One issue has dominated my agenda this week and will continue to be hugely important for a few weeks yet. Fisheries Ministers met on Monday afternoon in the Council of Ministers building, and on Wednesday morning at 06.15 agreed the position on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy they want the Irish Presidency to negotiate with MEPs.
So what are the recommendations for winning support for our party?
1. Be sure you are campaigning for some specific things that will bring change and improvement, and make sure that the voters know that you are campaigning.
2. Tell people what we are achieving in government and be proud of these things. Our most well-known success is in raising tax thresholds and reducing taxes especially for the low paid, but there is loads of information to be found at www.libdems.org.uk
3. Be straight talking, clear and firm in your convictions.
4. Tell them what the Lib Dems stand for, starting with a stronger economy and a fairer society.
5. Keep the relationship strong with our existing voters through regular newsletters and knocking on doors outside of election time.
Let me share with you the results of some of the party's focus group studies of recent UKIP voters.
Essentially it seems that there are three types of people who support UKIP:
1. Right wingers who think the Tories are not right wing enough.
2. People who believe that Britain was better in the past and are pessimistic about the future - often associated with strongly anti-immigrant and sometimes racist views.
3. Protest voters - a few of whom might have given their votes to the Liberal Democrats in the past but who will not do so now that we are a party of government.
The good news for Liberal Democrat campaigners is that we have absolutely nothing to "fear" from UKIP supporters. The vast majority of them would not vote for us in a month of Sundays, and we wouldn't feel comfortable if they did. The priority should be to win back Lib Dems who have switched to Labour (despite its policy vacuum) since we joined the Coalition, the few who have switched to the Tories, and those who are not voting at all.
5 April 2013
Thanks for the comments in response to the survey in my last NOTES. Being Easter there have been no meetings in the European Parliament so this edition is shorter than usual. Readers have often told me that they learn things from these NOTES about the day to day workings of the EU that they never read in the press. My dilemmas are how to keep my jottings short while still explaining how the system works, and how to weed out less interesting items. After all, I only write about things that I find of interest and assume that others might too.
Chris Davies MEP
12 April 2013
I went to the medical centre in the European Parliament in Brussels. "I've had these itchy spots on my arms and legs for 6 weeks or so," I told the doctor. "They started off like insect bites but they won't go away." She looked at them and asked if any new spots had appeared since the Parliament was last in Strasbourg. I told her no.
"The good news is that they are entirely harmless and non-contagious and will go away," she said. "The bad news is that they are bed bug bites. Strasbourg is notorious for bed bugs; we get 8 cases a week here. If it's any consolation they are bed-specific. Like everyone else in the Parliament you will have booked the same hotel 12 months in advance but so long as you don't get the same room you may be ok."
Great, I thought. That's another reason for the European Parliament not to migrate from Brussels to Strasbourg every month. What's that line about not letting the bed bugs bite?
Chris Davies MEP
19 April 2013
It's not been a good week. The European Parliament has been in plenary session in Strasbourg and many of the votes on issues that I have been following have not gone my way.
My only compensation came from being able to let off steam, and on Wednesday letting rip at the Irish Presidency for breaking previous assurances to take forward measures essential if we are to have sustainable fisheries policies.
Chris Davies MEP
LIB DEM NOTES FROM BRUSSELS
26 April 2013
We debated vacuum cleaners in the Environment Committee this week, (now why doesn't the House of Commons do that?). To be specific we questioned whether dust pick up was being properly taken into account when energy consumption was calculated, and by 49-4 decided that it was.
The 20 minute exchange stemmed from a challenge mounted by one of my German colleagues to the latest ecodesign regulation which one particular (German) manufacturer doesn't like. Each regulation deals with a particular item of equipment, raising energy efficiency standards, cutting electricity consumption, and benefitting the consumer and the environment alike. It's good legislation, but I did have a Monty Pythonesque vision of us all seizing cleaners and having a flash mob vacuuming session in the committee room.
CHRIS DAVIES MEP
Here's how the EU can gain a triple whammy - a win for consumers, a win for the environment, and a win for manufacturers who want to stay ahead of the international competition. The answer is to introduce an Eco-design Directive that will set minimum standards for products based on energy consumption and other environmental best practices.
Actually we already have done it.
Human crisis in Parliament
Humour turned to shock in Parliament on Wednesday. MEPs were taking part in the longest Strasbourg voting session that I can recall. We had been voting on hundreds of amendments, mainly on Common Agricultural Policy issues, for more than 2.5 hours, and a call to suspend the session and continue later had just been rejected ("this is awful but let's just get it all done"). The Vice-President (deputy Speaker) who had been in charge almost since the beginning, a Greek EPP (right-of-centre) MEP, reluctantly started putting the text of the next report to us when he stopped and insisted that there be a 3-minute suspension.
We all assumed that he needed a loo break, not unreasonably, and there were smiles as he stood up and walked quickly away behind the chair on the plenary platform. Then he dropped like a stone. It appeared to most of us that he had tripped and fallen, but he didn't get up.
Officials gathered around him. MEPs with no clear view looked at each other questioningly; some called for the voting to continue. As the minutes passed it became obvious that it was a serious situation. Another vice-president came to the chair and announced the session's suspension. Members started to file out of the exits. I waited for the throng to pass and it was only as I left the chamber after 10 minutes or so that some medical orderlies appeared with a wheelchair and equipment. I am told it took 30 minutes before an ambulance arrived.
It later emerged that Georgios Papastamkos had had a brain haemorrhage, a kind of stroke. We don't serve on the same committees and he is not a man I know, but I had always assumed he was considerably older than me. It turns out he is a year younger.
Later there followed the inevitable navel-gazing and questioning of the parliamentary powers-that-be. Why did the medical assistance take so long to arrive? Why was the vice-president expected to chair such a demanding session for so long without replacement? Why were we voting on so many amendments anyway, given that the president has the power to tell MEPs to concentrate only on main issues or he will send the report back to committee.