The news, unbiased as ever, would have you believe that the Brexit Party turned up at Strasbourg, overturned the furniture, offered a two-finger salute to Jean-Claude Juncker, and swiftly partook in the offerings of the French vineyards, before repeating the process in Brussels with the accompaniment of Belgian’s finest beverages.
I feel an urge, nay, a duty, to correct this misleading reporting.
For a start it would be very difficult to overturn the furniture, as Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney pointed out with the revelation that the furniture is made especially heavy so as to remove the ability to throw it at other MEPs. It seems the EU’s interior designers anticipated the fury the EU would one day inspire.
All 29 MEPs of the Brexit Party, the largest single party in the European Parliament, recently drew the ire of Europhiles when they turned their backs on Ode to Joy, the European Union’s ‘national’ anthem.
Brexit Party MEPs turn their backs as the EU's anthem, Ode to Joy, is played as they take their seats in the new European Parliament
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 2, 2019
Criticism came not just from the usual suspects like the Lib Dems, but even Tory leavers such as my MP, the remarkably popular James Cleverly, who pondered whether the Brexit Party had a policy of ‘grownups need not apply’ for their candidates.
Instead, I wonder by what right Mr. Cleverly thinks the MEPs were under an obligation to face forwards. If this was the national anthem of, say, France or Poland, then it would be quite right to pay the due respect. However, this was not the case. This was the federal anthem of the European Union, which is not a nation. The flag and anthem, a statement of intent for the EU’s ambitions to nationhood, were rejected in referenda across Europe as a part of the proposed EU Constitution. No doubt evidence of the true reverence for democracy that Brussels holds, most of the elements of the EU Constitution were instead repackaged and forced through in the Lisbon Treaty, including this anthem. Grown-ups? Most certainly, and unlike Mr. Cleverly it seems, the staunch criticism they offer to the EU’s undemocratic ways are carried through with actions, not merely words.
The EU is not a nation, it is perfectly right to turn ones back on an anthem that is itself a product of the EU’s undemocratic methods.
Ann Widdecombe’s comments, too, have received much criticism by politicians across the spectrum.
Likening the EU to ‘oppressors’ and the Brexit campaign to the rebellion of colonies against empires, the peasantry against the feudal barons and the revolt of slaves, Widdecombe has been met with calls to apologise as well as accusations of racism and causing offence.
I would ask any politician or politically-minded person of this opinion to consider the frequency in which they themselves use hyperbole to make an argument. It strikes me as either incredibly naïve, or characteristically opportunistic to attack Widdecombe for this when nearly all politicians make use of this very same technique to add passion to their arguments.
Of the racism accusation, I would say, bluntly, to whom is the statement racist or offensive? All races have unfortunately been subject to slavery at a point in their history, the statement did not specify a particular race nor did it claim that slavery was a good thing, completely the opposite, in fact. Indeed the origin of the word ‘slave’ comes from the horrific fact that the Slavic peoples were regularly enslaved during the Middle Ages, and so to attempt to score points against the Brexit Party by making out she was specifically equating Brexit to the tragic plight of those enslaved in the African Slave Trade, as David Lammyclaimed on Twitter, leaves a bitter air to political debate. Ann Widdecombe’s speech deployed hyperbole and rhetoric no more than any other politician has in one speech or another.
Despite the criticisms levelled against it, be it by Remainers or Tories jealous of their recent success compared to their own very constant failure, the Brexit Party has got off to a greatstart in its tenure in the European Parliament.
The Brexit Party has not yet failed once to remind us of the undemocratic ways of the EU, whether it is their anthem and flag or how they appoint their leaders. Not satisfied with merely condemning the EU, the Brexit Party have also taken aim at the biased media at home, directly challenging them with the creation of their own channel, BrexBox, which provides regular updates to the work of its MEPs, hosted by the MEPs themselves. A welcome addition, indeed.
Perhaps the Brexit Party leadership have read my article in Bournbrook’s latest issue on how best to tackle bias in the media. Most likely not, though one can dream.
As Belinda De Lucy MEP said of her first experience of the European Parliament:
‘It wasn’t 29 MEPs walking into the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, it was 17.4 million people that we were bringing with us.’
A fitting end for this article.
Photo by Euractiv.com on Flickr.