Both sides of the 2016 UK Referendum debate have been accused of being deceitful in their respective claims to gain votes, but can there in this period have been a more deceitful or outlandish assertion than that made by Harriet Harman MP (Labour) when she claimed on the BBC TV ‘Politics Show’ (Sunday 22.5.16) that she couldn’t name or identify any of the EU’s 7 male presidents from a compilation of their photographs?
She is one of the UK’s most prominent political ‘Remain’ campaigners, yet despite decades of Westminster experience cannot identify EU leaders that, in the final analysis, will help shape to a great degree the future pro-gender-equality legislation of which she is such a passionate advocate. We should vote then for leaders of which she can tell us nothing? That is not a convincing argument and her claim of such ignorance beggars belief: is Pele ignorant of Maradona; does Ringo not know Jagger? This is politics at its worst.
As an engaged politician – and a one-time Leader of the Opposition – she would have recognised Jean-Claude Juncker (from the plethora of TV news reports running at the time) as the man whose appointment to the most important post in the EU, that of Commission President, was being strenuously and persistently opposed by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014. The eventual appointment was debated in the House of Commons and she is pictured at Ed Miliband’s left hand during the exchanges (Daily Mail 1.7.14). Additionally, in February 2015 she sent a letter to David Cameron regarding the digital single market in which she mentions President Juncker’s name on no less than 6 occasions and in her reply to the Queen’s speech on 27th May, 2015 she “wish(ed) the P.M. well with his new best friend, President Juncker” (Labour Press).
Whilst maybe not being comprehensive, her knowledge of the Commission President, as shown, is certainly extensive and suggests that as a socialist she would not be unaware of his arranging, whilst in Luxembourg, secret ‘sweetheart’ tax deals for multi-national companies or his ordered arrest of the whistle-blower Antoine Deltour (employed by Price Waterhouse Cooper who were cobbling the deals together) who bravely made the details public. Found guilty, he was later exonerated on appeal although his joint but lesser activist was not so lucky (?) These are important and widely discussed scenarios that cannot have escaped her attention. Maybe there are others.
In 2013, Ms Harman – in a list produced by the BBC’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ – was rated the 14th most powerful woman in the UK. Rated 19th in the same list was Professor Anne Glover who in 2011 had been appointed by the then Commission President, Jose-Manuel Barroso, to be the EU’s first ever Chief Scientific Adviser reporting – inter alia – to the Head of the Commission. She, like Ms Harman, fostered gender equality and in doing so lectured on the subject to the European Council.
Professor Glover’s tenure however ended in November, 2014 when her position was discontinued on the orders of Juncker, by this time the new President of the Commission. He in fact discontinued the post completely. According to news reports, he was probably influenced to a great degree by lobbyists, including Greenpeace, but he certainly refused to answer any of Ms. Glover’s requests to meet to discuss a continuation of her post. Her ‘crime’ it seems was to suggest that GM foods were not dangerous and in fact, she is quoted as saying that to oppose GM foods ‘was a form of madness’ (See ‘Science’ magazine, Feb, 2015). Gender considerations aside, his attitude seemed to have been both boorish and rude.
The scientific community in Britain was outraged at Ms. Glover’s treatment at Juncker’s hands. Both the President of the Royal Society and the President of the Society for General Microbiology among others, publicly voiced their intense disapproval as indeed did Julie Girling, Conservative MEP for South West England who stated, “I am deeply disappointed by this news”. No such disappointment it seems was voiced by Ms. Harman.
Unless unfit for the post, Ms. Harman must have been aware of Professor Glover’s unique position within the EU, her considerable and widely reported achievements and her position in the ‘Power List’ ladder, only 4 rungs behind herself. By remaining quiet on the EU-imposed position in which Ms. Glover found herself, Ms. Harman deliberately missed a chance to advance those important gender equality policies within the EU. For what reasons on this gender-based situation was she non-confrontational? Based on her professed beliefs she should have been the President’s most vocal UK critic.
Her grubby priorities and EU allegiances are laid bare by her feigning ignorance of the Presidents’ identities and behaviour. Her silence on the consequent uncertainties for women in voting to ‘Remain’ and therefore placing them under the obviously misogynistic tendencies of a deeply unpleasant and anti-democratic President of the Commission is a chance, surely, that not many women would consider taking. If Ms Harman – an expert – is not prepared to warn of the dangers of Juncker and his 6 ‘friends’ then who is?