A new YouGov poll for OpenEurope shows a majority (54%) of people think government should abandon attempts to ratify the Lisbon treaty, only 14% think it should still be ratified.

In terms of general attitude towards the EU, 24% of people think Britain should leave the EU entirely, 38% support British membership of the single market, but would prefer Britain not to participate in more “political elements” of the EU, 29% support full membership.

The poll also asked if people could name their local MEPs – 8% said they could. Asked to do so, 115 out of 1312 had a stab at it. The MEP most commonly named was, er, Neil Kinnock, who isn’t an MP. The real MEP who was named most often was Gary Titley, leader of the Labour group in the European Parliament. (Other non-MEPs named as people’s local MEP included Jacqui Lait, Peter Mandleson, Annabelle Goldie, Lembit Opik, Tony Benn, Patrick McLoughlin, Gwyn Prosser, Grant Shapps, Edwina Currie, Dawn Primarolo, Austin Mitchell and – not quite sure who they meant to put – Peter Burns, presumably not the surgically altered lead singer of 1980s band Dead or Alive)


42 Responses to “8% think they can name their MEP”

  1. I think this poll is a condemnation of the list system used for European Elections. People would be much more likely to know about their MEPs if, whatever the details of the voting system used, they voted for individual candidates.

    Interstingly, some of the highest profile MEPs are ones who are the sole representative of their party in the seat. Carolyn Lucas in South East England comes to mind: as I recollect, the Green campaign at the last election here was effectively run as an individual campaign for Ms. Lucas. Litle publicity was given to the other candidates on the list as everybody knew the issue was whether Carolyn Lucas’ exceptional activity as an MEp would get the Greens past the quota for one MEP.

    Given current issues about MEPs expenses, there are obvious reasons why it is crucial for electors to be able to select between candidates within a party.

  2. The Times leader-yesterday I think-quoted those wonderful opening words of the United States Constitution:-

    “We the People…”

    -and suggested that if EU ever got round to writing a proper Constitution, it would start with the words:-

    “They the people…”

    I think that neatly sums up the relationship between the institutions of EU-and it’s population.

    Why should anyone know the name of their MEP? What would bring he or she to mind? What is their relevance to our lives?

  3. We may as well have Pete Burns (from Dead or Alive) as an MEP – he could’nt do much worse than what we do have representing us for all parties across Europe – the whole thing is a sham – most European countries ignore the rules they don’t like anyway , except Britain.

  4. The problem with the European parliament is that it is neither fish nor fowl.

    It’s job is essentially to oversee the commission and scrutinise legislation. It doesn’t actually make laws. In that respect it’s a bit like the house of lords, and how many members of the House of Lords who live in their constituency could people name.

    Ironically the way to address the criticisms of those who question it’s relevance is to give it greater power, but that is anathema to those very same critics.

    As to the abuse of allowances. Every member of the Parliament is directly elected by the public, so we can always get rid of them just like someone caught out at Westminster.

    We rarely seem to do that and if we done if the next one in turns out to be just as bad, well that’s surely as much our fault as Europe’s. As they say in computing “GIGO”, garbage in garbage out.

    In part the answer to the question ” Why are MEP’s always lining their pockets at public expense” is “Because we send people who when they get the chance will line their pockets”.

    I’ve never really been a fan of the parliament because I think it isn’t really necessary. We could and probably should run it with a Council of ministers and an appointed commission.

    I’d prefer a smaller commission but the problem their is that the very people who talk about a bloated bureaucracy are again the ones who protest at the prospect of us losing our commissioner.

    The same duality emerges with the implementation of legislation and indeed the Lisbon treaty.

    People complain that other countries ignore the rules or don’t implement them fully, but the minute it’s suggested that the EU is given stronger powers to enforce them unilaterally or universally, it’s suddenly “Wake Up Britain” as the evil EU tries to impinge on our sovereignty.

    The irony of the Lisbon treaty is that in an attempt to make the whole thing run more smoothly they have come up with a convoluted answer and that it’s been attacked by the very people who want the EU streamlined.

    I don’t think it’s just Britain that has these problems or indeed is aware of them, it’s just that everyone else seems to take the view that the problems are that crucial or that they are acceptable if annoying because they are out weighed by the benefits.

    Oddly enough if you look at the regional breakdown of the figures you’ll see that even with the small samples the Scottish attitude to the EU is broadly more supportive than the UK in general and the South East in particular.

    Peter.

  5. I am a political anorak and I can only name two of my MEPs. This says it all for me – the list system is studid, distant and only acts to encourage the sort of ‘behind-closed-doors’ machinations, fiddling and the dominance of party apperachiks that gives the EU a bad name. Scrap it now!!

  6. Peter, why is that odd?

    My Scottish wife and family are keen on Europe because they see it as a restraining influence on Westminster. Perhaps it isn’t in practicce, but their perception is quite strong.

    I agree with your analysis. We all want the thinnest possible administrative layer. If we could start afresh, I’d suggest the old computing term “WYSIWYG” as a strapline. (What You See Is What You Get).

    If the Irish had had a simpler message to vote on, the result might well have been a “yes”.

  7. “the way to address the criticisms of those who question it’s relevance is to give it greater power, but that is anathema to those very same critics.”

    No it isn’t-anathema I mean-it might be the answer for those who want more ( or just some!) democracy in EU which they can access & influence.It would depend how much real power it had to be the EU’s legislature.

    The Commission would never allow it though.

    “As to the abuse of allowances. Every member of the Parliament is directly elected by the public, so we can always get rid of them just like someone caught out at Westminster.”

    You miss the point entirely Peter-it is the rules themselves which create the room for exploitation & abuse.It is the Parliament itself which has refused transparency. It is The Commission which punishes whistleblowers rather than the abuse they expose.

    Indeed it is the Commission which presides over massive abuse-by design & default- of the EU Budget.

    Which is why the EU accounts are never approved by it’s auditors. But it doesn’t care-it’s institutions are not accountable, it is anti-democratic, and it has billions of our money to play with.

  8. “If the Irish had had a simpler message to vote on, the result might well have been a “yes”.”

    It was a pretty simple question actually-can the Irish Government ratify the Treaty of Lisbon–or words to that effect.

    The Irish Government sent bilingual booklets written in English and Irish, explaining the Treaty, to every one of the 2.5 million Irish households. However compendiums of the two previous treaties, of which the Lisbon Treaty is intended to be a series of reforms and amendments, remained unavailable in Ireland.Some commentators said that the treaty remains essentially incomprehensible in the absence of such a compendium.

    The European Commissioner for the Internal Market Charlie McCreevy admitted he had not read the Treaty from cover to cover, and said “he would not expect any sane person to do so”.

    And this is the problem-if you were asked to sign a legal agreement of some 350 pages, to which you would become a party, which was incomprehensible to you-even with an explanatory booklet-would you do so?

    You cannot reduce the ever-increasing mass of EU lawmaking & beauracratic process to “simple” terms.So you end up effectively asking-do you trust the Commission to act in your interests-yes or no?

    And the Irish said No.

    Mugabe has an interesting way of dealing with this problem-which is of course common to all power structures seeking to retain power by a semblance, but not the reality of, democracy.

    His question is -Do you want to vote NO-or do you want to eat & stay alive?

    Perhaps The Commission could devise something similar for the Irish next time round.

  9. Colin, you make my point. The actual question was simple, but the question of what the treaty is about was too complex.Of course they voted no. They didn’t understand it.

    I’d offer a different treaty, along the lines that the members agree to simplify processes. They’d have answered yes to that, and I suspect you would.

    Mugabe is a diferent matter. The EU is not a sadistic dictator.

  10. “The EU is not a sadistic dictator.”

    It’s a group of busy-bodies who constantly churn out laws concerning minutae in an effort to justify their existence.

    Well, at least sometimes.

    I too was quick amazed at how out of step with the rest of the UK Scotland is when it comes to europe. If YouGov would break Wales away from the rest of Midlands, we may well see a pattern emerging. Most interesting of all is that a comfortable majority (62/29/9) would probably vote in favour of proposals limiting the UK’s involvment in the EU to non-political matters.

  11. john-

    Yes of course I agree with your last sentence-but I was not being entirely flippant.

    The ability of the population of Zimbabwe to directly express an opinion about their executive, at the ballot box, is in stark contrast to that of their counterparts in EU.

    RE “your” treaty-no I wouldn’t vote for it.
    I am tired of EU “processes” and the unelected, privileged elite who seek to extend them ad-nauseam.

  12. Fair enough (I was partly winding you up!)

    If I were Brown, I’d make an EU “in or out” referendum a manifesto commitment.

    Lance the boil!

  13. john-interesting.

    As predictably as night following day, GB at PMQs responded to DC’s EU questions with the usual “they want out” tirade.

    There seems no compromise for some so-called Europhiles. They simply cannot conceive of a view which envisages Europe wide co-operation on appropriate & sensible matters, without an ever increasing political union which is devoid of democratic accountability.

    It’s a strangely blinkered approach it seems to me. Maybe such people actually rather mistrust the democratic process and prefer the unassailable authority of central beauracracy -there always has been a strong authoritarian tendency on the left as George Orwell depicted.

    What Brussels so often describes as “The European Project” is pretty much a manifestation of it I feel.

  14. The last few posts illustrate why the debate, or what passes for it, on Europe in the UK is the dialogue of the deaf.

    If you have an EU it will need some kind of officials who like all others at every level of government in Europe will be paid employees. Further more as they will be responsible for important trans national issues such as trade they will be some of the most important public servants in Europe.

    Thus they get called the “The Unelected Brussels Elite” by their critics, but to be honest I am at a loss to see just how we can make the EU work without sum kind of paid central administration.

    You can argue about it’s efficiency or size, but I suspect that like tax no matter how small it will always be too big. True it doesn’t do itself many favours but even when it does well i doubt it will get much praise from it’s critics.

    Equally phrases like “appropriate & sensible measures” which pretty much translates in to only the things we want it do do.

    The problem is that to get twenty plus democracies to agree on what is sensible and appropriate on how to impliment it would either get us rapidly to where we are now if everyones ideas were included or bring about the end of the EU if only what was on everyones list before negotiations could be discussed.

    The all in is to big for some the minimalist to small for others.

    As to democratic accountability the MEP’s are accountable to their electorate just like MP’s and MSP’s and the Council of ministers is decided by elections in each country when they form a government.

    Democratic accountability for the commission is to the Council of Ministers made up of elected heads of Government and to the European Parliament in the same way as Whitehall civil servants are accountable to the government of the day and scrutiny by MP’s in parliament.

    I’ve yet to ask the question just why if the structures aren’t that different are we attacking EU civil servants and not UK ones or local government officials without running in to some diatribe about the evils of all things European.

    Peter.

  15. Peter:

    “The problem is that to get twenty plus democracies to agree on what is sensible and appropriate on how to impliment it would either get us rapidly to where we are now if everyones ideas were included or bring about the end of the EU if only what was on everyones list before negotiations could be discussed.”

    Or, we don’t need to get 20+ members to agree, but only those members who want to take part in a particular piece of legislation.

    “I’ve yet to ask the question just why if the structures aren’t that different are we attacking EU civil servants and not UK ones or local government officials without running in to some diatribe about the evils of all things European.”

    Because we identify with local and UK government, but not with EU government, which is too distant, and seems to be dealing with minutae, when perhaps we have different expectations of European government.

    Someone once described the EU as a reverse federation. The member states are responsible for the big stuff: taxes, immigration, defence, etc; and the federal government is responsible for the minutae, like roadsigns, vegetable measurements, and (recently) children’s access to apples in the classroom.

    That, I think, is one of the key problems. The EU has developed in minutae, and now wants to go to the big stuff, without giving up the little stuff. If the EU wants to act like a federated state, it needs to give competences back.

    If the EU needs a constitution, or revised way of working, then in order for it to be open and transparent, it needs a constitutional commission, with elected representatives and the opportunity for ordinary people to make their opinions known, and importantly, have their opinions heard.

    The European project can work with transparency and democracy, but it will never work if everything (or possible anything) is decided behind closed doors.

  16. The European project can work with transparency and democracy, but it will never work if everything (or possible anything) is decided behind closed doors

    Yes.

  17. Peter -I don’t accept that The Commission is equivalent to UK’s Civil Service.

    It is quite different in it’s scope of activity & level of authority.

    Just listen to Snr. Barrosso.

  18. if 8% of people can name the MEPs of their region I will eat my hat!!!!

    I would even doubt that .008% of people could name all their MEPs.

    I would suggest that maybe 8% of party activists couldn’t even manage all their MEPS…

  19. I am fundamentally an internationalist and support the EU because of that. In fact I hope that long after I’m gone but before the end of this century we have something approximating to a world government or a regional federation of which the EU would be a key component. Anyone with an ounce of imagination can surely see that a grossly over-populated planet (and if we are lucky the global population might eventually level out at around 10.5 billion compared to todays 6.5 billion) will need a global authority of some kind to survive. What we need are politicians across the board and across the world who get people to start thinking ‘out of the box’ and I live in hope!

  20. Peter, Colin:

    I would say the EC is more like a cabinet. It directs policy and drafts legislation. It’s head is elected by elected representatives (just like a Prime Minister [except in France]), and its members are appointed (although in a slightly different manner to what one would expect).

    The UK civil service is more like the EU civil service, charmingly called the “bureaucracy”.

  21. a world government

    Oh my God!

  22. Colin

    I find your reaction sad; if you don’t think things could be managed better on this planet then heaven help us. There may be a number of ways to do this, but somehow or other resources, climate change remediation amnd startegies for avoiding unnecessary conflicts are pre-requisites for a secure future.

  23. I’m a bit of a political anorak but even I would be hard-pressed to name more than about 5 MEPs. I’m surprised the percentage was as high as 8% who thought they could name one.

  24. Colin
    My treaty idea was :
    “the members agree to simplify processes”

    You said would vote against it. I took that to mean you want to be out of the EU, since it was the simplest, least threatening possible treaty idea I could think of.

    The alternative to the EU (notwithstanding any proper reforms as suggested by ZX above) is entente cordiale. A plethora of co-operative deals between varying numbers of coountries, leading to conflict upon conflict.

  25. David-
    “things could be managed better on this planet ”

    Yes of course they could-but World Government won’t achieve it.

    We have a world forum now specifically designed to mitigate conflict-The UN Security Council.

    Adaptation to Climate Change is what we need-we will not stop it-we have to learn to live with it.

    The major problem on the planet is the growth of human population-it is responsible for the destruction of natural habitats, & unsustainable consumption of finite resources.

    World Government will not solve this problem, which encompasses cultural and religeous factors. Starvation & conflict will mitigate this problem-and it will be “solved” in the future by one of earth’s recurring but unpredictable extinction events.

    Government needs to get closer to it’s people, not further away.World Government would be the ultimate in remote, disconnected governance. We have enough of that already.

    …though Opinion Polls on a Global scale might be interesting!

    john:-
    What ZX proposes is not a “reform”-it is a fundamental rethinking of the transfer of “competencies” from democratically elected parliaments to Brussels.

    I am in favour of the sort of EU which might emerge from such a change.

    It won’t happen.

    Forcing the minutae of disparate economies, cultures, histories,etc. into a stright jacket of “convergence” will not obviate conflict-it will increase it.

    The result will be eternal wrangling & fudge-or the emergence of power blocks within the group, leading to inequality of membership.

  26. Colin

    The evidence is the opposite.
    Peace between countries in the EU area since 1945.

    If the EU had existed at the start of the last century, the First World War simply could not have happened.

    I’m not suggesting a straitjacket, that’s your description of your opponents’ position.

    There’s eternal wrangling in our domestic politics.

    What’s missing in the EU includes clarity, transparency, accountability, cost-effectiveness.

  27. john;-

    What’s missing in the EU includes clarity, transparency, accountability, cost-effectiveness

    Absolutely.

  28. It sounds like my argument is against Scottish independence. It isn’t (though I think I’ve argued it in the past). By all means make separate countries of whoever wants one, so long as we have an over-arching layer of “eternal wranglers” ensuring that country F doesn’t do a pact with countries W and K that conflicts with the pact that country J did with countries W, K and S, etc,etc.

  29. “What’s missing in the EU includes clarity, transparency, accountability, cost-effectiveness”

    Isn’t that pretty much what every one is saying about Labour right now and what the electorate decided was wrong with Majors government in the late nineties.

    We all want clearer, more transparent, more accountable and cost effective government at all levels pretty much all of the time. Over the last two or three decades it’s been at the heart of the promises of both Labour and Tory manifestos.

    What have we got, an army of new civil servants monitoring a whole set of targets on Clarity, Transparency, Accountability, and Effectiveness, and an increasing amount of peoples time being taken up filling in forms to give them the data to analyse.

    Most of the things that people are looking from from the EU apply to all levels of public and private administration. They would like it to be” Better” no matter how good it is. In truth that’s a laudable aim and a good maxim, “Lets just try to keep getting better”.

    The issues is that by it’s nature the EU will always struggle to be as good as others because it’s remit is huge and it’s powers limited.

    The debate then becomes give it more powers or a smaller remit, but it will always struggle. If we don’t want it to be able to force then it can only compromise and the results of that will be fudge after fudge, diluted actions that are costly but under achieve and progress at the pace of the most reluctant.

    I have to say that I am increasingly thinking that a membership vote might be a good idea, except that I think we would vote “No” but we’d still bitterly complain about being in.

    Maybe the EU should just bite the bullet and throw the UK out.

    Peter.

  30. “except that I think we would vote “No” but we’d still bitterly complain about being in.”

    To Clarify I meant we would say “No” to Leaving.

    Peter.

  31. Is there a suitably arcane mechanism for throwing hte UK out?

  32. John,

    Probably not, a community built on an ideal and compromise probably never thought it would need too or could agree on how too.

    Oddly enough the Lisbon treaty for the first time gives countries the right to leave if they wish.

    Peter.

  33. Now if that had been its headline, it would have gotten through on a wave of popular support!

    I hope there’s some sort of referendum – not necessarily “in or out” but one that encourages simple, clear debate about the real issues.

    At the moment we can’t even talk about the offside rule without over-paid commentators and ex-pro pundits deliberately confusing each other and us.

  34. “Maybe the EU should just bite the bullet and throw the UK out”

    That’s an interesting suggestion-UK has ratified Lisbon -it’s Ireland which said “No”-remember?

    …but I understood from Brown et al that they would not be “bullied”-well we shall see whether this really is a “Community built on compromise”-or a club which “throws out” members with a mind of their own.

    “a community built on an ideal and compromise probably never thought it would need to or could agree on how to.”

    Greenland had a referendum after getting home rule-and voted to leave in 1985.-which they did.

    Mind you that was back in the days of EEC-seven years before the Ivory Towers of the EU were constructed.

  35. John,

    To be honest i think “In or Out” is what the EU needs across all the member states. Unless it’s that stark all we will get is stalemate. As it stands at the moment those who are reluctant to change or who do well from the things that Europe does badly like the CAP can pretty much block their reform.

    A lot of people in Ireland were against enlargement because it meant their slice of the regional aid budget which they have done very nicely from would go down, being good Europeans till the money tap got tight.

    An “in or Out” vote across Europe would make the voters make a decision, so that those who wanted to move on could and those that didn’t could leave.

    The problem with the likes of a vote on Lisbon is that a “No” vote doesn’t cost you anything as if it’s rejected it will be business as usual.

    Peter.

  36. My problem with a simple “in or out” referendum is that it would (or should) be a no-brainer “in” win in almost all of the member states.

    The debate would be restricted to the very basic “benefits versus costs” and I’d like to see more discussion on the alternative means of delivering value to members , how to do it better.

  37. John,

    Such a debate would run in to the sand just as quickly as Lisbon, as it’s an exponential process. Y

    You sort of square the number of options. Yes or No gives one option. Look at ten options and you have about a hundred possible outcomes and no majority for any single one.

    Peter.

  38. The nature of the thing makes for poor telly. Stalemates, compromises, wrangling etc. No chance of a big fisticuffs, or of a great ideological shift.

    At least we have clear blue water as a domestic concept, and the possibility of a real change. The EU is boring (but then so it should be!) – I just wish it was boring and Cheap.

  39. I think what I’m saying/agreeing Peter is at least “In or Out” would make better telly, and would be better than nothing.

  40. On topic, no I cannot name my MEP, but I know he defected from Labour to the Tories a few years back. As for the general EU debate, well my position is clear, OUT.

    Now I try to avoid most North American news as it is so parochial, so on the following point I may be wrong but I’m sure NAFTA does not have a similar bureaucratical jungle as the EU? Why can states not agree treaties amongst themselves, and delegate to the judiciary the implementation and safeguards? After all NAFTA is the model that most Europeans aspire to (free-trade not governance).

    World governance has been tried many times – Empire, League of Nations, United Nations, etc – and has failed as people, states and nations are different. I certainly would not look forward to global homogeneity, especially as the proposer does not indicate and democratic participation or framework (which may be the inherent flaw in any such scenario).

  41. So that’s that then.

    Lots of “ideals & compromise” ?
    …but don’t touch French farm subsidies

    No “bullying” ?
    …. but all back in October with a Irish Yes-or else.

    plus c’est la même chose!