To vote or not to vote? That is the question.

William Shakespeare, as imagined by an engraver

William Shakespeare, as imagined by an engraver

As Tony Blair said, politics is about tough choices, so here’s one where I’d like your help.

Frankly, I’d never heard of a “European laureate”, until I saw this story in the Guardian. But apparently the title exists; there is a proposal to nominate Shakespeare for the award; and it seems it has to be voted through by the European parliament.  So I shall have a 0.13% say in the decision, which I shall exercise on behalf of my 4 million plus East Midlands electors.

Of course my first thought was enthusiastically positive.  Shakespeare is unquestionably the greatest playwright that Britain — or Europe, or the world — has ever seen.  (It’s the 60th anniversary of Beckett’s “waiting for Godot”, by the way, and I recently heard it described by a BBC arts correspondent as “the best play ever”.  But I don’t believe much of what I hear on the Beeb these days).  He (Shakespeare, that is) is also arguably one of the UK’s greatest poets, though there he has more competition.  I like Betjeman myself (“Too populist by half”, I hear you say).  And Thomas Babington Macaulay.  And Henry Newbolt.  Others may go for Keats or Shelley or Tennyson.

But I’m pro-Shakespeare, and pro-British, so how could I not support this honour for our national playwright?

And yet, and yet….   If this European laureate-ship is anything, it’s presumably a pale shadow of the Sakharov prize, which the European parliament awards every year.  And the Sakharov Prize is nothing to do with honouring Sakharov, nor with honouring the recipients, who are forgotten a few days after the event.  It’s all about EU propaganda, and showing the European parliament in a good light.

Thinking about it, the idea of the corporatist, centralist, anti-democratic EU awarding a prize for “Freedom of Thought” is beyond parody.  The EU supports freedom and self-determination everywhere except Europe, where it blithely ignores the results of repeated referenda.  It’s about as preposterous as the EU receiving the Nobel Peace Prize — and what a farce that was!

So this proposal is not about honouring Shakespeare in time for his 400th anniversary, as the English academics promoting the idea fondly imagine.  Not at all.  It’s about promoting “ever closer union”, and trying to recruit Shakespeare to the cause of European integration, as they have already sought to recruit Sit Winston Churchill.  The great man must still be turning in his grave down at Bladon.

Do I do the obvious thing and vote for Shakespeare and British drama?  Or do I think a bit more deeply and vote against a cheap Euro-federalist propaganda stunt?  You tell me.  Answers on a post-card, please.  Or by e-mail.

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26 Responses to To vote or not to vote? That is the question.

  1. Michael JR Jose says:

    Shun it Roger, shun it. First they anoint a dead Laureate, then they will anoint a live euro-nutter, Shakespeare having previously legitimized it. Out, out damned spot!

  2. Dave Cox says:

    You are right, any attempt to nominate Shakespeare is nothing more than a cynical ploy to bond us the EU. Reject it for the sham it is !

  3. Linda Hudson says:

    E.U. re-writing of history will eventually have Shakespeare being born anywhere in Europe other than England, Impossible people will say! no, not at all, the E.U. has already re- written history in that it declares that it was none other than the European Union that has kept the peace in Europe since WW2, and that this war was nothing more than a European civil war. If the E.U. can do this in the span of 69 years, how much more can they change the history of 400 years ago?

  4. Phil Richmond says:


  5. Mike Spilligan says:

    Shakespeare has had all the accolades he can cope with, wherever he is, and doesn’t need any third rate, synthetic praise from the EU in any form. Please abstain, Mr H.

  6. Scardeypants says:

    Yes agree- abstain as an award from the EU will not hold any regard. The Nobel peace prize has now been devalued

  7. eworrall1 says:

    Turn the tables – vote for it, but make it a celebration of what Britain can achieve without EU help.

    Your basic position (which I support) is that the honour is meaningless, or even perverse – a tawdry attempt by a failing political body to recruit a great Briton to the cause of shoring up their crumbling despotism.

    So turn it into a celebration of what an independent Britain can achieve, and watch their faces as they vote to honour an icon of a proud, independent Britain.

  8. Heather Alibakir says:

    Abstain please, Roger.

  9. cosmic says:

    Have no truck with it.

  10. John Latham says:

    This award seems to be just another way of wasting time and money which is exactly what we need to eliminate by leaving the EU. Please vote against

  11. Sean O'Hare says:

    You don’t say whether there are any other nominees so unless there is a particularly ludicrous one you could vote for I think you should abstain.

  12. Avellana says:

    Is there nothing left that is not swallowed up by their backroom tinkering. I would nominate the Eurovsion Song Contest as a supreme and classic example of the crazed sham the EU really is.

  13. Avellana says:

    Woops, please excuse typo read Eurovsion as Eurovision.

  14. neilfutureboy says:

    You are there to vote on your constituent’s behalf so you should vote for him if he is the best candidate, which I assume you think he is. You need not speak in his favour, or indeed, if asked to speak could do so exclusively in terms you used above.

    • I don’t know whether there are other candidates, or if this is just about Shakespeare. But is it in the best interests of my constituents to support a €uro-federalist scam?

      • neilfutureboy says:

        It iswn’t really a scam in that nobody gets stolen from, simply an EU photo-op.

        Or perhaps you could ask them how much the budget for this is & if it is far more outrageous than a commercial promoter would charge that would be a good reason to vote against it & indeed a good specific example of how bad the EU is.

  15. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    My default position vis-a-vis the EU is to tell them to get knotted. We really don’t want to give them the impression that we’re remotely interested

  16. Hugh Eveleigh says:

    Oh I would let them get on with it and abstain.

  17. Anyway, that;s nothing. We have a Fenland Laureate which has rec ently been cancelled by Fenland District Council.
    Here is my own entry`:

    On Fenland District Council
    cancelling the Fenland Laureate Award 2012.
    Now let’s get this completely right
    Oh what a shock! I never knew!
    Fen people cannot read or write.

    And Wisbech buildings, once alight,
    are full of writers all a stew
    Now let’s get this completely right.

    There absolutely is no blight
    On Thomas Clarkson, what a crew!
    Fen people cannot read or write.

    And Isle College, what a sight!
    It grew and grew and grew and grew.
    Now let’s get this completely right.

    And now the Council sends a blight
    How cruel! If they only knew!
    Fen people cannot read or write.

    The Council you can never fight.
    That’s something we already knew
    Now let’s get this completely right
    Fen people cannot read or write.

  18. David C says:

    Don’t vote. Treat it with well-deserved contempt. The award benefits no-one, except European bureaucrats who get paid to organise this stuff.

  19. Gail says:

    Go with your gut instinct! That is one thing that doesn’t let you down.

  20. ukfred says:

    In terms of the question, I would agree with the other Mr. Shakespeare who says, “Tell them to get knotted”

    But I would be interested in your view on how to vote in a first past the post election. There is not the thickness of a cigarette paper between the various members of the liblabcon trick. I a constituency or ward which is generally a marginal between say Conservative and Labour, should one hold one’s nose and vote for the least bad, or when should one take the plunge and say, “Enough! I’m going to vote for a candidate who stands for what i believe in.” This obviously affects all sorts of elections. In the parliamentary election for the constituency in which I live, the UKIP candidate polled more votes than the Labour majority over Conservative in 2010. If you accept that UKIP voters have more frequently come from Conservative ranks than Labour, then should they have voted Conservative at the last election to keep out an unpopular Labour member, on the assumption that the Conservative would have been as good at representing his constituents or do you continue to vote UKIP in the expectations that other eyes might soon be opened?

    • rfhmep says:

      Thanks ukfred. This is my most frequently asked question. “If I vote UKIP in a General Election, won’t I just let Labour in?”. But you’ve answered it yourself. On the issues that matter — the EU, energy, immigration — there’s little to choose. But a big UKIP vote will at least send a powerful message. I think UKIP will win the 2014 €uro-election, and our message will then be “We’ve shown we can win — now reproduce that result at a General Election, and we’ll start to see real change in Britain”.

  21. Avellana says:

    I agree but please include the SNP for us up in the northlands. We need reassurance too.

  22. fortuneteller says:

    choose the raving loony monster. Oh how I miss him

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