What was behind the President of the European Commision's scathing attack on the Tories?

President of European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso’s latest remark to the British Conservative leader in the European parliament has been widely reported. His remark stated that he had doubts over the strength of the tories position within the European Parliament and whether or not they will be voted in the next election, stating that when it comes down to it, people prefer the original to the fake. This comment is in clear reference to the anti-EU stance that UKIP has and the similar yet more diluted version that the tories are trying to sell.

What has received less coverage is the speech made by the Conservative leader, Martin Callanan MEP that preceded this response. When bemoaning the shortfalls of those positioning to succeed Mr Barosso in 2014 Callanan complained that ‘the problem is that none of these candidates represent new ideas. They represent vested interests. The people of the European District in Brussels are not the people of Europe.’

Was it perhaps the expression of this opinion that provoked the President to unleash such a devastating sound bite against the Conservatives?

Those mentioned explicitly by Callanan include such household names as Olli Rehn, Viviane Reding and Guy Verhofstadt. Thus Callanan has found himself in the unfavourable of position of accusing individuals, of whom no one back home has ever heard of, of working to the unwarranted advantage of a select group of others, of whom the public is not aware of or intrigued by, when many of those he opposes carry hefty title such as ‘President’ or ‘Commissioner’ and thus have the ability to draw mass media attention when they damn or suppose forecasts unfavourable to their critics. It is a situation of high risk and low gain; it should not be a challenge to see why it may be politically advantageous for Mr Callanan to consider simply keeping his mouth shut in future. However if the Conservative leader to speak out again in future what might he have further to say to substantiate his comments?

In early July, when putting forward the case that too much red tape produced in Brussels is dampening employment, Callanan stated:

 ‘The problem is that we in this Parliament and officials in the commission are dominated by vested interests. This Parliament seeks to extend its powers at every opportunity. Commission officials move their careers forward by formulating new ways to interfere in our lives.’

Before going on to say:

 ‘To do so will not be easy. There will be protests from many lobby groups, unions, and others often funded by the EU. But by taking on these vested interests we will open the door to the economic reforms we must make.’

In March this year the Inistute of Economic Affairs published a report entitled ‘Europuppets: The European Commision’s remaking of civil society’. The first two bullet points of the report’s executive summary are as follows:

• With public confidence in the European project waning, the idea of initiating a ‘civil dialogue’ with the public emerged in the mid-1990s as a way of bolstering the EU’s democratic legitimacy.

• Citizens have not been consulted directly, however. Instead they have been ventriloquised through ‘sock puppet’ charities, think tanks and other ‘civil society’ groups which have been hand-picked and financed by the European Commission (EC). These organisations typically lobby for closer European integration, bigger EU budgets and more EU regulation.

This lobby scenario is not simply something of Martin Callanan’s imagination; nor, in the light of the above passage, does the phrase ‘vested interests’ seem entirely out of place in reference to this operation.

In a radio interview David Cameron has said ‘The Barroso thing did annoy me because frankly, his job is to serve the members of the European Union’. He is correct in his analysis. The fact that President Barroso responded is such a fashion to the criticism he and his commission received only adds weight to Martin Callanan’s arguments.