Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Libertas launch Euro-Election campaign

Libertas have today announced that they will be standing candidates in Britain for the European Parliament elections on 4 June.

Founded by businessman Declan Ganley, Libertas played a key role in the successful 'No' campaign to the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland's referendum last year.

Now a pan-EU political party, planning to stand candidates in all 27 EU member countries in the forthcoming Euro Elections, Libertas today announced their UK leader - Robin Matthews, a former soldier. But they have not yet published a manifesto.

Electoral challenges

Ganley has claimed repeatedly that he is not a 'eurosceptic'. His frequent recitations of long discredited pro-EU mantras about the EU's benefits have portrayed Libertas as aiming for position to the pro-EU side of the Tories.

While Ganley has also repeatedly made some very good points about the EU's impact on democracy, electorally it's hard to see where such a position leaves Libertas in this country.

With a resolutely pro-EU outlook, Libertas certainly aren't likely to attract many UKIP votes. Those who still remain loyal to the Tories during Euro Elections are likely to stay that way, especially given their party's similar anti-Lisbon / pro-referendum stance.

Libertas might well scrape some votes from the Lib Dems and Labour but that's unlikely to get them very far.

Nevertheless, as we saw from the Kilroy bandwagon during the 2004 Euro Elections, anything can happen if you can attract a couple of celebrities. Especially if, like Ganley, you also have plenty of cash.

There are undoubtedly opportunities for Libertas in other countries such as Germany or Belgium where a mainstream EU-critical / pro-referendum party has never been an option for voters.

Mixed messages

Such positioning problems here in Britain may be the reason why postings today on the Libertas website paint a rather different picture of the party's stance compared to Declan Ganley's previous statements.

They say little that British eurosceptics would disagree with.

In particular, under the headline "Why vote Libertas UK", it says: "We want to return powers to Britain and take back control of our own destiny."

But it is the impression that messages are being tailored - in conflicting directions - for different national audiences that remains a worry. It's unclear where that leaves the claim that "Libertas voters in Germany, France, Bulgaria and all the other states will be voting for the same thing as you."

Perhaps the manifesto, when it comes, will illuminate how the apparently conflicting ideas of being a pro-EU party that supports taking back powers to nation states come together.

The big question for prospective voters is: which does Libertas mean? If elected to the European Parliament, which outlook would prevail overall?

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