Saturday, July 24

UKIP arrive in Strasbourg: sexism, suits, sleaze and secrets

The first Strasbourg session of the new European Parliament was 'graced' by UKIP's newly-elected band of MEPs, desperate to hit the headlines.

The major headline of the week was created by Godfrey Bloom MEP, whose own particular views on women's rights are covered in greater detail here.

Robert Kilroy Silk's first publicity stunt was to tear up his ballot paper for the election of the new president of the parliament. He then went on to explain his vision of Europe (quoted in the Independent, 21 July):

"I am very fond of Italy and Spain... I spend a lot of time in France every single year. I like the people, I like the culture. I think I am wearing a motley collection of foreign clothes."

Despite this valiant display of his opposition to xenophobic attitudes, the week also saw the alliance of UKIP with dubious political forces in the creation of the Independence and Democracy parliamentary group. This group, co-chaired by Nigel Farage and the Danish Eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde, has two chairs and two divergent philosophies: 'get out' (represented by UKIP) and 'press for democracy and reform' (represented by Bonde and the Danish June Movement). It also includes ten members from the ultra-right League of Polish Families, many of whose members have made anti-Semitic or xenophobic comments. More on UKIP's strange bedfellows can be found here.

Just before the Strasbourg session, UKIP removed the whip from Ashley Mote, whose forthcoming court appearance on charges of benefit fraud had not been noticed by the UKIP hierarchy before the European elections... despite being noticed by the Daily Telegraph. Mote, who had campaigned to clean up sleaze in Brussels, will now sit as an Independent.

Kilroy Silk also made a u-turn on his parliamentary activities - despite initially intending to boycott Strasbourg sessions of the Parliament, he said, "I might attend every plenary session".

He also seems to be changing his mind on transparency in the EU - when asked whether he will make public his declaration of financial interests, he said, "If I feel I don't want to I won't".

Sources: The Independent, 21 July 2004; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3899969.stm; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3912205.stm

No comments: