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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The PM asks: “Who needs suicide bombers when you’ve got the European Commission?”

Having put up with yesterday’s display of “fantasy politics” from John Reid, it was rather a nice change to indulge in some real fantasy politics - in front of the box watching The Amazing Mrs Pritchard – the BBC drama series starring Jane Horrocks as an unlikely Prime Minister.

A plane had crashed in the middle of the night over London, killing dozens and triggering widespread panic. The PM immediately launched into action, visiting the injured and issuing tearful television statements. Having spent the last 12 months in office distancing her administration from Tony Blair’s Iraq policy (and apparently isolating herself from the White House), she also boldly announced she would resign if it turned out to be a terrorist attack.

But it didn’t. As her foreign secretary sheepishly told her – “It wasn’t terrorism, but it may still be our fault”, explaining that a piece of EU legislation reducing airport safety controls had been passed, going via the European Scrutiny Committee, three months before and with no-one noticing.

“And no-one thought to tell me!?” asked an incredulous Mrs Pritchard, “We’ve relaxed our controls to fit in with Europe?!” “Who needs suicide bombers when you’ve got the European Commission” quipped an aide. Someone then explained to her (and the rest of the country who happened to be watching the Beeb at tea-time on a Tuesday night) that thousands of pieces of important legislation pass through the EU Scrutiny Committee every year, and only a few are picked out for debate in the House.

In an amusing twist, leaked video footage then showed that the opposition Conservative member had been asleep while the legislation was being discussed in Committee. However as someone pointed out, “What’s worse, being asleep while this awful law went through, or wide awake?”. Mrs Pritchard subsequently went on Newsnight to argue “We need a new relationship with Europe”, saying all European legislation should be subject to the same rigorous scrutiny undergone by national legislation. Triumphantly, she said that otherwise, the Government should withdraw its payments to the EU, which, she spat, amount to “£1.5 million an hour.”

This is all dangerously close to being educational - though obviously the idea that MPs might actually be allowed to debate the thousands of pieces of EU legislation they rubber stamp every year is the stuff of… sheer fantasy?

PS - The producers of the programme called us a few months ago and we directed them to our admittedly rather dry report on reforming EU scrutiny at Westminster. Never dreamed it would end up being quoted during a primetime BBC drama...

1 comment:

farnboro said...

Putting aside all the other "fantasy politics" elements of the drama, it is inconceivable that the European Scrutiny Committee could let this sort of proposal clear scrutiny without demanding substantial further information and then recommending a debate in a standing committee.

I'd be amazed if the production team had bothered to read any scrutiny committee report before they stuck this bit of nonsense in the script.