Richard North, 29/05/2019  

It was only recently, on the 10th of this month that I wrote about the delusion of democracy in what has become the EU. This was in the wake of the informal European Council at Sibiu, with the Sibiu Declaration, which sought to maintain the pretence that the European Union is democratic.

Now, with the European elections just over, they're at it again. To be more specific, Donald Tusk is at it, speaking after yet another informal European Council, this one held in Brussels. The EU leaders, he said, met to assess the outcome of the European elections and to discuss what these results mean for the EU, as well as for nominating the new heads of the European institutions.

First and foremost, he added, "we are very happy about the turnout, which was the highest in 25 years". And indeed it was. Since 1979 turnout had been steadily dropping, going from almost 62 percent in that year, down to a historic low of 42.6 percent in 2014. And now, it has crawled back to 50.5 percent, which stands as the projected turnout for this year.

But, according to Tusk, "This proves that the EU is a strong, pan-European democracy, which citizens care about". He then added, "Whoever will lead the European institutions, they will have a genuine mandate from the people".

So here we are once more, with a high-level statesman in the European Union making the fundamental error of confusing form with substance – the idea that because people are able to vote for something, the voting process confers democracy on the body concerned.

In many ways, this is an insult to our intelligence. Of the thousands of papers and books written about the EU and democracy, the concept of the demos features prominently in the discussion, with many serious people arguing that, without a demos, you can't have a democracy.

Moreover, even the strongest advocates for European political union will largely acknowledge that there is no European demos. In conventional terms, that rules out EU democracy. This leaves supporters to resort to the dubious practice of redefining the very nature of democracy, such as by asserting that it can be measured by reference to participation in the decision-making processes.

Even if one allowed this, the turnout in the election proves absolutely nothing about the democratic state of the EU, far less that it is "a strong, pan-European democracy, which citizens care about". Just for reference, the Soviet Union legislative election of 1946, under the benign, liberal leadership of Joseph Stalin, managed a turnout of 99.7 percent.

But to add injury to insult, Tusk goes on to assert that the new leaders of the European institutions "will have a genuine mandate from the people" – something which could not be further from the truth.

Oddly enough, I wrote about this, on this blog nearly fifteen years ago, and nothing has happened since to change the basis of what I had to say.

The use of the word "mandate", I wrote, is generally held to mean the sanction given by electors to members of parliament to deal with a question before the country. And this works because the candidates for an election set out their stalls by way of manifestos. In theory, the electors then look at the rival offerings and choose between the candidates on the basis of the promises made.

Even in national elections, this has a slender relationship with reality, although the argument does have some limited validity. At least at national level, the winning party (or coalition) goes on to form a government, which then (again in theory) implements the voters' mandate.

In the European Parliament, however, this cannot happen. For a start, the election does not produce a government, so the parliament has no power or authority to implement a mandate. It cannot, for instance, decide to repeal any EU laws – it cannot even initiate any laws. Those powers lie elsewhere.

Therefore, the candidates – or the parties they represent – cannot produce manifestos in any meaningful sense of the word, as they have no means by which they can deliver on promises made.

Furthermore, in a parliament currently standing at 751 members, Britain elects only 73 MEPs, and then from different parties with differing ideas of what they stand for. Even if all were from one party and were clearly set on one course of action, they do not have the numbers to dictate terms. Even if they decided to represent their electors as a united bloc, they could be swamped by the MEPs from other member states.

And there lies one of the central defects of the European Parliament. The essence of a parliamentary system is that it is the core of a system of representative democracy, where the members go to parliament to represent their electors' views (and safeguard their interests). But British MEPs cannot represent the interests of their electors – there are not enough of them to do so.

But the ultimate indictment of the system is the way that legislation goes rolling on, even when a new parliament is elected. In the UK system, when parliament is dissolved prior to an election, all outstanding legislation – not yet passed – falls.

This is not the case in the European Union. Legislation in progress continues apace, which leads to the situation where newly elected MEPs can and do find themselves voting on laws that were introduced to the previous parliament. The names and faces of the MEPs may have changed – the voters may have completely shifted their allegiances – but that makes absolutely no difference to the nature of the progression of legislation through the parliament.

The nearest equivalent to a manifesto – or perhaps the UK's Queen's Speech setting out the legislative programme – is the Commission Work Programme. In the 2019 version, published in October 2018, the Commission even went as far as to assert that, in the elections just past, the decisions that "Europeans" made "will reflect their confidence in the ability of the European Union to deliver solutions to the challenges that cannot be addressed by any of our Member States acting alone".

And here we have the most refined form of bullshit known to man. This famous vote does not give "Europeans" the opportunity to choose between competing visions. Merely, the plebs are allowed to express their "confidence in the ability of the European Union to deliver…" – a work programme that has already been determined and will carry on regardless.

There is certainly something of the USSR in this. European "citizens" are presented with just one work programme by an unelected body, which they are not allowed to reject. And when they vote in the Euro-elections, regardless of the fact that most of them are actually voting on domestic issues and could not tell you what the programme was about – this is taken as a vote of confidence in the ability of the European Union to deliver it.

The irony of all this, though, is when Monnet set up the template for the European Union, its USP was that it paved the way for a supranational government, deliberately controlled by unelected commissioners who were thus immune to the base motivations of national (elected) politicians.

Thus, the fact that the EU is anti-democratic is supposed to be an advantage. But so much do the Euro-luvvies lack confidence to assert the case for the construct which they so much adore that they must continually pretend it is something that it isn't, and cannot be – a democracy.

If they were at all honest with themselves – and us – they would be making the case that the EU is capable of delivering precisely because its Commissioners are unelected and owe nothing to a fickle public, whose wishes they can ignore in the interests of the greater good.

The truth, though, is obviously far too difficult to sell, so a ramshackle case for democracy is invented and the great deception continues. And so, as the lies proliferate, the European Council is the gift that keeps on giving – reminding us of why we needed to leave the EU.

For Mrs May, it was her last European Council as prime minister. Our only wish is that it is the last European Council for us as a nation.

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