The Tory MEP delegation must be scared to death about UKIP’s prospects in the up-coming council elections. They’ve rushed out a quick-and-dirty leaflet accusing us of virtually every crime except eating babies for breakfast.
They’ve been careful to put their Conservative logo on it. And their ECR Group logo. And crediting it to Julie Girling. And putting on the correct imprint for electoral material: “Published & promoted by Conservatives in the European parliament etc etc”.
So that’s alright then, isn’t it? Well no. There seems to be a problem. It looks very much as though they’re funding it via the ECR Group with EU parliament money, and you can’t use those funds for electoral purposes.
Of course I suppose it’s just possible that they’re paying for it with a whip-round of their delegation. Maybe each Conservative MEP has dipped into his/her back pocket and put €50 in the hat. But I doubt it. Why be so careful with the Group Logo if it’s not claimed on the Group funds? They will have to speak for themselves, but it’s not looking good.
Then again, they may argue that it’s “information” and not electoral material. And to be fair, the fatal words “election” and “candidate” and “vote” don’t appear on the leaflet. But if you issue a flyer saying “Do you REALLY want a UKIP Councillor on your Council….?”, in the middle of a council election campaign, I think most people would agree that this is electoral material. And if it’s not electoral material, why the imprint?
We also have a copy of an e-mail purporting to be from Julie Girling’s office, in which she says “My office will be posting printed copies to your local association office later this week for you to pass on to volunteers and canvassers”. It’s probably the case that most MEPs one way and another occasionally use parliamentary facilities for party political purposes, but it’s not smart to announce it in that way.
Then we come to the substantive claims about UKIP’s voting record in the parliament. Let’s take them head on.
“UKIP voted to continue discredited EU sugar quotas”. The truth is that UKIP voted for a temporary extension of sugar quotas to protect jobs in UK agriculture and the UK refining industry which would otherwise have gone to the continent.
“Tory MEPs voted to end discards of fish …. UKIP did not”. In fact UKIP has always campaigned and voted against the CFP and against discards. However the CFP measure which the spurious Tory claim relates to, although it mentions discards, was primarily about extending the EU’s competence and authority to the sea-bed, as well as the sea, in territorial waters. Naturally UKIP would not vote for an extension of EU powers.
“UKIP voted against human trafficking”. (I quote verbatim). And you have a problem with that, Julie? In fact the leaflet cites several items under the Victims’ Rights Package (you mis-placed your apostrophe there, Julie, by the way) and the Human Trafficking Directive. These measures take objectives which are in themselves laudable, but they give powers and competences to the EU which UKIP believes should remain with member-states. UKIP always votes against more powers for the EU, and we make no apology for doing so. We believe in Human Rights, but we don’t believe that Human Rights should be dictated and arbitrated by Brussels. Surely the Tories of all people should recognise the damage which the European Court of Human Rights is doing to our country?
So. We shall be challenging the Tories over their apparent breach of parliamentary rules on this leaflet. We shall happily rebut the unjustified slurs contained in it. And we will give the Conservative Party a nasty shock on May 2nd.
Footnote: It was of course Julie Girling who took and circulated that rather disobliging photograph of me catching a few Zeds in the Hemicycle recently. But I don’t hold it against her.