Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Nigel Farage fined for verbal attack on EU president.

I've previously covered Nigel Farage's rude outburst at the European parliament. Well, he was given a chance to apologise to Belgium for his disparaging remarks and has refused to do so, so he has been fined for breaching the rules of the European parliament. Typically, he has decided that his right to free speech has been curtailed.

Farage used his Twitter page to declare: "Sentence passed, letter from parliament. President: Maximum allowable fine 2,980 euros. Free speech is expensive in Brussels." He said he would appeal against the fine.

"I have been called a great many things in my time – that's politics," he said.

"I am not going to apologise to Mr Van Rompuy, and I am not going to apologise to the people of Belgium.

"Surely I am entitled to have a dig at a man representing 500 million people, who is paid more than the US president and who has not been elected by us?

"As for apologising to the Belgian people – look, I'm not going to do that for what I said about their country, which doesn't have proper political parties."

Asked whether he had been blunt with Buzek during their 15-minute meeting, Farage said: "No, I was very polite."

He is insisting that he was "very polite" when he told the new European president that he had "the charisma of a damp rag" and "the appearance of a low grade bank clerk" and went on to state that Belgium "is pretty much a non country."

This has got bugger all to do with free speech, and everything to do with parliamentary rules.

European parliament's president, Jerzy Buzek, explained why he fined him:

Buzek said he defended "absolutely Mr Farage's right to disagree about the policy or institutions of the union, but not to personally insult our guests in the European parliament or the country from which they may come".

"His behaviour towards Mr Rompuy was inappropriate, unparliamentary and insulting to the dignity of the house," he added.

He said that, as a former member of the Polish Solidarity movement, he had fought for free speech as the "absolute cornerstone" of a democratic society.

However, he added: "With freedom comes responsibility – in this case, to respect the dignity of others and of our institutions.

""I invited him to apologise, but he declined to do so. I have therefore, as an expression of the seriousness of the matter, rescinded his right to 10 days' daily allowance as a member".

Quite why Farage thinks he was merely expressing free speech puzzles me. All institutions have rules and regulations. For example, in the House of Commons one is not allowed to call another member of the House a liar and one must leave the chamber if you do so and refuse to take back such a charge. In the European parliament one is not allowed to resort to personal insults or to make disparaging remarks about the country's which other members come from.

But this is partly Farage's problem. He is a member of the European parliament but he doesn't believe in the European parliament.

He was one of those Tory MP's who stood down when Major signed The Maastricht Treaty. Opposition to the European parliament is in his bones.

Which makes his position as a member of that parliament particularly odd. He is paid by a parliament which he would like to see dismantled. And he is paid very well by that parliament.

Most of us would not express our dissatisfaction with the views of a group or organisation by joining it. So Farage has set himself up for such falls.

And he imagines that his free speech is being curtailed every time the box he has nailed himself into is explained to him.

He might not agree with the European parliament, but, as a member, he is bound by it's rules. That's his dichotomy.

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