Jonathan Arnott: Why I just couldn’t do it!

I just couldn’t do it. I tried, believe me, I tried. Martin Schulz is stepping down from the Presidency of the European Parliament. (Think, John Bercow without even the veneer of impartiality)

With friends and opponents alike, even with those who I struggle to get along with, I always try to be polite and wish people all the best for the future when they move on to something else in life. Twice today, on the second and third ballots, I had to walk past Schulz’s seat and other MEPs were talking to him. I wanted to be my usual, magnanimous self, and to wish him all the best for the future – whatever it may hold for him. I wanted to say that I respected him, even though we’re on opposite sides in politics.

But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

Because I don’t believe it, not even a little bit. It’s the job of Schulz to enforce the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, fairly and without bias. That just hasn’t, it seems to me, happened. His rulings have been biased to one side, or, if we’re the ones complaining, he’s often ignored both the Rules and the complaint.

I remember in a previous internal Parliament election, for some position or other (I think it was a replacement vice-President of the Parliament) someone asked to speak on the matter. “When we have an election”, Schulz replied, “it is without debate”. Technically according to the Rules he was correct, but there was a stench of arrogance about his words.

He’s also used the position to promote the result of votes in the Parliament before the vote has even taken place, describing occasions as being ‘momentous’ prior to the vote. There’s something just plain wrong about that: giving what amounts to speeches in favour of a change is not the role of the President of the Parliament. I don’t like the way that he’s used what should (in my view) be a fair, non-political role to further a particular political agenda. I can’t even wish him the best for the future as he moves back into German politics. Not many could be worse than Merkel, but if Schulz were to get into power…this kind of thing would keep me awake at night if I didn’t already suffer from insomnia.

However sharp, however acerbic he is towards those he disagrees with, he does at least have a sense of humour. One day the translation wasn’t working, and David Coburn shouted a couple of words in German. Schulz responded “You mean to say mein President”. Coburn replied “mein President”, with a bow. “Mein member”, replied Schulz, to ripples of laughter throughout the chamber.

I’m writing this whilst waiting for the fourth and final ballot. I’m expecting that Tajani will win. I’m voting for Tajani because he’ll be less bad for Brexit than his opponent Pittella, and because I suspect he’ll try to bring at least a touch of fairness to the role. I’m pretty sure that I’ll end up being disappointed in him, because let’s face it, everyone disappoints in this ‘Parliament’. Even so, he can’t be as bad as Schulz.

I don’t think he’ll try to derail Brexit, which ultimately is why I’m voting for him rather than abstaining: if Pittella won, I’d be worried how it would affect Britain. And I hope that when we finally get out of this awful Union, that I’ll be able to wish Tajani all the best for the future. Even if I disagree with him on almost everything.