This should be the last nail in the coffin for those still unsure about the principle of leaving the European's People's Party.
Last week Dan Hannan MEP wrote an amazing account of Hans Gert-Pöttering's (the already powerful President of the European Parliament) successful attempt to get the authority to interpret Parliamentary rules as he wished.
Basically, about two dozen MEPs from across Europe, including British Conservatives and UKIP, decided to use two perfectly legal mechanisms to register their disapproval of the EU constitution: the right to call for an electronic vote so that you can see exactly who votes which way, and the right to talk for no more than one minute about why you voted the way you did. As Hannan says:
"Two dozen MEPs making a series of one minute speeches hardly constitutes a filibuster. At worst, we would have kept MEPs from their lunch for half an hour and perhaps delayed the start of the afternoon session. But even this is intolerable to the parliamentary authorities. Blinded by their resentment of “anti-Europeans”, which is in turn a surrogate for the fear and contempt they feel for their own electorates, they have abandoned any pretence at legality in order to prevent us making our point in the chamber. The very sound of someone calling for a referendum is offensive to their guilty ears."
In response to this little display of democracy, Hans Gert-Pöttering wrote an extraordinary letter to the Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, a German Socialist, requesting permission to be able to stop such procedures at his discretion. He actually put it in writing! His request was duly rubber-stamped. You can understand Hannan's temptation to compare it to Hitler's 1933 Enabling Act which gave him the power to override the German parliament and constitution.
This morning in the European Parliament, there was a vote on the Committee's proposals to grant Gert-Pöttering these powers even though the proposals hadn't even been distributed to members. In criticising this, Hannan paraphrased the argument in his blog post, pointedly saying that "a majority is not the same as the rule of law." EPP leader Joseph Daul then stood up irately and declared that he wanted Hannan out of his Party, saying with an air of great concession that he had "no problem with you people calling for a referendum in Britain but I will not have you doing it on the Parliament floor as a member of the group".
Astonishingly, Christopher Beazley - a Conservative MEP - apparently berated Hannan just before speaking this morning, also threatening to call for the EPP to remove the Whip from him if he dared to stand up and criticise the undemocratic motion!
There is a process to go through to get Hannan
kicked out, but it should be confirmed by the next Strasbourg session
in two weeks. It should also be noted that the fact the Conservatives
won't be getting a vote on his expulsion is a broken EPP promise. In
the negotiations following the 2004 elections that led to the creation
of EPP-ED the Conservatives were promised that they would have that
right - but this of course was immediately reneged upon.
Whilst absolutely shameful, being outside of the EPP will be a blessing in disguise for Hannan. He said nothing that wasn't Conservative Party policy, indeed leaving the EPP isn't against Party policy, so he will retain the Tory Whip. This has been confirmed by Den Dover, the Conservative Whip who said he backed him and that as far as he was concerned Hannan was sitting as a Conservative and will be a Conservative candidate at the next election. He will, however, personally get the procedural and financial benefits of being outside of the EPP bloc, such as getting prime speaking slots in debates.
Just like Roger Helmer MEP did when he was kicked out of the grouping for daring to question the Commission President about corruption.
And just like the Conservatives will when they leave this undemocratic group. We can't leave it soon enough.
3pm update: Hannan has now blogged about being thrown out
5pm update: Click here to download a scan of Gert-Pöttering's letter to the Committee