Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What’s happening in the European Parliament?

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We are now several weeks on from having each been asked to cast a vote for the next European Parliament, but what have our newly elected MEPs been up to?

Yesterday I wrote quite extensively about the on-going power struggle between the Parliament and Member State Governments over the issue of the Presidency of the European Commission. Nevertheless, trying to get ‘their man’, so to speak, nominated to the Commission Presidency is only one of the many activities currently being undertaken by MEPs.

In fact, the main focus of the last several weeks, intensifying this week as time is beginning to run out, is the formation of the all-important political groups. These provide the opportunity for parties which are confined to national borders to work with like-minded MEPs from elsewhere, and are the basis for deciding who gets what jobs in the powerful Committees of the European Parliament as well as granting the Leaders (called ‘Presidents’, as if we didn’t already have enough confusion over Presidents of EU bodies!) extra speaking rights.

On Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday I laid out the main negotiations which are going on to form political groups and highlighted some of the successes and pitfalls so far encountered by the parties involved. Here’ a brief excerpt:


It is now unlikely that ALDE [the Liberal Group] will remain the third largest group in Strasbourg-based Parliament as the
European Conservatives and Reformists Group, now led by London Tory MEP Syed Kamall, has expanded its numbers via the admittance of the controversial Danish People’s Party and the Finns Party. They also last week voted to admit the Alternative for Germany Party, against the wishes of David Cameron, and no doubt much to the annoyance of Angela Merkel, hardly helping the Prime Minister’s chances of getting his way as regards the Presidency of the European Commission.

Time is now fast running out for the political groups to form and Nigel Farage is struggling to meet the 7-Member State requirement for his Europe of Freedom & Democracy Group (to qualify as a political group in the European Parliament you must have at least 25 MEPs drawn from at least 7 Member States). This is after the French National Front’s Marine Le Pen took several Europe of Freedom & Democracy members for her new group, European Alliance for Freedom.


Several hours after my article was published, ALDE released a press release confirming that they had, in fact, overtaken ECR to be the third largest group in the Parliament once again, after being joined by another 12 MEPs. See here for more information.

You can read the full article on Liberal Democrat Voice here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/whats-going-on-in-the-european-parliament-this-week-40967.html


UPDATE 19/06/14: Nigel Farage has now been successful in cobbling together a group which meets the 7-Member State requirement, with his Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group now including not only 17 MEPs from Italy’s Five Star Movement, whom he successfully courted last week, but Members from the Swedish Democrats and the Lithuania Order and Justice Party, with one MEP each from the Czech Free Citizens Party and the Union of Greens and Farmers' group. His EFD Group has been completed by the admittance of France’s Joelle Bergeron MEP who quit the Front National two days after being elected last month. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27907586


UPDATE 20/06/14: It seems my original prediction that the Conservative-led ECR would overtake the Liberal Group in being the third largest bloc in the European Parliament was indeed correct. The Flemish N-VA party of Belgium had been expected to join ALDE but voted instead to join the ECR, bringing their total MEPs up to 68 against ALDE’s 67. As the EU Observer notes here, this will have consequences in terms of the distribution of important Committee places and other jobs in the EP, diminishing the Liberal influence on the work of the Parliament.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The voting public have spoken, but what did they say?!

It is now almost a month since the European Election in which all 28 Member States of the European Union elected their Members of the European Parliament for the next five years.

Being a candidate in that election, it is probably fair to say that I paid more attention to what was going both here in Britain and across Europe than the average voter. But if that’s true as regards the election, it is probably all the more so now with respect to the on-going shenanigans in Brussels post-election.

EU voting

So, in the interests of spreading a little knowledge whilst (hopefully) maintaining the interest of ordinary people, i.e. those who are not political geeks like me; here’s a run-down of what is going on in the EU now and why it’s important. Before I get started though, it is important to understand a few fundamental facts about just who governs the EU…

  • The European Parliament, unlike the British Parliament, is not the sovereign body of the EU. Instead it is one of several institutions which have to work together to create laws. In theory, however, it is supposed to be the most important as it is the only body which is directly elected, i.e. voted in for the specific job of governing the European Union by people like you and me.
  • In order to pass laws, the Parliament must agree them with the Council of the European Union, frequently known as the Council of Ministers, because it is made up of Ministers from all 28 Member States. In addition, there is the European Council which is made up of the Prime Ministers, Presidents, and other Heads of Government from all the EU countries. The European Council’s job is not to make laws but to set the general direction of the Union.
  • What the European Council does do, and historically has done so without interference from the Parliament, is appoint the most important unelected jobs in the EU. Notably, the President of the European Council itself, the High Representative (something akin to an EU Foreign Secretary), and the European Commission.
  • The European Commission is the Executive of the EU. It isn’t quite a Government, since the EU is not a country, but it has a role in proposing new laws and policing existing ones. It is the body which will, if necessary, refer EU countries to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest EU court, if a Member State is believed by the Commission to be in breach of EU law. It also plays a role in policing compliance with EU law by large multinational corporations operating across borders in the EU, such as Google (which it has recently sought to impose some big fines on).

“I thought you said you would keep this interesting”, I hear you say! Well, the reason this is important (and interesting) is because of the power-struggle now going on between the directly-elected European Parliament and the individually-elected Member State Governments which form the European Council. This power-struggle concerns the Presidency of the European Commission, arguably the most powerful job in the EU in view of the Commission’s role in both proposing new laws and enforcing old ones and its President’s role in setting the Commission’s agenda. To put it simply, the President of the European Commission is the closest thing to the EU has to a Prime Minister of the Union.

The fundamental law of the EU is what is set forth in the Treaties signed up to by each country when they join, or as they are later amended by common agreement and ratification. The last Treaty so agreed, known as the Lisbon Treaty, changed the way that the President of the Commission was chosen. The European Council must nominate a candidate for the Presidency paying attention to the results of the European Parliamentary election, and then it is the European Parliament which must elect the Commission President following a nomination duly received from the Member State Governments.

This led the leading pan-European political parties to put forward Presidential candidates, with the idea being that whichever of those which could succeed in getting a majority of MEPs to vote for them after the election ought to be nominated by the European Council.

The British Conservatives, however, completely rejected this notion. They are no longer part of the largest centre-right European political party, the European People’s Party (EPP) in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats sit, and therefore were locked out of the decision as to whom the EPP nominated. It is also meant that in the many live debates across Europe between the Presidential candidates, the Conservatives were not represented.

The EPP put forward Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, as their candidate and then proceeded to get the most seats (albeit far less than a majority) in the European Parliament. Very quickly it became clear, however, that if nominated by the Council, Juncker would be elected by the Parliament.

This was unthinkable to David Cameron! As far as he was concerned, it is the European Council’s right to nominate the best person for the job and the Parliament should not dictate to him or the Member State Governments whom they should nominate. Interestingly, he has been backed up in this view not only by Coalition partner and pro-European-in-Chief Nick Clegg but also by Labour Leader Ed Miliband, despite the fact that both parties are part of larger pan-European parties which each nominated their own candidates – Guy Verhofstadt and Martin Schulz respectively.

Part of the reason for this is because Juncker is seen by many to be from the old generation of European idealists who want ever closer union and is not a reformer in the way not only Cameron wants but the other, more pro-European British parties might like too, in order to appease a Eurosceptic public before any referendum on Britain’s continued EU membership.

So, to recap, on the one hand we have a European Parliament which, having just been directly-elected by the citizens of Europe, is claiming a mandate to elect its candidate to the Presidency of the Commission. And on the other, you have several, since David Cameron is not the only Head of Government with reservations (either about Juncker or setting the precedent that the Parliament should decide the Presidency), Member State Governments which themselves have been elected, who claim the right to nominate whomever they think is best for the job.

Interestingly, both sides claim an electoral mandate for their view. Cameron’s position, not unreasonably, is that a huge number of Europeans have just voted for parties which either want to take their countries out of the EU (such as Britain’s UKIP, who won the elections here) or want to significantly reduce the EU’s power and influence in their national lives. Most Europeans in fact did not even vote in the EU elections and even more of them have never heard of Juncker or knew their vote in the European Election might have an effect not only on the Parliament but on the Commission as well!

Conversely, the leaders in the European Parliament maintain that the main parties nominated candidates before the election, proceeded to parade them across the continent, had them participate in large-scale multi-national TV debates, including a live debate screened here in Britain, and then the public voted. The outcome of how they voted is that Juncker should be Commission President and any other nomination is anti-democratic!

You would think the result would be a stalemate, or constitutional crisis, but this now looks unlikely. This is because Angela Merkel, Europe’s most popular and most powerful national leader, has backed Juncker for the job. Her party, the EPP, are the ones who nominated him in the first place and she is under immense pressure in Germany to back his nomination. Whilst other national leaders may not like Juncker all that much, and like the idea of handing power to the European Parliament even less, they will nonetheless try to avoid being on the wrong-side of Merkel.

So, what did the public vote for? Here’s my own view:

  • Cameron is wrong to claim that just because Juncker’s name was not on European Election ballot papers he has not been democratically selected. Cameron’s own name was not on the ballot paper anywhere in the United Kingdom outside his own tiny pocket of Oxfordshire, and yet hardly anyone would claim that he is not the duly democratically selected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That’s how Parliamentary systems work the world-over – whomever can get the support of the Parliament post-election gets to lead the new Government.
  • Nevertheless, in hindsight, I think I was myself slightly misguided in my earlier enthusiasm for the Presidential-candidate system (partly motivated by my support and admiration for the Liberal Democrats’ own candidate, Guy Verhofstadt); at least in as much as I paid too little attention to both the letter and the spirit of the relevant provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

As I mentioned earlier, decisions about EU governance are taken by co-decision, i.e. the Parliament and the Council reaching agreement. Given that both has their own democratic mandate, this is a good system and one which I think the drafters of the Treaty were trying to embody in the process for selecting the Commission President. I therefore think that Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband have a point in maintaining that it is the right of Member State Governments to nominate candidates to the Presidency. However, the European Parliament still must elect them.

Personally, I would solve this problem by nominating the Parliament’s candidate, i.e. Juncker to another job (President of the European Council would be good for him as an ex-PM) and then put forward a different name for the Commission Presidency who might also, but perhaps for different reasons, succeed in getting a majority. Someone who is an economic liberal and reformist minded, therefore likely to get the support of the EPP along with the Liberal Group and hopefully the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) Group, of which the British Tories are leading members, might just do the trick. And who might that be perhaps? Well, she claims she is not a candidate for the job, but Christine Lagarde of the IMF might just fit the bill all the same.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A message to my fellow Liberal Democrats – don’t self-annihilate!

The calls for Nick Clegg to resign which have followed (and apparently were being planned before) the election results were announced this weekend are doing far more harm than good. It may well be that Nick is not being given a reasonable hearing by the British public and press. But I would like to remind all my fellow Liberal Democrats that Nick is merely the public face of a strategy in Government that we all signed up to at our Special Conference in May 2010 wherein we overwhelmingly voted in favour of forming a Coalition with the Conservatives!

The current political climate is therefore not a product of Nick Clegg’s dictatorial leadership against a party which has had no say in the matter. Rather, it is a result of a direction which we collectively signed up to and merely ditching the Leader will not change that fact!

Of course, it may well be that changing leader might have some effect on our opinion poll ratings, though to what extent such an effect actually translates to the General Election result next year is far from clear at this point. We also have to factor in the appearance of the party tearing itself apart in full view of the voting public and lynching a leader that delivered nigh-on 75% of our last manifesto in Government. It makes us look petty and politically self-interested, unwilling to have the courage of our convictions and stick by a man whom we mandated to deliver what he has done in Government and who arguably has been the most successful leader of any liberal party since the days of David Lloyd George.

Two other things concern me about the so-called ‘change leader strategy’. One is that at the very time the British public are starting to feel the benefits, the party will be distancing itself from the Government whose policies are largely responsible for the continually improving economic conditions. Secondly, and even more concerning, is the possibility that changing leader destabilises the Coalition and brings down the current Government. Given the political circumstances, this is not likely to lead to an early General Election – it requires at least 55% of MPs to vote for this and is, quite frankly, in none of the main parties’ interests. But it does open the door for a minority Conservative administration which might seek to pass an Emergency Budget. If it could find the votes for this (not outside the realm of possibility) they could then do some of the things we’ve been preventing these last four years. This would also distance the party even further from the economic recovery for which we are in large part responsible.

So, if not change the leader, what do we do? To my mind the answer is simple, if difficult to implement. The most important thing we need to do now is spell out in detail what we want to achieve in any post-2015 Government. The voting public do not reward achievements in the past, however memorable and distinctive they may be, but only vote for the party they feel will deliver the best result for them now and in the future.

Therefore, we have to not only make sure the party is associated with the improving economy but spell out what we will achieve in any new Coalition that would not be done by either the Conservatives or Labour governing alone. A vague message, however appealing, about a stronger economy and a fairer society is worth nothing until we can point to just how we, and we alone, can deliver that following the election next year.

So, my message to those fellow Liberal Democrats who are currently calling for Nick to go, I implore you – please do not continue and thus become responsible for the very annihilation of the party that our opponents have been predicting for the last four years! Instead, as I have previously said, we all have to get up, get out, and keep fighting for liberal values!

The European Election may be over, but who holds the biggest jobs in the EU has still yet to be decided…

We now know what the European Parliament itself will look like over the next five years, and I will no doubt write more about this in the coming days. But for now I am concerned to ensure that the biggest jobs in the European Union are going to be held by the right people.

For me and my fellow Liberal Democrats, the single most pressing concern at EU level is the economy. As a party, we stand for a stronger economy in a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life. Nevertheless, because of the specific policy areas for which the EU has competencies (i.e. powers to act and legislate) it is limited in what it can do to promote a fairer society, but very powerful to act in ways which will enhance (or indeed, if wrong decisions are taken, diminish) our economic prospects.

I am therefore very keen to ensure that the Presidency of the European Commission in particular, which though nominated by the Member State Governments sitting as the European Council, will actually be elected by the European Parliament, is held by an economic liberal who will seek to deepen the Single Market in those areas where it is likely to enhance both Britain’s and the rest of Europe’s economic prospects.

I have therefore written today to Syed Kamall, Leader of the British Conservatives in the European Parliament and MEP for London. I have urged that the British Conservatives, and the European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR) Group in which they sit, to support the nomination of Guy Verhofstadt, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group’s candidate.

I am not sure to what extent the British Tories will want to support a self-styled federalist, but I hope they can see past the language Mr Verhofstadt chooses to use in describing a desirable Union which does more where it is effective to a greater extent than Member States acting alone and less where doing so is not effective or would violate the right to self-government and self-determination on the part of  either Member States or their citizens. Here’s hoping that the ECR will be sensible and support the man who has the best economic policies in these difficult times rather than just seek to make political postures at the expense of serious EU-wide governance.

Here is my email to Mr Kamall:


Dear Syed,

Firstly, I wanted to congratulate you on your re-election to the European Parliament for London. Alas my own party did not fare so well and now has a much reduced representation in Brussels as a result of the political circumstances here in the UK. Nevertheless, from what I have seen of yourself, you seem like a very sensible and reasonable man whom I believe could well represent London’s and liberal-minded people’s interests in the Parliament Chamber and Committee Rooms in both Brussels and Strasbourg.

I am emailing you today because I am concerned to ensure that the European Parliament elects a person to lead the European Commission for the next five years who will be a strong leader, willing to put their neck on the line and risk unpopularity among some of the EU Member States for the common good of the European economy and the advancement of the Single Market which has the potential to increase the UK’s and other Member States’ economic performance.

In particular, I firmly believe that we should have a President of the European Commission who will lead on the deepening of the Single Market in the digital sector and on energy – the latter being an important area not just for our collective economic well-being but also as regards geo-politics in the wake of recent Russian aggression and increasing concerns over Europe’s energy security.

We need a Commission President who will genuinely lead but also be answerable and responsive to the Members of the European Parliament whom the citizens of the European Union have just elected.

I believe that the only person among the thus far named candidates who meets these requirements is Guy Verhofstadt. He is a charismatic leader whom I believe can bring citizens with him on new policy initiatives more than any other recent President of the European Commission. But more importantly, he stands for securing economic growth by getting the European Union to do what it does best – opening up doors to more trade and more growth by the removal of unnecessary and burdensome barriers to economic activity.

The British Conservatives, and the Parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) in which they sit, do not have a nominated candidate for the job of Commission President. The British Conservatives might naturally support the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker, given your former affiliation to his nominating party – the European People’s Party (EPP). But many of your other fellow ECR Group members came from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group led by Mr Verhofstadt, and the policies advanced by him of deepening the Single Market in key areas which will produce more growth should be ones supported by all ECR members, not least British Conservatives MEPs like yourself who are keen to build on the UK Coalition Government’s economic success here in Britain.

As for the politics, it is clear that the left-leaning Groups in the Parliament will seek to support the European Socialists’ candidate Martin Schulz. As a party and Group keen to ensure that the recovery across Europe is not strangled off and that old failed policies of the past are not re-introduced, ALDE and the ECR must unite against any economically left-leaning or socialist candidate!

If the ALDE and the EPP Groups were to unite behind a single candidate they would not have a sufficient number of votes to secure a majority on their own, not without the ECR. Your Group therefore holds the key to ensuring the next President of the European Commission is economically liberal and prioritises economic growth and competitiveness above all else in these uncertain economic times.

I strongly urge the ECR to join with ALDE in supporting the nomination of the Guy Verhofstadt as the candidate more closely aligned to many of your member parties’ policies. I also believe that such a nomination may pave the way to allowing the EPP candidate, Mr Juncker, to then be chosen by the Member States as the new President of the European Council – ensuring that economic liberals are at the very top of the most important EU institutions for the next five years.

Please do all you can to secure a President of the European Commission who, whichever party’s support they may or may not enjoy, will work tirelessly to improve the economic wellbeing of EU citizens and do much to open up the rest of Europe’s market to Britain’s thriving digital sector.

Very best regards,

Matt J. McLaren
Former Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Candidate for London, 2014 European Election

A glimpse back into the bad old days of single-party Government…

A little comic relief for this perhaps rather glum of Tuesdays. Here's a glimpse back into the bad old days of single-party Government, way before the Liberal Democrats joined any Coalition Government giving you two parties with divergent interests and, more importantly, at least a few Ministers with actual genuinely liberal consciences...

A glimpse back into the days of single-party Government courtesy of Yes, Minister

I’ll say this for Yes, Minister – it may have been satirical but in places it was also scarily accurate!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Some initial but IMPORTANT thoughts post-election results…

I will no doubt write a fuller blog post on the European Election results and what they mean for my party and I, the United Kingdom, and Europe more generally in due course. But for now, I just wanted to get a couple of important things off my chest:

1. No politician ever worth a single vote should ever be afraid to lose an election having stood up up for what he or she actually believes in! My party's campaign was not perfect and goodness knows my fellow Liberal Democrats and I have many questions to ask of ourselves over the coming days. But I, for one, am enormously proud to have stood on a platform of an open, tolerant society, treating all people with respect and willing to work co-operatively with neighbours both near and far for the benefit of people everywhere. I'm also proud that my party and in particular our leader, Nick Clegg, had the guts to stand up to the regressive and intolerant forces of UKIP in the face of Labour cowardice and Tory pandering. It may have cost us votes in the end, but it was by far the right thing to do!

2. My heart goes out to all those now-ex Liberal Democrat MEPs who unfortunately lost their seats last night and this morning. They have done a fantastic job over their many years' of service. I know several of them personally and am in a position to vouch for the very real and passionate dedication which they have given to their work on behalf of their British constituents. One of the biggest ironies of recent days is that people who were apparently dissatisfied with the EU have swapped hardworking Lib Dem MEPs who turn up to almost every vote, working day-in-day-out making a real difference to their constituents' lives by changing EU rules and reforming the Union for UKIP MEPs who mostly don't bother to show up and do the hard graft, and when they do turn up vote against measures which would improve our quality of life (they recently voted against Sarah Ludford's great proposals for liberal reform of the European Arrest Warrant for example, which would protect British citizens from arbitrary arrest and deportation!) Indeed at the London declaration in the early hours this morning, the newly re-elected UKIP MEP, Gerard Batten, openly admitted that he would spend 'most of his time here in London campaigning to leave the EU'. So they don't mind taking EU taxpayers money to do a job in Brussels and then just not turning up! As European Liberal Democrat Leader Guy Verhofstadt has said, the biggest waste of EU money is Nigel Farage's salary!!!

3. Yes, it has been a terrible set of elections for the Liberal Democrats in recent days. Yes, we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Yes, it may be that Nick Clegg is not given a reasonable hearing by the British public and press. But I would like to remind all my fellow Liberal Democrats that Nick is merely the public face of a strategy in Government that we all signed up to. Not only did Nick immediately seek the approval of the party’s Federal Executive and Parliamentary Parties, but also proceeded to call a Special Conference of ordinary members and their representatives which I and others attended in May 2010, at which (just as with the votes in the Federal Executive and Parliamentary Parties) the thousands of Liberal Democrats there present overwhelmingly voted in favour of entering a Coalition Government with the Conservatives! The current political climate is not a product of Nick Clegg’s dictatorial leadership against a party which has had no say in the matter, it is a result of a direction which we collectively signed up to and merely ditching the Leader will not change that fact!

So, to reiterate what I said on Friday, yes these were very disappointing results indeed. But we have to get up, get out, and keep fighting for liberal values. No other party represents or will deliver a liberal society, including that necessary combination of strong economy and fair society, other than the Liberal Democrats. So I call on all fellow liberal-minded people to join me in supporting the Liberal Democrats as we begin campaigning for the 2015 General Election, wherein we not only shout out and celebrate our great liberal achievements in Government these last four years, but start to spell out, in detail, exactly what Liberal Democrats can and will continue to deliver to British citizens everywhere if re-elected.

Lynne for 2015

Friday, 23 May 2014

Disappointing results, but I will keep fighting for liberal values!

Yesterday was a very long day, followed by a very long night! I left the local election count in Enfield as Chase Ward, where I was standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate, was entering its third recount. It had already become clear much earlier, however, that the performance of Liberal Democrats in local elections across the country, as well that of my own candidacy in Chase, was extremely disappointing.

I would like to thank everyone who voted for me as the local Liberal Democrat in Enfield Chase as well as all those who helped my campaign here in Enfield. In particular, I would like to thank those few exceptional individuals who really answered the call to help way above and beyond what I or anyone else could have ever expected or hoped for! I am deeply sorry that all our efforts did not produce better results.

I truly believe that had the national political circumstances been different the Liberal Democrat campaign in Enfield Chase could well have produced a win, or at least a significantly better result, and I regret that this was apparently not possible this year. Nevertheless, our efforts in Enfield were indeed noticed by the Conservatives and given what they said to us yesterday, and the manner in which they said it, they clearly felt under threat from our campaign in a way which has not been the case in recent years. It is also possible that our actions may well have contributed to the eventual split in Chase, such that the Ward is now very far from a safe Tory seat!

I will certainly keep on fighting for liberal values and am pleased that Enfield Liberal Democrats and I have now laid a foundation on which we can build for the future.

Now that we have the local election results I am eager to see how Liberal Democrats fared in the European Election, in which I was also a candidate, when the votes for this are counted on Sunday. I would like to thank all those that voted for my fellow Liberal Democrat MEP candidates and I across London, and throughout the rest of the UK. Your support will hopefully help keep liberal values at the very heart of Europe but, irrespective of the result, Liberal Democrats from the UK and throughout the EU will continue to work hard to ensure that the laws and institutions of the European Union do more to ensure a stronger economy in a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Well that’s it folks!

Election Day is almost here.

In the past two weeks alone I have delivered thousands of leaflets in Enfield's Chase Ward and talked to countless local residents. Not to mention the thousands of people I've canvassed with Lib Dem teams all across the capital, from Haringey to Southwark, Richmond to Sutton, etc. throughout my 18 month tenure as a European Parliamentary candidate for Greater London.

Nevertheless, it all comes to a head tomorrow. I'm exhausted already and (quite literally at the moment) can barely walk after being on my feet so much in this final week of the campaign. But like my fellow Liberal Democrats the country-over, I will make one final big push for votes tomorrow, ensuring that liberal-minded people actually go to the Polling Stations and vote Liberal Democrat.

Wherever you are and whatever your politics, do make sure you go and vote yourself tomorrow - goodness knows there are people fighting and dying the world over to have the same right to choose who governs them! So please, do your democratic duty and exercise your liberal right to decide who you want to represent YOUR INTERESTS in both the local Town Hall and European Parliament Chamber. Liberal Democrat representatives at all levels of government punch way above their weight and I'm hoping (although by no means expecting) that I will be elected to join their ranks very soon.

In any event, it has been an honour and a privilege to stand for the party of IN: in for jobs, in for reform, and in for the future prosperity, security, & sustainability of Britain. It really is in Europe and in work, or out of Europe and out of work, and I am pleased to have been able to do so much over these last 18 months to get that message across.

Finally, if you are still not sure who to vote for, I have one piece of advice for you - VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE. If you genuinely don't like the shape of modern Britain, don't feel comfortable with gay marriage or multi-ethnic neighbourhoods, then I would be the first to recommend that you vote for UKIP. But, if like me you applaud modern-day Britain, like the opportunities people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, etc. have to get on in life and want to improve them with a STRONGER ECONOMY in a FAIRER SOCIETY that helps everyone; then I would urge you to vote for the only truly liberal party - vote for the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.

Stronger Economy. Fairer Society.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Standing up for jobs in Enfield and London

I am now a nominated Liberal Democrat candidate not only in the European Parliamentary election for London, but in the local election for Enfield's Chase Ward.

In both elections, I am standing for ideas, principles, and policies which I believe in and, in some cases, have even helped author. My campaign will not only promote the positive priorities I and the Liberal Democrats have for both Enfield and London, but many of the good things which we have already achieved.

I will also be seeking to hold to account the Conservatives for putting at risk 3 million British jobs, prioritising tax cuts for millionaires over ordinary hard-working people, and not backing equal marriage (despite what David Cameron says, the fact is that more Tory MPs voted against gay marriage than voted for it, including both of Enfield's Conservative MPs). Indeed it’s worth remembering that the Coalition Government only delivered equal marriage because of the hard work of Liberal Democrat Ministers and MPs like Haringey's Lynne Featherstone!

I am extremely proud of the platform I am standing on and look forward to the electoral battle in the final few weeks of the campaign.

If you would like to support my or the Liberal Democrats' campaign please do get in touch at matt@mattjmclaren.eu

Enfield Chase Poster Matt jpeg

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Britain’s first Presidential election…

You may not have realised it yet, but we are right now in the midst of the first ever Presidential election in which British citizens can take part.

Don’t worry, the Coalition hasn’t abolished the monarchy while no-one was looking! After all, David Cameron couldn’t even get his backbenchers to deliver the very House of Lords reform which they promised in their own Conservative manifesto, so Her Majesty is probably safe for now.

Instead, following the Lisbon Treaty and for the very first time ever, when you vote in the forthcoming European Election (in which yours truly is a candidate) you will not only be choosing who represents you in the European Parliament but also having your say on who will become the next President of the European Commission.

Each of the main pan-European political parties have their Presidential candidates (though see note on the Tories below). The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe have nominated the former Prime Minister of Belgium who delivered a decade of economic growth, Guy Verhofstadt. You can sum up both Guy’s and the Liberal Democrats campaign in the European Election as ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ – our priority is absolutely clear, we’ve got to protect the 3 million British jobs linked to our membership of the EU and reform the European Single Market in a way which creates more business opportunities and ultimately more jobs!

On May 22nd I will be asking millions of voters right here in London to support my fellow Liberal Democrat candidates and I as we seek to both defend and maximise the employment opportunities and economic growth that the EU provides Britain. Liberal Democrat MEPs subsequently elected will then be supporting Guy Verhofstadt in his bid to become European Commission President and so a vote for us is a vote for him.

As I mentioned earlier, the same holds true for most of the other main parties, but the notable exception is the Conservatives. In pandering to the Eurosceptic right of the Conservative Party in order to get elected Leader, David Cameron promised to withdraw the Tories from the pan-European Conservative grouping which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. This means that no matter how many MEPs David Cameron has he is powerless to change anything in the European Parliament. let alone contribute to the election of the next President of the European Commission! Instead his MEPs sit isolated with xenophobes and homophobes from the peripheral countries unable to affect any meaningful change whatsoever.

I would therefore like to repeat my big, open offer to any Conservative-minded voters reading this – how about voting for a party which can actually deliver real change in Europe, such as the radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and abolition of mobile phone roaming charges across the whole continent?!

Both the Liberal Democrats and our Presidential candidate Guy Verhofstadt stand for many things, not least the protection and creation of more jobs. So I would now like to invite you, whomever you are and wherever you live, to please support our campaign on 22nd May and vote not only for jobs, but to provide cheaper credit to entrepreneurs and young people starting out in life, to cut red tape for small businesses, for a proper investment plan for energy security and decent transport here in Britain and across the continent, for stronger civil liberties for all, not least women, LBGT people, and other minorities; and a European Union that truly leads in the world! On 22nd May vote for the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Campaign video of the Liberal Democrat candidate for President of the European Commission – Guy Verhofstadt