The average Remain voter, poor soul that he or she is, will confidently accuse the European Parliament of being a paragon of democracy merely because it’s filled with elected representatives who vote on things. If that were true, then North Korea and Zimbabwe would also be democratic nations. They aren’t and the EU isn’t, and for exactly the same reason: the elected representatives in those places (save for a few dictators) have no power, meaning that the people who elected them have no power. That is the opposite of democracy, aka demos (the people) + Kratia (holding the power.)
Operating a window-dressing Parliament creates a problem for the EU: how does the EU justify paying 751 MEPs enormous sums to aimlessly loaf around Europe, particularly its sandier, sunnier parts. Actually, now that I think about it, it creates two problems:
- The 751 overpaid and over privileged MEPs who aren’t doing anything useful with themselves.
- The threat that some of the 751 MEPs might go rogue and try to actually do something useful with themselves, which could chuck a real spanner in the EU works.
The EU’s solution to these problems is first to give MEPs a task that makes the slower-witted among them feel as though they’re doing something vaguely legislative and democratic: to vote on things. Second, the EU forces MEPs to vote without deliberation, and so quickly, that there’s no chance they can vote in a reasonable fashion.
And, when I say quickly, I’m talking quickly with a capital WTF? I’m talking voting on well over 1,000 measures in less than three days, and finishing on time for lunch and tea on all of those days. Consider this: According to EU protocol, as seen in the video below, taking as long as 10 seconds to deliberate on an issue prior to voting on it is dawdling. At such a speed of voting, there’s no way MEPs can even know what it is they are supposed to be voting on. And that’s the goal; MEPs, like children, are there to be seen and not heard while the unelected EU powers make the actual decisions.
Here’s what this sorry excuse for democracy looks like. (Be warned, graphic scenes of contempt for democracy.)
Some Remain luvvies will argue that there’s order in this chaos, since everyone knows which way the vote is going to go before the janitor has even opened the doors in the morning, so the voting is really just for show and can be done at break-neck pace. And they’d be right. The EU Parliament is based on a “group” structure, and the dominant two or three of those groups are just different shades of vanilla, so MEPs’ essentially vote more than 1,000 times over two and a half days on what their favourite flavour is. Not surprisingly, the consensus is, and will always be, vanilla.
But the EU’s argument that its Parliament is functionally democratic because it is an elected body of consensus and not of adversarial debate, and so its voting is merely symbolic, is topsy turvy, since voting is the only power an individual has in a democracy, and when voting becomes purely symbolic, then so does the voters’ power.
Serious Parliaments take voters and voting seriously, and, in most cases, they allow adequate time for debate prior to voting. When they do rush Bills through, it’s invariably to cover up some wrongdoing in the Bill that needs to remain unread, such as votes on Bills that conceal the intent to bomb innocent foreigners who are struggling to survive in already difficult circumstances.
Consider that the UK House of Commons passed a total of 34 Government and Private Member Bills in the entire 2014/2015 session, which, unlike in the EU Parliament, were all introduced by representatives of the voters.
Obviously, the UK Parliament needs to get a wiggle on and start pounding out those votes if it’s to keep up with the high standards of democracy being set in Brussels and Strasbourg. Because, as we know, the more votes your parliament takes, the more democratic it is, so it makes sense to frantically dump your votes from the back of skips, rather than to take the time to unload them carefully, one at a time.