Friday, 25 September 2009

Ryanair suffers for O'Leary's Lisbon lunacy

UPDATE: Weds 30 September 2009

Michael O'Leary truly gives the game away in a TV interview, saying: “One of the reasons that I am campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote is that our Government is incompetent, yet I need to persuade them to sell me Aer Lingus” - according to The Times.


The Daily Telegraph today features a great article on Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary's 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign.

The outspoken airline boss - king of surprise extra charges and nemesis of customer service - has pledged to splash half a million euros on a Ryanair campaign in support of a 'Yes' vote in Ireland's looming repeat referendum.

But landing a potent succession of punches against the campaign, the Telegraph first launches into a 'double whammy' attack on the EU's Transport Commissioner for joining in with a pro-Lisbon flying circus orchestrated by O'Leary earlier this week.

The suggestion is that the Commissioner both broke impartiality rules by taking sides in Ireland's debate over the Lisbon Treaty and, by accepting free flights and hospitality, also engaged in a potential conflict of interest given his role in decisions over airline policy.

But even better, the article goes on to humiliate O'Leary himself for his blatant personal hypocrisy over the EU and the last referendum result, pointing out that the Ryanair boss's current view is very different to the one he reportedly held last October, following Ireland's first 'No' vote.

Bias Bellenaise

During six hours of Ryanair flights around Ireland on Tuesday, Commissioner Antonio Tajani reportedly enjoyed on-board chicken Bellenaise and wild rice as his host O'Leary launched into numerous foam-flecked tirades directed at "No to Lisbon" campaigners.

According to the Telegraph, Mr Tajani stood silently by during a succession of press conferences in which Mr O'Leary mocked Lisbon Treaty opponents as "numpties", "numb nuts" and "clowns" (solid arguments to hand more decisions over to Brussels there, Michael!) all the while referring to the attendant eurocrat as "my new friend commissioner Tajani."

Allegations of two serious offences against Commission rules committed by Mr Tajani has sparked a chorus of calls for his resignation, coupled with accusations levelled at O'Leary that he has launched his "Yes" campaign to curry favour with both Brussels and the Irish government that hold such sway over his current business ambitions.

As transport commissioner, Mr Tajani plays a key role in setting the rules governing airline operations and also has influence over competition rulings such as those covering Ryanair's desperate attempts to take over Aer Lingus.

In addition, just as O'Leary leapt aboard the 'Yes to Lisbon' campaign all cosy with the Irish governing elite, this outstanding matter is under consideration by the Irish Aviation Authority.

If approved, looser seating arrangements would likely boost Ryanair's profits by hundreds of millions of pounds.

Giving away an insight into his true motivations, according to the Irish Times O'Leary earlier in the week said of Brussels : "these f***ers have very long memories. They stuck it to us enough times."

"You can never link one with the other, but Ryanair’s offer to Aer Lingus is the only airline merger that’s been turned down by Brussels on competition grounds in 30 years," he said.

Can't link one with the other? Really, who is O'Leary trying to kid?

Flying flip-flop

Besides the business considerations over which O'Leary is clearly prepared to help pawn Ireland's democracy, his sudden conversion to the Lisbon Treaty also flies in the face of his previous remarks on EU issues.

Back in October, after it had become clear that Ireland was going to be forced by the EU to vote again, O'Leary said: "It seems that only in the EU, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice. The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do."

During yesterday's Today FM debate on the Lisbon Treaty featuring both O'Leary and Libertas leader Declan Ganley - which the Irish Times describes as quickly turning into the 'Mick and Declan show' - Ganley drove the charge of personal hypocrisy deeper.

To titters from the audience, O’Leary was reminded of his previous criticisms of the European Commission as “Stalinist” and “an evil empire” run by “morons” and “gobshites”.

Symbolic of the level of debate on the issue that the 'Yes to Lisbon' side has to offer, an unrepentant O’Leary reportedly rolled his eyes and retorted “Accept No for an answer Declan and bugger off”.

If only the EU would accept 'No' for an answer, Declan probably would.

Ryanair boycott

During the course of the Lisbon Treaty debate, the embarrassing intervention of Michael O'Leary has only added to the evidently already plentiful supply of bad press Ryanair is clocking up.

Apart from pushing a campaign directly opposed to the democratic decision already made in a referendum by a majority of Irish people, millions across Europe oppose the Lisbon Treaty and the EU's whole current direction.

In addition to three countries having voted against the EU Constitution / Lisbon Treaty, the only independent poll of all 27 member states, taken in 2007, showed that majorities in 16 countries would vote 'no' to a Treaty giving more powers to the EU.

A reality that is all too evident when you look at websites such as that of the Europe Says No campaign.

So for the owner of a Europe-wide airline to plant himself so publicly on the wrong side in a Europe-wide debate smacks from a business point of view of shooting yourself spectacularly in the foot.

O'Leary might think he's sticking it to the 'No' side, but his level of debate is an embarrassment and in reality his interventions are daily putting the boot into the Europe-wide popularity of his business.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

'Europe Says No' to the Lisbon Treaty

A new, pan-European campaign called Europe Says No: No to Lisbon, Yes to democracy has been launched.

The campaign is being organised by a wide range of people across Europe, and across the political spectrum, who want to see the Lisbon Treaty rejected.

In advance of Ireland's outrageous repeat referendum on 2nd October, Europe Says No aims to show how many people across Europe would themselves vote 'No' to Lisbon ... if they could.

The initiative has brought together an excellent range of supporters, including Harry van Bommel (Socialist Party MP in the Netherlands); Gustav Fridolin (Swedish journalist, author and former Green Party MP); British Labour MP and former minister Gisela Stuart; Sari Essayah (Christian Democrat MEP for Finland) and many others.

On 2nd October, Ireland will have an historic opportunity to lead Europe to a better, more democratic future by once again voting 'No' to the Lisbon treaty.

Please show your support for a second Irish 'No' by visiting the
Europe Says No website and leaving a supportive comment. Make sure your voice is heard!

The campaign also has a group on Facebook, which needs as many members as possible to ensure a strong message is sent in support of a second Irish 'No' - click
here to view.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Schools cuts will only pay for extra £2bn to EU

This weekend Schools Secretary Ed Balls became the first cabinet minister to set out where the axe may fall on public services, in the government's bid to bring Britain's finances back into balance.

But rather than cut the unjustifiable extra £2bn the government plans to give to the EU next year, Mr Balls revealed that he wants to cut the same amount from the schools budget instead.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Balls said that up to 3,000 senior school staff could be axed instead of excessive spending on the EU.

Primary school heads as well as deputies, assistant heads, plus heads of subject in primary and secondary schools could all find themselves in the firing line.

But any benefit to our public finances contributed by these likely painful schools cuts will be quickly eaten up by the looming 60% increase in the amount Britain pays into the EU's mismanaged accounts.

Rot at the top

As the minister widely recognised to be Gordon Brown's right-hand man, it's fair to assume Mr Ball's stance - that cash for key services must be chopped before cash for the EU - represents misguided attitudes to public services right at the top of government.

But how many MPs - especially those in the most marginal seats - will stand by this twisted credo when schools in their own constituencies face staff cuts?

MPs can't possibly hope that voters will accept an explanation that the state of our public finances warrants cuts when people can see even more billions being splashed on the audit-failing EU.

Angry reaction

The government's plans have been angrily criticised by teachers' organisations and are already being described as a potential 'bloodbath'.

Speaking about Mr Balls, Mick Brookes of the the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The impression he gives is that head teachers are among the 'bureaucrats' who can be replaced."

"What does he think they're doing all day? We're looking for him to get his own house in order before criticising school leadership."

EU waste

Stopping the complete waste of public money on the EU - at the very least blocking next year's unacceptable £2bn increase - would be a good first step towards the government getting its own house in order.

Two recent examples of how the EU is wasting public money on a grand scale are typical of the stories that now appear regularly.

According to the Irish edition of the Sunday Times earlier this month, retiring Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is set to receive a massive £362,000 (€400,000) EU payoff, having spent five years enjoying a £216,000 (€239,000) EU salary plus lavish expenses.

Worse, Mr McCreevy is just one Commissioner of 27 enjoying that pay packet, and not the only one soon retiring.

And just last week there was news via EUobserver that the EU is splashing £280m on a new, self-titled 'palace' in Brussels to house its top officials.

Take action

To contact Ed Balls and ask him why teachers are getting the chop rather than the £2bn extra the government plans to give the EU, you can email him at

Friday, 11 September 2009

EU gets 60% more as public services face 'efficiency savings'

This week, Alistair Darling proclaimed that the government is "ready to make the tough choices necessary" in order to bring Britain's public finances back into balance.

Speaking in Cardiff, the Chancellor warned of "slower growth in public spending in the coming years" and that "setting priorities inevitably means tough choices."

"The first priority", he said, "has to be to look for areas where we can achieve greater efficiency."

The Chancellor's comments have been seen as paving the way for public sector spending cuts expected to be outlined in the Pre-Budget Report this autumn.

Wrong priorities

But in an early example of the kind of priority setting we can expect from this government, just a couple of weeks ago we learnt that one of the most wasteful elements of government spending - Britain's cash contributions to the European Union budget - will next year rocket by 60%.

According to the BBC, the increase will take Britain's annual net contribution to the EU budget from £4.1bn to £6.2bn in 2010 - equivalent to writing a cheque to the EU for £119 million every single week.

Unjustifiable increase

Handing this much extra cash to the EU is completely unjustifiable, not just in today's tightened financial circumstances, when public services are clearly facing cuts.

But also in light of the fact that the EU's accounts have been severely criticised by auditors now for 14 years running.
Even the EU's auditors have trouble telling us how EU institutions are spending the money they currently receive.

That any public money at all is still being handed to the EU, given the
on-going uncertainty by auditors over how it is being spent, is scandal enough. But now Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling plan to give the EU billions more.

Short-sighted deal

The increase comes as a result of the 2007-2013 EU budget deal done by Tony Blair in late 2005 and pushed through Parliament by Gordon Brown in 2007. All highlighted by the Democracy Movement at the time in a campaign called Stop the Cheques.

Some of the main myths perpetuated by the government to justify the deal were dismantled in our December 2005 EU budget factsheet and these points remain just as relevant today.

Because if you tackle the government over their enthusiasm for splashing billions more on the EU, you'll get the same old myths in response.

The full consequences of that short-sighted deal are today hitting home at the worst possible time for Britain's public finances.

EU waste

The EU has to be by far the least deserving of all possible recipients of extra public cash.

Beyond the critical role of public services like the NHS, on which so many depend, you only have to watch programmes like Channel 4's Secret Millionaire to see how many people are struggling with next to no financial help to support the worst off in our society through small, local charitable initiatives.

For these people, often working to improve people's quality of life in struggling communities where the local council cannot or will not provide much-needed facilities, even small amounts of money can make a huge difference to their work continuing.

Next to such real life realities on our screens every week, news that the audit-failing EU, with its legions of pampered hangers-on and lavish glass palaces in Brussels, is being given an extra £2bn by the government - despite no-one being absolutely sure how such money is being spent and regular reports of waste and fraud - is a glaring injustice.

Real message

The message from Alistair Darling is clear. Swathes of services on which people depend for their health, care, education, financial security and much more will shortly find themselves in the firing line. But spending on the EU is sacrosanct.

The reality is that, as public finances are squeezed, the government plans to deprive essential services of funding and cause cuts in order to pay for this outpouring of cash to the wasteful EU.

Unless the government and the MPs who voted to approve this EU budget deal take urgent action now to reverse it - to refocus public money on real needs in a very different economic situation than when the deal was agreed - they must accept personal responsibility for the resulting public service cuts to come.

Short-sighted decision-making, disinterest in correcting their mistake despite the billions at stake, topped with hypocrisy over the proper funding of public services will hardly be the best scenario for success in the looming general election.

Alistair Darling may talk of his "tough choices", but inaction now over the unjustifiable scale spending on the EU will mean that he makes the choice of many at the ballot box very easy indeed.