Europe and digital rights MEP hustings report – part one

The debate was attended by six candidates:2014-05-06 19.53.56

Robert Skelton – Socialist Equality Party
Chris Whiteside – Conservative
Lee Slaughter – UKIP
Afzal Khan – Labour
Jack Allnutt – Pirate Party
Laura Bannister – Green

The hashtag used was #EUDigitalDebate if you want to relieve the event on Twitter.

The candidates started off with a two minute speech to introduce themselves and their party.

Robert Skelton – Socialist Equality Party

Robert wanted to both unite Europe while also campaigning for the destruction of the European Union, while also standing against war, and calling for a recall of our forces fighting in other countries (I’m fairly sure that was a reference to Iraq and Afghanistan). He also called for the shutting down of all state surveillance apparatus such as GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, the reversal of this government’s spending cuts and called for the re-distribution of wealth.

Lee Slaughter – UKIP

Lee, was, surprisingly or otherwise, entirely against the EU. He called it “a movement towards a totalitarian Europe”, quoted Churchill (“If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea”). He then went further, stating that there was never an intention in the political sphere to create a European Union, and he claimed that this creation of a European Union was kept secret by Thatcher and her government.

Chris Whiteside – Conservative

Chris started off by stating that the EU constitution is gigantic, and based on a process of reform, renegotiate, and conduct a referendum. He stated that the EU is in need of reform, and that he would want a referendum on whether we stay in the EU or not – he made reference to the fact that the referendum on the European Common Market was too long ago for it to be held as relevant.

He did go on to say that he was a strong proponent of a ‘digital single market’, and this means that we may have to restrict rights to stop people stealing, and to protect our right ‘not to be blown up by terrorists’ through the use of surveillance.

Afzal Khan – Labour

He stated that he is a councillor in local government, and that he wants to reform Europe. He also stated that he wants to use the EU to create more growth, jobs and investment.

He then went on to talk about how the world is becoming more connected, drawing on his links with China and India – the future is one in which we have massive countries at the table, with massive bargaining power. He stated that the European Union gives us a similar standing, and allows us to make better deals than we would otherwise make.

Jack Allnutt – Pirate Party

Jack started off by introducing his party as a civil liberties party, and the fact that they classify digital rights as a subset of civil liberties.

He went on to say that these elections are not about whether we want an in/out referendum, and shouldn’t be focused on that (as that is a national government issue), but that we should be focusing on what the MEPs will do once they get elected.

He spoke about the Net Neutrality legislation that has been passed to the council, and the fact that the UK Pirate Party doesn’t sit alone – it’s part of a global movement, working together, with 16 political parties in a coalition.

Laura Bannister – Green

Laura boiled the fights that are going on with regards to digital liberties to the fact that it is a fight over commons, and common spaces, and is a continuation of the fight that has been happening for centuries over common spaces, public services, and now digital spaces.

She stated that the Green movement had already been fighting the digital liberties fight in the EU, and had been fighting for the Net Neutrality legislation, and fought, successfully, against the anti-counterfeiting treaty, ACTA, that was to put large dents in civil liberties.

She also talked firmly about the importance of digital liberties as a whole, but specifically mentioned the need for better data protection laws and the need for a ‘right to be forgotten’, aka a right to have your data erased.

That’s all for now – in the second article we’ll see how the MEPs got on when tackling their first few issues as well as the audience !

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