Martin Bell Mar04

 

Dear Sir,

 

Mr. Martin Bellís decision to stand as a candidate for the European elections is welcome as all of us respect the right of anyone to contest elections in a democracy.

However, his reasons standing need close scrutiny:-

 

1.    He claims that "vast sums of taxpayersí money are sunk into projects of such Euro-complexity that the accountants refuse to sign off on them and only the European Parliament (EP) can hold them directly to account" and connects this problem with the salaries and expenses of MEPs to suggest that politics in the EP is failing.

2.    He claims that the Proportional Representation (PR) system of choosing the MEPs breaks the constituency link offered by the previously used "first past the post" system as used in Westminster and if he were to stand as an independent candidate then this would "change, at least in the Eastern region".

3.    He claims that he will "have a website but no headquarters" and "it should be possible to run a successful campaign through the Internet, free media and word of mouth" and so he urges "people to send no money".

4.    He claims that he "shall be disappointed if we spend more than £500" as "politics doesnít have to be a miserable, number-crunching, door-stepping, envelope-stuffing trawl for every reluctant last vote in the fading twilight of democracy. It can be fun".

 

Mr. Bell must understand that 50% of the EU's £60bn budget goes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) over which the European Parliament has no jurisdiction! The EU Treaty gives member states and the European Commission the power to allocate, monitor and check how these funds are disbursed. For the rest of the budget, the EP does demand from the Commission accountability but it does not always succeed because the Commission continues to have the power to deny access to vital documents.

 

Mr. Bell, like the handful of independent MEPs we have in the EP, will not change anything as he will neither have the position of influence nor the force of a political group in the Parliament to challenge the Commission.

 

Mr. Bellís election will neither force the Blair government to change PR nor will it enable him to represent any one county out of six counties (Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) that constitute Eastern Region with a population of 5.4 million. I am in a team of four Conservative MEPs and we have divided the region into four areas in an attempt to establish some form of constituency link for the electorate. I focus on Norfolk and Suffolk which has 15 Westminster constituencies - but legally I also have serve constituents in the other four counties.

 

Mr. Bell claims that he neither needs money nor a campaign base as he can access and be accessed using a website and e-mail. But what is he going to do in the unlikely event that he is elected. How does he expect to keep in touch with the people who have sent him to the Parliament? I have difficulty informing all Conservative Party members, never mind the electorate at large, about my activities because of financial constraints. If Mr Bell intends to "communicate" with the 5.4million constituents electronically, then how can he claim to have a direct link with the people he says do not know their existing MEPs?

 

In the past five years that I have been an MEP in Eastern Region, I have been happy to be door-stepping, envelope-stuffing and speaking directly to as many people as I can. It costs a lot more than £500 to do this. It allows the constituent to judge me for what I am and what I do for them. On the basis of my record of performance, I am able to respond with confidence and evidence.

 

This is why I think Mr. Bell, as an independent candidate, has misjudged his importance in Brussels. It is also why I have no fear of putting my name forward as one of a team of Conservative candidates eager to serve Eastern Region. In my case, I shall continue to focus on Norfolk and Suffolk if I am elected.

 

Bashir Khanbhai MEP