A Tale of Two Democracies

Did you hear the one about the EU citizen who walked into his MEP’s office and suggested a new EU law? No? Well, it’s your lucky day:

A dour-looking, bemused man in a grey raincoat and carrying an umbrella shuffles into his local MEP’s office clutching a wrinkled piece of paper on which is written his suggestion for a new EU law.

ANTHONY: Hi MEP Sid.

MEP SID: Now … you are..?

A: Anthony. I’m here to give you my suggestion for a new EU law. I had to fly here from Heathrow to deliver it …

S: Sorry? Anthony who, did you say? Are you with Bechtel?

A: Not really … At least, I don’t think so…

There is an uncomfortable silence.

A: Can I tell you my idea for a new EU law, now?

S: Why?

A: So you can present it to the EU Parliament.

S: Why would I do that?

A: Well, maybe they’ll debate it and make it law.

S: That’s not how things work around here.

A: It’s not?

S: No. This is the European Parliament. We don’t make laws. Would you like a brochure?

A: A brochure? No. I want you to …

S: Stop. Stop. Stop. What on Earth put it into your head to come to me with this nonsense?

A: You’re my democratically-elected representative in the EU. I’m from East Cheam. I want you to represent me…

S: East Cheam.  Where’s that?

A: In your constituency.

S: Really? (Pause) Listen. I’ll explain: I am an MEP. We are not allowed to initiate new laws, so I really don’t care about your idea for a new EU law.

A: A lawmaker that can’t make laws? That’s not very democratic.

S: How do you mean, not democratic? I represent 5,490,248 voters. You voted for me.

A: No I didn’t, actually. Besides, voting isn’t democracy. Democracy is when the voters decide who to give their power to. Voting for you is like voting on Strictly. You’re useless. I’m leaving.

strictly come dancing

S: Leaving? Why? I thought you wanted to have your new law considered.

A: I do. But you just said …

S: What I said was that I’m not allowed to introduce new law. That doesn’t mean that you, as an EU citizen, can’t.

A: It doesn’t?

S: No. that would be very undemocratic. You have to give your new law to the EU Commission. They do the democratic stuff.

A: But, they’re all unelected.

S: Now you’re getting it.

A: Getting what? (Pause) Whatever. So, the Commission will pass my suggestion on to you. And then you’ll read it?

S: Of course not. MEPs don’t read proposed laws. Would you like a Tee shirt?

M: No! So, you vote for new laws that you haven’t read?

S: Of course. We vote for hundreds of new laws, regulations etc every voting day. Who has time to read all of those? We’re only human. Between  you and me, I haven’t read a single new law proposal in the 15 years I’ve been here.

A: So, I need to give my idea to the UK’s EU commissioner, who represents me on the Commission?

S: Yes and no.

A: Uh?

S: You do give your idea to the Commission, but commissioners don’t represent you.

A: But mine is British. He was appointed by my government. He drives a Bentley. He must represent me.

S: Good lord, no. EU commissioners are barred from representing you. In fact, they aren’t even allowed to say “my country”. They represent only the interests of the institutions of the EU. They’re very important people.

A: Enough! Here’s my idea. You give it to the Commission.

S: Sorry. Not my job, Mate. You have to do that yourself.

A: (Sighing.) Okay, what office are they in?

S: Oh. You can’t just hand them a piece of paper with an idea scrawled on it. They’re very important people.

A: I need to type it first?

S: Yes. And you have to get a million other people to sign it first.

A: Feck off!

S: From seven different EU nations.

A: Fecking, feck off!

S: You have something against democracy?

A: Demo …! OK. I’ll get your stupid million signatures from your stupid seven stupid EU stupid nations, so that the Commission can introduce it for debate …

J: Whoa! Debate? That depends on whether or not the Commission decides to read your idea. They’re very important people.

A: Decides to read…!!!!? I have to get million signatures from seven different countries, and they don’t have to even read it!?

S: Of course not. There are half a billion EU citizens. They can’t be wasting their time indulging just one of them. They’re very important people. They have to consider the common good for Europe.

A: You mean for the EU.

S: What?

A: Forget it. So, let me get this straight: The only democratic way for me to get a suggestion for a new law to be considered by the EU is to ignore the lawmaker I democratically elected to represent me, take my idea to a group of unelected commissioners who represent neither me nor the nation I come from, and hope that they don’t just chuck it in the bin, and then, even if it reaches you, you wont read it before voting it up or down? Whose stupid idea was that?

S: Well, nobody actually knows but …

There is an uncomfortable silence.

S: Okay. Time up. Bye!

A: This isn’t over. I’m going to take my idea to my MP in the UK Parliament.

S: Good luck with that lot. They have less power than we do.

ONE WEEK LATER IN ANTHONY’S MP’S WEEKLY SURGERY…

A: Morning MP Hattie. I was just hobbling past your office on the  way to the chiropodist’s, and I thought I’d drop in with an idea for a new law. Sorry it’s not typed.

MP HATTIE: Great! Let’s see what you’ve got? (Reads) What a super idea! A new blood donor law! I’ll run it past a few people. See if I can get a co-sponsor or two. Do a little historical and legal research. See if it’s already been debated. If not, maybe we can get it onto the debating schedule. Anything else?

A: That’s it? People can just walk in off of the street and give you an idea for a new law? And you have the power to propose it for debate to vote it into law?

H: Of course. that’s what you elected me to do.

A: No million signatures needed?

H: What? No. Of course not. … Sorry, but I have a bit of a queue; I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a new road going through downtown and people aren’t happy about  it. Was there anything else?

A: (Leaving) No. Nothing else.

H: Leave your name and number if you want us to get back to you in a couple of weeks with an update

A: Um … Okay … Bye!

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