We're not usually allowed so close to these political-class aristocrats, not with our sceptical sans-culotterie and inky fingers. But there she was, the fragrant EU Commissioner for Information Strategy who'd come to parliament to say as little as she possibly could.
After the session, a couple of us gathered the ripped-up notes made by her companion, Reijo Kempinnen, and we pieced together his private suggestions (they weren't ventilated by Margot Wallstrom).
There had been talk of the Irish "no" vote. Reijo had written: "We" (circled and underlined) "did not lose a single referendum". That stopped me. Who is that "we"? The Commission runs Europe, doesn't it? France, Holland and Ireland had voted "no", hadn't they? In what sense hadn't the Commission lost these votes?
In the most important, bureaucratic sense. It wasn't the Commission (circled and underlined) but the governments who'd lost the referendums. "We're not to blame!" he'd wanted to say. "It wasn't our fault!" Followed by: "à la guillotine, les Irlandais!"
Margot phrased it her own way: the Irish "no" "is an answer but not a solution". She had to put their decision in context. To analyse it. To find out if they could "help". In the case of France, she said, they'd analysed it "so we could move ahead".
She kept saying that until Lindsay Hoyle summarised it as "A yes in Europe means yes. And so does a no. Please accept no means no." Margot had to point out again that no wasn't a solution. The chairman, Michael Connarty, said the Irish verdict was an impassable boulder in the road. Personally I (and I bet Margot) see it more as a boulder in the middle of a river, round which the EU will flow.
David Heathcote Amory asked why the EU was violating all principles of subsidiarity by making us adopt their proposals for things such as mental health, youth policy and violence against women. Margot said this sort of thing was a) politics, b) practical, c) to save money. And that they had been subject to impact assessments for sustainability.
He also asked about the paralysis we were threatened with if the constitution failed. The flow of directives, powers, policy instruments had never been higher. "I'm glad you think we're effective," Margot said, flirtatiously I think, the minx.
It's hard enough holding our own lot to any sort of account. These characters are so far beyond our reach we can't land a turnip on them.Reuse content