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Libertas R.I.P., but who called the tune?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 02:23:20 PM EST

I am not one to dance on other people's graves, but the collapse of Libertas post the European Elections has been truly spectacular.

Libertas on brink of extinction after poll disaster costs €40m - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

LIBERTAS has sunk into oblivion after forking out up to €40m on its disastrous European campaign, an Irish Independent investigation has found.

In Ireland alone, the party spent between €600,000 and €700,000 during the 30-day campaign. That figure is much higher when the major billboard campaign -- run at an estimated cost of €200,000 before election spending limits came into effect -- is factored in.

Libertas claims all these bills are accounted for from donations and fundraising, with the exception of between €20,000 and €30,000 which will be paid off through "dinners and golf tournaments", one source said.

But after running 532 candidates across Europe, just three countries are considering continuing with the Libertas banner -- Britain, Estonia and Slovakia.

The only candidate out of 532 candidates who won election for Libertas, French MEP Philippe de Villiers, confirmed he was no longer a member of the organisation.

The party's offices in Dublin, Brussels and London were all closed when the Irish Independent attempted to contact them this week.

Remaining Libertas members in Ireland are expected to meet in the coming weeks to decide if the party should be wound up, whether a new leader should be elected or if it should return to the status of a "think tank".


The Irish Independent doesn't really detail how they arrived at their figure of €40M, but if the figure is anything near true, it begger's belief that it could have been raised by popular subscriptions alone.  There simply is no tradition of the public donating to a political party on anything like that scale - in Ireland, in any case.  

The Annual reports of the Standards in Public Office [SIPO] typically disclose donations amounting to a few tens of thousands, if any, although it should be noted that donations below €5,000 by an individual to a political party need not be reported to SIPO.  However it shouldn't be too difficult for a rich organisation or individual to find surrogates who will allow €5,000 to be donated under their names.

Had Ganley et al succeeded in being elected, there is no doubt that we would have never heard the end of them decrying the "unelected elites" of the EU and their undemocratic policies and practices.  But will we ever find out where all this money really came from?  I very much doubt it.

Fortunately, true to the pattern of "Führer led" parties, the party seems set to disappear now that its leader's credibility has been undermined by a lack of electoral success.  But it could so easily have been otherwise, and the whole episode shows just how vulnerable our democratic institutions are to subversion.  Unfortunately party finance reform is going to go to the bottom of political priorities now that Ganley is gone.  It shouldn't be thus, of course.  But the other parties are hardly going to focus on this important issue now that the elections are over and funding is so hard to come by.

Just how private funding of political parties is supposed to be compatible with public accountability and democracy has always been beyond me.  If you want a democratic political system, you have to pay for it.  Otherwise the "democrats" will dance to someone else's tune.  It's time the taxpayers started paying the piper to ensure he plays a public tune.

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Timo Soini of the 'Ugly' Party in Finland was elected an MEP by a huge vote (The party got 9.8% of vote). His True Finn party had links to Libertas. I read somewhere that he called it only a personal affiliation, but officially the true Finns were affiliated with Libertas, with no membership of any European political group otherwise.

All ads for Libertas on the TF website have disappeared.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 04:08:29 PM EST
I just read this: Soini Joins Independence/Democracy Group in EU Parliament

True Finns Chairman and recently elected MEP Timo Soini is joining the EU critical Independence/ Democracy Group in the European Parliament. The group of eurosceptic MEPs is opposed to all federalist moves in the EU and wants to reduce the legislative role of the European Union .
Soini told YLE his decision came after successful talks with the group's Co-President Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence Party(UKIP).



You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 04:13:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has always mystified me how Declan Ganley, with absolutely no political pedigree, was able to gather so many - albeit often fringe - candidates throughout Europe under his banner/leadership.  What was it about the Libertas Brand that they thought would be helpful to their election prospects?  Money talks?  Was it really no more than that?  Or did fringe candidates like the idea of being associated with a larger pan-EU brand?  Does this mean that a more substantial nationalist/anti-EU brand would have a good chance of success?

There is no harm in the EP having an organised opposition political caucus.  It would just be nice to know where their funding is coming from...

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 04:37:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Megalomaniacs the lot of them.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 04:37:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's easy to underestimate not just the extent to which the EU is disliked, but the level of active paranoia about EU intentions among ordinary voters.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 05:43:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Libertas in Ireland was at pains to paint itself as pro-EU, just anti-Lisbon and anti undemocratic Brussels bureaucrats.

Is this dislike of the EU a peculiarly British thing?  Why have Eastern European countries joined the EU if they so dislike it?  If the EU's greatest achievement is to assist in the consolidation of peace and prosperity in Europe, what is so wrong with this even if the EU has failed to do a lot of other things?

Brits seem quick enough to buy holiday homes in "Europe", to adjust to the Euro, and to use their EU inspired health benefits abroad.  So what is it precisely they resent about the EU?

Is it that they are lumped in as equals with other countries they defeated or otherwise consider beneath them?  Is it that other countries do not recognise Britain's natural leadership role in Europe?

Do Brits think they would be greatly missed if they left the EU?  Just what is it they are complaining about, and who do they think is to blame?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 06:13:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering that their campaign clearly set out to make Lisbon synonymous with the EU and with 'anti-democratic Brussels bureaucrats' I'm not sure how they were pro-EU, exactly. Except perhaps in a very nominal and completely dishonest way.

I don't understand British jingo-ism. But all of the Anglo countries, and some of the former Soviet countries, do seem to have some psychological characteristics in common - not least of which is an unwillingness to share or compromise.

It's a peculiar but very obvious insularity. The Brits simply don't see themselves as part of Europe, and consider the EU Project an attempt to undermine and destroy their precious sovereignty.

I think - so far as I can tell - that this is more of an English thing than a British one. Wales and Scotland would likely integrate with the EU smoothly.

Not so England, because England would rather be ruled by nodding donkeys in feudal ermine than 'anti-democratic bureacrats.'

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 06:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Considering that their campaign clearly set out to make Lisbon synonymous with the EU and with 'anti-democratic Brussels bureaucrats' I'm not sure how they were pro-EU, exactly. Except perhaps in a very nominal and completely dishonest way.

Agreed - it was purely a re-branding exercise in Ireland because 70%+ of people think the EU is a very good thing.

ThatBritGuy:

I don't understand British jingo-ism. But all of the Anglo countries, and some of the former Soviet countries, do seem to have some psychological characteristics in common - not least of which is an unwillingness to share or compromise.

Certainly not true for Ireland, and, as you suggest, probably not true for Scotland or Wales either.  I'm not sure that eastern European euroscepticism is in any way comparable.  There may be a lingering nostalgia for a strong authoritarianism which the EU hardly satisfies, allied to a resurgent nationalism and a desire to keep on the right side of the USA to guarantee Sovereignty against Russia.

But English Euroscepticism seems to me to be an almost entirely unique animal - rooted in a post imperial nostalgia that Britannia should be ruling the waves, even if it can't, and failing that to be a special partner of the US in so doing.

Even though it would be hugely against Ireland's national interest, there is a part of me which would like to call England's bluff and let them have their referendum and leave - if only to be rid of their belly-aching.  I could see Scotland, Wales and even N. Ireland voting to remain within the EU and seeking to leave the UK under those circumstances.

Once England realises the USA hardly knows where England is any more, and that Britain without Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland really isn't that Great, I could see England seeking to rejoin and being met by a Gaullist "non".

Maybe it's just the Irish in me wanting to take the English down a peg or two, but I really don't think so.  The English have something to work through - the loss of empire - that they really haven't quite worked through yet, and until they do so they will continue to be a real pain for everyone else.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 06:59:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the question is why the parties and candidates who associated with Libertas did so. From what I know about the field, a lot of them were just on an ego trip, like de Villiers.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 02:46:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
De Villier also campaigned with a wealthy AngloSaxon eurosceptic in 1994, Jimmy Goldsmith.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 04:49:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Paranoia?

Like the UN and the black helicopters?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 04:05:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly like that.

Really.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 04:14:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How is it possible to be paranoid about bodies - EU, UN - whilst at the same time holding the view that they are utterly ineffectual and incompetent and incapable of running a piss-up in a brewery?

I don't doubt that what you say is at least partly true - there are strange beliefs on the fringes of any political culture.  What surprises me is that in England, those beliefs seem to go right up into the ruling class.  Is it that they think the EU is actually too democratic for them and risks undermining their exclusive hold on power?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 06:24:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How is it possible to be paranoid about bodies - EU, UN - whilst at the same time holding the view that they are utterly ineffectual and incompetent and incapable of running a piss-up in a brewery?
It is possible, just not in the same sentence.


A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 9th, 2009 at 02:54:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Money

  2. Links to powerful people in the US right. My working theory is not that Libertas was a piece of US government agency astroturfing but was backed by the sort of people who back the US Republican party and all the satellite think tanks over there. Even tactically it looked very much like it.

  3. Money

Don't forget that Libertas was a different brand with different policies in each electoral area. The brand was incoherent.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 01:30:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There does not have to have been a political vision. There is also the possibility that Libertas' "pan-European" efforts were really just PR - that they paid a couple of nutcases around Europe for associating themselves with the Libertas "brand" in order to be able to say "look at all this pan-European organising - we're not anti-Europe at all" to the Irish electorate. And then trusting that those parts of the Irish electorate they had a chance of winning over would not look too closely at what all those furriners with funny names were saying in their home countries...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 9th, 2009 at 02:50:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I have written in earlier comments, Libertas first attempt at establishing themselves in Sweden was by trying to buy an existing party - Junilistan (which btw is not that unlike Libertas - topdown party structure, back by wealthy (though resonably known) financiers. It also fell short of the 4% limit and thus left the EP, and probably will be closed down for lack of resources).

The second attempt that was really pitiful was spearheaded by a washed up ex-parlamentarian from the shortlived ugly party Ny Demokrati. Though apparently having some resources it failed even the basic elements of the election, like ordering ballots.

For just about a million euros I could have 532 persons in different european countries utterly fail to enter parliament. Just put up a webpage and offer a starting bouns of 1000 euros for each candidate. The rest of the million is for my fees as consultant. :)

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jul 8th, 2009 at 06:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

just three countries are considering continuing with the Libertas banner -- Britain, Estonia and Slovakia.

Brittania rules the wabes.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaďs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 05:00:34 PM EST
the slithy toves do gyre and gimble in the wabe that Britannia rules.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 05:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for clearing that up...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 05:04:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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