind and geothermal and managed energy sources could produce the rest. Whilst nuclear is still on the table, these other options will not be explored or invested in. People say “be realistic” when they really mean -” I have no intention of changing my heavily energy consumptive lifestyle, so just find me a way to do that and sod sustainability”.

“they are anti-GM (yes being able to feed the world’s population is bad)”

Not what is being said. As Amy Clare pointed out, GM is a largely agro-pharmaceutical dominated industry with no intention of “feeding the world’s poor”. Please google “terminator technology” if you want evidence of this. There is plenty enough food in this world to go around, the problem is massive overconsumption of food in the West, particularly meat, and having the majority world produce it. Also by having cash crops, like coffee or cotton grown in place of food stuffs.

The opposition to GM is Europe wide and even those of us who think it could be used (me) have pause for thought. There have been worrying studies on the affect of GM crops on ecosystems, (see the Star corn and Monarch butterfly controversy) and more worryingly the science and the scientists have become more subjective under the political pressures. There isn’t a clear indication either way. There are also only extremely controlled trials, not many real life situations, we have no idea what kind of hybrid will result once GM plants become widespread. There is also the political risk of one or two GM strains monopolising and replacing the natural varieties and this is the case with Mexican maize.

” and they are proposing a total ban on use of embryonic stem cells, with the vague reasoning that ‘experiments on human embryos could have unforeseen outcomes harmful both to individuals and to society’. Right.”

Actually from their literature it doesn’t seem like a total ban. But the fact is experiments on human embryos could have harmful outcomes. We have seen the potential of cultural pressures to do harm—– with the female infanticide in China and India. If and when we discover a genes for deafness, homosexuality, mental illness etc(and ways to eliminate them from a individuals genetic make-up)– are you not at all concerned that this could be abused?

Further what about “saviour siblings?” There is a massive potential for child abuse, having one child created simply to fulfil the demands of a DNA factory for another sibling. (I’m simplifying it, but the potential is there).

I am as pro-choice as you want to get, but I have serious qualms about embryo experimentation.

Holly Combe // Posted 4 June 2009 at 9:12 am

I agree the Green party are worthy contenders. But, again, I do think it’s worth noting the high score (scroll down to page 3) of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Women’s Lobby’s gender audit and the fact Labour are a member party of PES.

Admittedly, I’m still finding my way with European politics but maybe being part of an explicitly Socialist European group will mean Labour in Europe will be better than the New Labour in the UK that so many of us are deeply disappointed in?

Ellie // Posted 4 June 2009 at 3:12 pm

Mein Gott! People still vote Labour? What’s wrong with you people? Been asleep for the last 10 years or so? Honestly, how do you justify it? Do you really buy into that, if we don’t vote labour the right wingers will get in stuff? You do know Labour are the right wingers don’t you?

Sabre // Posted 4 June 2009 at 5:21 pm

@ Shea

Re. Nuclear. I didn’t say it was a source of renewable energy. I think it’s well worth investing in renewable sources but the fact is we won’t be able to build engough wind farms and solar panels to power the country. We literally don’t even have enough materials or workers to build enough wind turbines to meet our climate change targets! Yes people should change their lifestyles but what should we do in the meantime? Chug away at the fossil fuels? I know the cons of nuclear power but I’m pragmatic and I simply don’t think we have any better choice at the moment. Many ‘greens’ have accepted this is the only way for us to meet our climate change targets (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/nuclear-power-yes-please-1629327.html). And actually there is a real drive towards renewable energy sources too, it doesn’t have to just be one or the other. Realistically, Britain will need a mix of energy sources, there is no one energy ‘saviour’. Even if people reduced their home energy use by 65% as you claim (highly unlikely), what about emissions from cars? Industry? Aviation? We don’t live in an ideal world where everyone will suddenly become energy concious, especially when so many people don’t even think climate change is real – or that it will simply mean warmer summers! And what does it matter if the nuclear industry makes money? Someone’s going to make money!

Re. embryonic stem cells. I think you are confusing genetic manipulation with obtaining stem cells which are produced for grafts, transplants, replacement organs, regenerative medicine etc. Genetic manipulation and stem cells are not the same thing at all. And while scientists are using embryos less and less for stem cells (they are actively finding other sources), it’s still a bit luddite to want to ban all use of embryonic stem cells IMHO, especially without good scientific reason. And let’s not forget that restricting bioscience research in the UK will lead to a brain-drain of talented people to the US, which will impact badly on our universities and economy.

Shea // Posted 4 June 2009 at 10:23 pm

@Sabre- so in effect you are happy to put off paying the price for energy for another generation or two. Let them deal with the problem of massive amounts of slowly decaying nuclear waste huh? This is exactly the attitude that has brought us to where we are now.

We have to eliminate as much use of fossil fuels as we can. As a scientist, you should know we are at peak oil. The oil reserves are declining just as our use is increasing (albeit, this has dropped because of the recession). If you want a model of sustainable living, with a minimum use of fossil fuels, I have one word for you : Cuba.

Not an impossible pipe dream but a solid, viable, in existence way of living and a country with a health and education record to put the USA to shame. (And their not even making use of renewable technology!)

“Someone’s going to make money” – yes and someone is going to pay the price and you can bet your bottom dollar it will be those in the majority world, that will have to pay for our over-use of the world’s natural resources and our pollution.

Re; embryonic stem cells — not confusing anything you said — “experiments on human embryos” that’s a wider remit than just embryonic stem cells, no? And where exactly do you think we are getting these embryos from? Spares from IVF? Not entirely– there is a huge market in getting egg donations from young women in the US, Spain and Asia. It s a very disturbing trend towards further commodification of the female body.

“it’s still a bit luddite to want to ban all use of embryonic stem cells IMHO, especially without good scientific reason.”

Firstly they are not talking about banning them, they are asking to proceed with caution. Its not luddite to have grave concerns about the use of and commodification of the human body at a cellular level.

“And let’s not forget that restricting bioscience research in the UK will lead to a brain-drain of talented people to the US, which will impact badly on our universities and economy.”

It is already restricted! No research or treatment involving the use of gametes is allowed without approval and a licence from the HFEA. It is a poor argument to say asking for a wider public debate and democratisation of stem cell research will lead to a “brain drain”. It hasn’t in the US despite the ban on federal funding. We have one of the most liberal research climates in the world in the UK, and that would not change under the Greens, but there needs to be a greater understanding of the technology involved, its ethical implications and a wider public participation in the debate. Rather than having major decisions made by a select few on bioethics committees. Where is the democracy in that? This is publicly funded research (clinically trialled, on members of the public!) that will have a huge social and clinical impact for all of us. We deserve to have a say in it and how it is used.

That is all that is being asked for. You are doing the Greens a major disservice to make them out to be backward, anti-technology, anti- scientific luddites. That certainly isn’t the case, they are the most progressive party out there by a long way.

Sabre // Posted 5 June 2009 at 2:58 pm

Let’s agree to disagree otherwise it could go on forever!

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