Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Europhiles, Eurosceptics, and Nazis

Through a recent post by Daniel Hannan about the €2,980 fine imposed on Nigel Farage, I discovered an even more interesting episode from two years ago.

Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson wrote an editorial for the Financial Times entitled "Brussels Tories have yet to lose ‘nasty’ tag":
Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP, likened the European Parliament’s German Christian Democrat president to Adolf Hitler after he invoked procedural powers to avoid disruption by those – led by Mr Hannan – who want a referendum. The comparison caused great offence. Mr Cameron has taken no action to discipline or disown him: this will be noted on the continent to his discredit.
Hannan maintains that this is pure fabrication, and wrote a letter of response to the FT:
My colleague Caroline Jackson (Comment 17 February) repeats her assertion that I “likened the European Parliament’s German Christian Democrat president to Adolf Hitler”. I did no such thing. On the contrary, I called him “a committed democrat and a decent man”. Although I believe he is behaving badly by tearing up the European Parliament’s rules in order to stifle demands for a referendum, I am none the less rather fond of him.

In recent weeks, two of the main party leaders have done precisely what Caroline falsely accuses me of doing. Martin Schulz, leader of the Party of European Socialists, said that pro-referendum MEPs made him think of Adolf Hitler; and Graham Watson, leader of the Liberals, said that their behaviour recalled “that of the Communists in the Russian Diet and the National Socialists in the German Reichstag”. I don’t remember Caroline or, indeed, any other MEP, protesting about this. It’s evidently OK to call your opponents Nazis provided they’re Euro-sceptics.
The letter was dismissed by the editor of the Financial Times, and the video clips supporting Hannan's counter-claim have seemingly disappeared.

Surely this is a point of fact, which should be easy to settle. Are there really no other records of the dialogue, even in old fashioned text?

UPDATE 2010-03-11: I've found a video on YouTube that shows the comments from Graham Watson (in English) and Martin Shulz (in German), so I can confirm Mr Hannan's counterclaim. According to the video, the discussion took place on 2007-12-12 (skip ahead to 2:30 of 9:32). The same video, at 6:06 shows a speech by Mr Hannan on 2008-01-30 in which he says:
Could it be that the reason you have acted in this arbitrary fashion, tearing up the rule of law, is because you are taking out on us the surrogate contempt you feel for the national electorate who keep voting 'No' on the Lisbon Treaty whenever they are given the opportunity. If I'm wrong, prove me wrong by holding the referendums that you used to support when you thought you could win them. Put the Treaty of Lisbon to the people.
Later, at 6:30, it shows a speech by Mr Hannan on the following day, 2008-01-31:
An absolute majority is not the same as the Rule of Law. I accept that there is a minority in this house in favour of a referendum; that there is a minority in this house against the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, but this house must nonetheless follow its own rulebooks. And by popular acclamation to discard the rules under which we operate, is indeed an act of arbitrary and despotic rule. It is only my regard for you Mr Chairman, and my personal affection for you, that prevents me from likening it to the Ermächtigungsgesetz of 1933, which was also voted through by a parliamentary majority.
The minutes for 2008-01-31, in section 8.1, simply state:
The following spoke: Martin Schulz , on behalf of the PSE Group , on this request, Daniel Hannan and Joseph Daul , on behalf of the PPE-DE Group , the latter condemning the remarks by Daniel Hannan and stating that he would propose that Mr Hannan be excluded from the PPE-DE Group.
So, in summary:
  • It is true that Mr Hannan drew a comparison between the practices of the European Parliament and those of the Nazis
  • Hannan did not directly invoke the name of Adolf Hitler, but his fellow MEPs were quick to censure his comments. Christopher Beazley immediately and angrily told him "you can't say that". Joseph Daul promptly initiated proceedings to eject Hannan from the EPP-ED.
  • Martin Schulz did invoke the name of Hilter, but there was no sign of condemnation
  • Likewise for the comments by Graham Watson about "National Socialists in the German Reichstag"
  • Hannan's claim in his letter to the FT that he did 'no such thing' seems disingenuous
  • Nevertheless, his assertion that it is "OK to call your opponents Nazis provided they’re Euro-sceptics" does seem to have some basis
  • The editor of the FT acted shamefully by refusing to print Mr Hannan's letter
Such is the truth as I've been able to discover it. My quest has been frustrated by the apparent lack of a proper verbatim record. A record cross-linked to video would have been especially helpful.

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