Who Just Won Your Election?

The world’s second largest democracy has chosen a parliament.  A fantastic showing of our democratic right to decide who governs us.

2014 Parliament:

The 2014 parliament saw the pro-euro tory group EPP and the labourist S&D group have over 400 members, an easy majority, so when they agreed on a decision it would pass.  All of the presidents were from the EPP, president of the council Donald Tusk, the president of the commission (the government) Jean Claud Junkier were from the EPP and president of the parliament Antonio Tajani.

In the parliament just elected the picture is not vastly different but there is a significant shift of power.  Keep in mind that the groupings may change once the parliament comes to sit but assuming the parties keep the groupings they said they did we now have EPP + S&D down to about 300 members meaning to get something passed they need to talk to either the enlarged Liberals (in Britain that’s the Lib Dems) or Greens/EFA (in Britain that’s SNP, Scottish Greens, English Greens and the surprise winners Plaid Cymru).  This means we have no idea who will become president of the Commission, it might be the Ska Keller from the Greens or Oriol Junqueras the Catalan MEP in jail in Madrid both of which which would be a fun change in the status quo.  Of course these presidential positions are not like a US President incharge of all policy they are more chairs who set agendas but still have to allow the full trialogue system to work through but they will have some effect.  This is a great result and it’s a nice balance of powers in the parliament.

Of course it’s the Westminster government that let the side down by not running the elections properly.  Dirty money funded the Brexit Party and promoted by the BBC (where you will see none of the above information covered) means they took over from UKIP and took the grumpy leave voters from Conservatives and Labour with them to make some gains, but not much.  Over the last month I’ve seen how disenfranchised EU citizens were not knowing how to register to vote and on the day even those who had were often turned away because the relevant council bodies had not processed their forms.  If there is to be another referendum on EU membership the rules and bodies and media who oversee our democracy need fixed first.

Thanks to https://europeelects.eu/ep2019/ for coverage and graphics.

Who Did You Just Vote For? The Spitzenkandidaten

When you vote in an election to the Scottish Parliament or UK parliament or even Edinburgh Council you do so with a balance of the candidate you’re voting for, the party they represent and the person they will vote for in parliament or council for First Minister, Prime Minister or Leader of the council.

The same is true at an EU election, you vote for a list balancing the candidates on that list, the parties they represent but also the group in the EU parliament their party works with an a Europe level and who they will vote for as President of the EU Commission (The Commission is the name of the government of the EU).  The candidates for President of the EU Commission are called the Spitzenkandidaten which is German for lead candidate.

So just voted for SNP and Alyn Smith?  You have just voted for Oriel Junqueras as President of the EU Commission.  Oriel is in jail in Spain for being a member of the Catalan government which organised a referendum on independence.  Thanks for supporting the cause.

Tree hugging Green voter?  You voted for two candidates.  These are also the candidates that the SNP votes will fall back on once Oriel is out the way as the Greens and the SNP work together in the EU parliament in a Green/Europe Free Alliance pact.

Maybe you’re a unionist but pro-Europe and voted for the Lib Dems.  That means you voted to sit on the fence and have a whole load of potential President candidates as part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE)

  • Guy Verhofstadt (President of the ALDE group, MEP and former Prime Minister of Belgium
  • Margrethe Vestager (Commissioner for Competition, previous Danish Minister for Economy and Interior)
  • Nicola Beer, national spitzenkandidat of ALDE party in Germany FDP
  • Katalin Cseh, national spitzenkandidat of ALDE party in Hungary Momentum
  • Luis Garicano, Vice President of the ALDE Party
  • Emma Bonino (Former European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs)
  • Violeta Bulc (Commissioner for Transport, former Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia)

Or maybe you want to split the Unionist pro-Europe vote and went with new group Change UK.  Despite being made up of mostly former Labour MPs they are actually aligned with the tory grouping EPP.  The EPP currently is the largest group in parliament and has their man in the current president position (Jean Claud Junkier).

If you’re for some reason sticking with Labour because you want to leave the EU and destroy your society you just voted for Frans Timmerman who may well win the job.

Of course the Scottish tory party isn’t part of the EPP tory grouping because that would make them pro-EU so they quit and made their own socially right wing group full of nutters like themselves.

There’s a left wing candidate too but we can’t vote for her in Scotland as we have no left wing parties around any more and Colin Fox seems to have given up.

Results come in tonight but it’s the sabbath so in Scotland we don’t count them until tomorrow.

More info on Europe Elects website.


Leave Options

At Europe vigils over the last couple of months I’ve had many nice people thank us and fewer but still too many angry people throw variant levels of abuse.  On 4 occasions I’ve been able to have conversations with leave voters and in none of those do they have any sensible reasons for voting leave, just incorrect populist ideas.  Alas engaging with nonsense ideas doesn’t get you much thanks or understanding even when plain wrong.  Two vital parts of education have completely bypassed the public in this dangerous game: how does the EU level of democracy work and what would be the options for leaving.  I’ve never seen it explained what the options for leaving are in terms of the relationship between the UK and the EU and when I do get to ask a leave voter what they would prefer they immediately stop engaging.

Let me review:

a) EU membership.  This is the Germany plus option.  The UK gets to have a seat on the EU Council, members in the EU Parliament, appoint someone to the EU Commission as well as a judge in the ECJ.  Payments to the EU budget are reduced due to a rebase that Margaret Thatcher negotiated based on unfairness in the formula for the payments.  In return the UK gets freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital.

b) EEA EFTA membership. The Iceland option.  No democratic input but following pretty much all the rules except CAP and CFP.  Fish quotas still need to be agreed with the EU to be allowed to trade fish and food still needs to compete with EU food so in practice they are followed too.  Membership costs pretty much full price.  EFTA Court and EFTA Surveilance authority keep things in line with ECJ rulings.  All good for freedom for people, goods, services and capital.

c) In the Single Market but out the Customs Union.  The Norway option.  Can make trade deals with third countries.  This is where the technological solutions the Brexity types are keen on come in as cameras watch lorries on the Norway/Sweden border incase they contain goods from outwith Norway which have yet to pay EU duties.  Otherwise freedom for people, goods, services and capital.

d) In the Customs Union but outside the Single Market.  The Turkey option.  Requires a hard border around the UK.  This is preferred by Jeremy Corbyn and the media happily spread the lie it could avoid a hard border around the UK.  It could not.  Flows of goods, services, people and capital all likely cut to a fraction of current capacity or stopped.  People will die.

e) WTO rules.  Not an option any sane country has.  Hard border around the UK.  Import capacity between UK and EU cut to a fraction.  People will die.  The law requires this from 1 November currently.

And that’s it.  I’ve yet to hear anyone say what option they would like and be able to defend it.

Watching Game of Thrones tonight is a bit too close to the real world while Westminster continues to destroy the last scraps of functional democracy in that broken layer of government we have.

Election results midday on Monday will be interesting.


I want to Leave the EU Because of What they Did to Greece

I came across an interesting argument when running a learning meeting about the EU and this week’s elections.  It was the thought that one would want to leave the EU because of a disagreement to what they did to Greece.

To summarise Greece went bust in 2008 like some other countries but to keep within the monetary union guidelines, the government of Greece for many years simply misreported economic statistics. [wikipedia]. The European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) on 25 June 2015 offered a bailout with conditions on the Greek national budget. That was rejected in a quickly held referendum on 5 July 2015.  The Greek government then made a “drastic turnaround” regarding “pension cuts, tax increases and other austerity measures.”[3] The total amount of loans requested in the Greek proposal is €53.5 billion. The Greek parliament approved the Prime Minister’s request on Friday, 10 July, and the completed package was forwarded to the eurogroup in advance of Sunday’s meeting.[62] On Monday, 13 July, the Syriza-led government of Greece accepted a bailout package that contains larger pension cuts and tax increases than the one rejected by Greek voters in the referendum.

So Greece needed bailing out, the EU and IMF did that in return for reduced government spending.  How much the government spending should be reduced is a political choice made as a decision by politicians with input from economists. There’s arguments to say Greek spending should be reduced a lot so they can pay back some amount of the bailout and arguments to say this will reduce the economy and stop any chance of recovery.  Because the largest group in the EU Parliament is EPP (right wing economic tory parties) and EU Council (Theresa May and other heads of state) are mostly right wing tories that means the the government of the EU, the Commission, has a had a president elected who is also a tory, Jean-Claude Juncker from the EPP group.  So of course they will go with an economic right wing solution of reduced Greek spending.

If you think not requiring such reduced government spending from Greece is a better solution to the problem, the answer seems to me to be to promote and vote for parties which are economically more left wing such as Labour (Socialist group) or SNP/Greens (Greens/EFA group) or even Lib Dem (Alliance of Liberals group) and not right ring parties such as Conservatives (European Conservatives and Reformists), Change UK (EPP) or obviously the populist ones.  Leaving the EU would be a terrible solution as it just means other people will have a vote to take the decision and you do not.

But it’s worth understanding where the thought comes from.  It comes from never ever having any media coverage to explain the political make up of the EU trialogue of democratic institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council).  Or even having any explanation of those democratic institutions at all.  People just see the EU as a black box and if decisions come out of it which they disagree with the only solution they can see is to leave it.  Our democracy is broken.  Please vote on Thursday and vote for a remain party and then watch and understand the results.  I recommend the Scottish Green party.

European Elections 2019 Scotland Review

On Thursday 23 May 2019 there will be elections for the European Parliament.  750-ish MEPs selected across the continent to act as a revising and reviewing chamber for the activities of the European government, the Commission, and for the EU Council, the 28 governments of the member states.  The MEPs will also vote on and elect an EU Commission president who will chair the government.  There have been two head-to-head debates for the Commission president  https://www.maastrichtdebate.eu/ and EU parliament debate. Deciding who to vote for is a balance between national interests and parties, significantly Brexit and Scottish independence, the party policies for EU legislation and the commission president they want to elect.

So what do the party manifestos say?

Conservative and Unionist party doesn’t have a manifesto.  They don’t mention the elections anywhere on their website.  The party of government of the UK can not be bothered with these elections.  This is democracy at its most broken and they should be ashamed.

The Brexit Party has no manifesto.  UKIP has no manifesto. These parties will win lots of votes based on populism and racism.  This is democracy at its most broken.

New party Change UK has an 8 page manifesto. Their candidate at the hustings organised by my friends in Edinburgh4Europe and the European Movement in Scotland seemed competent and knowledgeable.  Surprisingly they even have a few policies in the manifesto but nothing too radical. They want to be part of the EPP I think which makes them the new tory party assuming they manage to become a cohesive force.  It’s not at all clear where their funding is coming from but they have quite a lot of Facebook adverts which can’t be cheap.

Lib Dems have made EU membership their cause celebre and they were the first with a manifesto.  The Scottish manifesto seems an edited down version of the same. It’s full of good stuff.  They are part of the Alliance of Liberals at Europe level.

The SNP are the party of government here and they published a 20 page manifesto which is just a love letter to the EU.  That’s great but I don’t see any policies in it.  What a let down.

Scottish Labour haven’t bothered but British Labour have a 15 page manifesto which doesn’t really mention their position on EU membership because of course they don’t have one.  It’s full of irrelevant stuff like ‘Labour would urgently recruit 10,000 more police officers in England and Wales alone, and rebuild community policing, ‘ and ‘And we will bring our railways, water, energy and mail into public ownership – run for public service not private profit’ all very nice but they are policies for a UK election, I wouldn’t trust a party who don’t understand what this election is for.

Scottish Greens by contrast have done a stormer.  Pro EU membership and Scottish independence of course but mostly they care about EU policy issues which is what the election is about.  ‘Call for a European-wide net-zero emissions target to be set as early as possible. Push for continuing improvements to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Campaign to end subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy and redirect them to renewables’.  Or ‘Stop Brexit and secure Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe. Create millions of jobs across Europe with a Green New Deal. Choose hope over hate, creating a welcoming Scotland in a welcoming Europe.’ As ever they are the only party to mention digital rights: ‘Continue to urge the EU to stand up for digital rights and avoid concentrating online power in the hands of a few corporations. Protect net neutrality rules and oppose unfair copyright reforms that would entrench corporate control.  Campaign for easy, affordable access to all results of publicly-funded research to maximise scientific, cultural and economic progress.’

So I happily give my vote to the Green party who will join the European Green Group and maybe vote in Ska Keller as EU Commission president.

More info on Europe Elects website.


libqaccessibilityclient 0.4.1

libqaccessibilityclient 0.4.1 is out now
Signed by Jonathan Riddell
  • version 0.4.1
  • Use only undeprecated KDEInstallDirs variables
  • KDECMakeSettings already cares for CMAKE_AUTOMOC & BUILD_TESTING
  • Fix use in cross compilation
  • more complete release instructions


Why do We Pay Money to the EU?

I’ve seen it said that the EU costs us £350 million a week and also that this is a lie and after the rebate (a negotiated lowering of budget contributions by Maggie T based on perception of an unfair funding formula) it costs £290 million a week but that regardless we are a net contributor so we are paying for other countries.

Regardless this is all lies because a) government income is not a cost that could be done away with by removing that layer of government and b) we never ever ever budget costs as per-week so the figure is meaningless.

Edinburgh council costs us £38 million pounds a week (http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/11418/audited_annual_accounts_2017-2018.pdf), should we do away with the Edinburgh council? Glasgow council by contrast with a similar population (remember many Glaswegians live in Dunbartonshire or Lanarkshire or other council areas) costs us £51million a week (https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=42909&p=0). So Edinburgh is subsidising Glasgow massively! We should withdraw Glasgow’s membership of Scotland!

The UK is the third largest contributor to the EU behind Germany and France (https://fullfact.org/europe/uk-one-biggest-contributors-eu-budget/). This is because of our large population and high GDP. This is a good thing. The EU is a layer of government which gives us freedom to do whatever we want to do and common rules on the boring stuff like wattage of vacuum cleaners. Removing ourselves from the EU will kill off our economy and freedoms. This is a bad thing. It’s very normal in any functioning government system that poorer areas will get a top up from richer areas, that reduces inequality which helps everyone and it means the poorer areas can catch up and become rich. It’s why Scotland subsidies England massively from our revenue from our natural resources, talent and good looks. And that will continue as long as we are all part of a union. By far the more sensible union there is the EU, but if England wants to remove itself from that then likely Scotland will terminate the UK union as no longer functional and that is very much England’s loss as well as our own.

Don’t let the populists win with criminal behavior and lies. Vote remain on May 23rd.