Did you know that MEPs can vote in secret, so you never find out who voted which way? Neither did I. But they can. Now MEPs are talking about voting in secret on the EU Budget, which they have to approve now the member states have signed it off.
I’ve always been a supporter of the European Parliament as a step towards the more democratic EU we need – but our elected MEPs voting in secret on something as important as the budget is a huge step backwards, and a massive mistake. What’s more, it makes the case for democratic reform more difficult, not less, and so will end up weakening the influence of the Parliament with member states and with the public.
Why do MPs want to vote in secret? Because they are worried that the political parties or governments in the countries they come from will put pressure on them to vote the way they want. Well, apologies for the gendered phrase, but man up. If MEPs are not big and strong enough to put up with pressure, perhaps politics isn’t the career for them.
I’d encourage people to write to their MEPs, as I have, to protest and to ask them either to block the secret vote or tell us, their constituents, how they voted. A reminder that you intend to vote in the European Parliament elections next year would not go amiss. If you live in the UK, this handy tool from MySociety will help the job along.
Democracy isn’t just about proper process, it’s about carrying out that proper process accountably, where citizens can see it. When it holds its votes in private, a Parliament is not behaving like a Parliament, it’s just another interest group.