Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Can you film the answer to poverty?

I recently received an email from the European People's Party (EPP) promoting a 60 second film competition on how to tackle poverty in the EU. Prizes include having your film recorded in a DVD collection of entries, and, of course, a possible trip to Brussels. The rationale of the competition is:

"The European People’s Party and its Group in the Committee of the Regions believes that it is important to give you the chance to show us what you think about the European Union and its policies. Nearly 80 million people – or 16% of the EU population – are living below the poverty line today and facing serious obstacles in accessing employment, education, housing, social and financial services, particularly in urban areas. During the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and at a time of financial and economic crisis, the EPP is keen to hear ideas about how to stop poverty from young adults given that you are at a stage in your life where uncertainty and vulnerability is everywhere."

You can read about the competition here.

It good to see some attempt for the group to reach out to people directly rather than only through national parties, but I wonder how many people received this email. I'm not an EPP member, so I suspect I only received it because I'm a blogger and therefore might enter an internet-based competition - have EPP members received it too?

(Perhaps towards the end the EPP will promote its own views a bit more...?)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Edward McMillian-Scott joins the LibDems

Edward McMillan-Scott, who ran for - and won - one of the Vice President posts of the European Parliament ahead of the ECR's preferred choice, Kaminski (now ECR leader in the EP), has now joined the Liberal Democrats (who are part of ALDE in the EP). McMillan-Scott had been expelled from the ECR after winning the VP post, and has now been expelled from the Tory party altogether. Instead of appealing the decision, the MEP has joined the LibDems and publicly bashed the Tory party as a "nasty party" - exactly the image party leader David Cameron has been trying to dispel:

""David Cameron shields his europhobes," he writes. "No murmur was made when last weekend Lord Tebbit in effect encouraged Conservatives to vote Ukip in the general election against the Speaker, John Bercow. The dog whistle is really at a lower pitch: that Ukip supporters know that there is a real home for them, back in the Conservative party.""

Nick Clegg has appeared alongside McMillan-Scott to portray the LibDems as a credible and pragmatic European party in comparison to the Conservatives. Labour has also been bashing the Conservatives and using the party's European policy as a means of showing them up as a unpragmatic, nasty party.

So this could hurt the Tories, though it's unclear how far it would affect public opinion. McMillan-Scott could be portrayed by the party as a malcontent who disobeyed party orders and is lashing out now that he has to pay the price - but then again, this is hard to square with his success in the EP. How can a successful parliamentarian with enough support to win against the ECR's preferred candidate be a dangerous radical opposed to sensible party policy? His methods of political engagement seem to work better in the EP than current Tory policy, and MEPs such as Daniel Hannan are far more radical and potentially dangerous to the Tory's image than McMillan-Scott (particularly as Hannan played a poster-boy role in the US Republican's campaign against health care reform by portraying the NHS [a holy of holies in UK politics] as a national disaster). Explaining how radicals such as Hannan are protected while McMillan-Scott can be so easily ousted may be uncomfortable, even if he did disobey the ECR/Tory whip.

McMillan-Scott has written a column in the Observer hitting out against the Tories' euroscepticism.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

"Yes, Commissioner..."

There's a great post over at Writing for (Y)EU about the West Wing and the EU - and the possibility of an EU version of the West Wing (perhaps to be called something like "The 13th Floor"...?). Interesting was the comparison between the West Wing's optimistic view of politics and the more pessimistic views in Yes, Minister and The Thick of It. There are some really good points here, but perhaps this is just a cultural thing: Europeans aren't just religious atheists, but are also pretty sceptical when it comes to government, science and technology.

In a way the idea seems a bit counter-intuitive; how can Europeans, for whom the state plays such a big role in life, be more wary of state power? Of course, history provides the obvious answer, and, as Tony Judt has rightly put in his writings, the welfare state is really a sort of modern social contract to mitigate the social extremes of the past. The welfare state is borne of pessimism, not optimism for state-centred utopias.

Anyway, that's a bit of a tangent, but I think that the West Wing couldn't be replicated here - not at national level, but definitely not at EU level. Not only because of different attitudes to politics, but also because the EU doesn't really do anything quite as dramatic. But I do find the idea of a "Yes, Commissioner" exciting. I can just see it as a mix between Yes, Minister and The Thick of It - the Commissioner of "Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration" trying to cut bureaucracy and maneuver his/her way through the Brussels bubble without being caught in the path of the colliding institutions, the bickering political groupings, rival fellow-commissioners, while trying to not being drawn under by his/her waring cabinet and DG civil servants... (Imagine Sir Humpfry Appleby versus Malcom Tucker!).

Let's face it, it'd be the best way for people to get to know the institutions, politics, etc. while poking fun at the clear absurdities of the system. So any takers to write it?

Or am I just in a nerdy minority of one here...?

(In the meantime, Julien Frisch will have to be our premier comedian).

[Edit: See also the blogpost on the Lobby Planet Blog, who prefers a 5 minute sketch format rather than a longer (perhaps an hour long if it's West Wing style) slot. It would definitely be hard, but I think Yes, Minister shows that if the writer is skilled, you can get some great humour from the turf wars and inter-personal conflict even if the issues (Hacker was minister for "Administrative Affairs") are kind of boring. In fact, having a bland "admin" ministry allowed the writers to have access to issues in all other government departments...)].