I trust readers will forgive me for taking time to describe a relatively trivial incident – but one which is illustrative of the way it’s possible to convey a totally misleading message in a few words. Not surprisingly, the example comes from a Labour MEP, Seb Dance, who is also a leading proponent of climate alarmism in the European parliament.
He recently posted the following Tweet: “UKIP MEP makes way to his seat waiving (sic) a giant Union Jack as two brave Yazidi women praise Germany for accepting victims of rape and genocide”. This paints a graphic picture. Apparently I (for it was I to whom he referred) had been making an eccentric gesture, waving a giant flag around in the hemicycle in a flamboyant but inappropriate and slightly absurd manner. And he seeks to imply that this was a deliberate gesture intended to insult and belittle the two women in question.
The reality was totally different. The two Yazidi women were receiving the Sakharov Prize. Like most decent people, I have huge respect and sympathy for the sufferings of the Yazidi people in the conflicts in the Middle East, and I have no doubt that these two women, who had suffered much themselves, were worthy recipients of the prize. I have rather less respect for the prize itself, which I see as merely a propaganda device for the European parliament, rather than a serious initiative to promote freedom of thought.
In any case, my actions had no relation at all to the Sakharov event, which immediately preceded the Tuesday voting session in the hemicycle. I was merely taking my place in the chamber ahead of the votes, as were dozens – hundreds — of other MEPs. It is totally normal to have some particular formal event – a speech from a foreign head of state, a prize award or whatever – immediately preceding the voting session, and it is totally normal for MEPs to enter the chamber during such an event.
Now we UKIP MEPs customarily display a small Union Jack (OK, Union Flag, for pedants) on our desks during voting. You may or may not agree with this gesture, but we choose to do it, and it is within the rules. On this occasion, at the previous UKIP MEPs’ voting meeting, London MEP Gerard Batten, who is the unofficial custodian of the flags, had handed them out to colleagues, and I had taken mine down to the chamber. I was not waving it with a Napoleonic flourish – I was merely carrying it to my place. And as for “waving a giant Union Jack”, the flag in question is about four inches high. I am struck by the huge contrast between what actually happened, and the rather absurd picture that Seb Dance paints in his Tweet. And note the way he hypes up the emotional temperature with his reference to rape and genocide.
I replied: “Oh dear, Seb. The “giant flag” was all of four inches high. I was carrying it, not waving it. And you don’t spell ‘waving’ like that”.