UK left out of campaign for EU's top job

Martin Schulz press conference in Brussels, 7 May 14 Socialist Martin Schulz is not including the UK on his campaign itinerary

The candidates debate in English. Their press conferences are in English. Their entourages spin speeches in English. But England (as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) barely features in their campaign battle plans.

While the five contenders hoping to be the next European Commission president munch up road and air miles campaigning across Europe the UK is ignored, written out of the script. An omission that says a lot.

A quick recap: With two weeks to go until the European elections, the contest to run the EU Commission is heating up - from a frosty start. These are the people picked by the party groups in the European Parliament to be their nomination for EU Commission President - the most important job in Brussels.

Based on their reading of the Lisbon Treaty, MEPs believe they now have the right to pick the next president. That's why we're seeing this contest. For the first time the main party groups have picked one candidate to be the figurehead of their election campaigns. They say the candidate of the group with the most MEPs after the election will become the next Commission president.

But you won't see them on the stump in the UK. Martin Schulz, the centre-left's candidate and current president of the European Parliament, bluntly told a press conference on Wednesday: "I will not go to the UK to campaign".

He did pop to Belfast for a day last month to meet the moderate nationalist SDLP, but that's it.

Even though the Labour Party are part of Mr Schulz's group he won't be seen clasping hands with party leader Ed Miliband in a town centre near you.

UK debate different

The centre-right European People's Party candidate Jean-Claude Juncker won't be visiting the UK either, although that's less of a surprise because David Cameron took the Conservative Party out of the EPP a few years ago.

Only the Liberal candidate Guy Verhofstadt might put in an appearance - at the Oxford Union. But his office says that might slip too.

So while this contest to be Commission president rolls through Europe, gaining some attention from voters and hacks, it's invisible in Britain.

After the Schulz press conference I spoke to one of his team and asked him why the snub? And it turns out the Labour Party has not invited Martin Schulz over. The aide explained the UK European election campaign is unlike any other in Europe. It is entirely framed by domestic politics, with the added spice of an argument over Britain's future membership of the EU.

Commission candidates unknown in Britain are not considered useful soldiers in the British political ground war. The UK's semi-detached place in Europe and the EU's weary endurance of Britain doing things differently are symbolised by the absence of Commission candidates on the other side of the Channel.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    mostadome @491
    "too many"
    Not enough jobs, taxes, houses, etc

    @509 "want my country back" (lots of other jobs).

    If the country you want is of 'work for all', with a home for all, you should want democratic capitalisation of people's lives, paid work enabled for all, building & working in "schools, hospitals, old people's homes, the list goes on & on". Ask Nigel about capital & democracy... RSVP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    517. 5th element
    80 years after Oswald Mosley blamed all of Britain's woes on foreigners we're getting the same rhetoric from Nigel Farage.

    My grandad, who fought in WW2, compared him to Mosley as well. Churchill united this country, the likes of Farage tear it apart. So much for patriotism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    80 years after Oswald Mosley blamed all of Britain's woes on foreigners we're getting the same rhetoric from Nigel Farage. It's always got to be someone else's fault that this country's not the guiding light and economic powerhouse of the world it once was.
    Maybe its the dark and nasty side of some British politicians constantly looking for a scapegoat which is the reason we're where we are?

  • Comment number 516.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    512. Mark
    For those that say the EU has kept peace in Europe, I have one word to say..Ukraine.

    Well, the agreement which Yanukovich reneged on, betraying his people and deserting the country, would have been a huge step in that direction. Unfortunately, Putin decided he had to get his greedy mitts on Crimea. Him and McCain are responsible for this mess.


Comments 5 of 519


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