What’s worse, an MEP who is elected to stand for one party and now sits alongside neo-nazis instead, or an MEP who can’t represent his constituents because he’s in prison for benefit fraud?
The answer is, of course, Ashley Mote, who has managed to combine both.
Today the MEP for the South East was sentenced to nine months in gaol for defrauding us the taxpayers out of £65,506 over more than six years. Seems that he was claiming benefits after his business failed in 1992, and ‘forgot’ to let the relevant authorities know that he’d got work in 1996, and was receiving money until late in 2002.
When he stood for UKIP in the Euro elections of 2004, he ‘forgot’ to mention the charges against him to his colleagues, and it became apparent soon after he obtained his seat. UKIP chucked him out, but due to the bizarre rules of the EU, even though he was elected on a party slate, they can’t replace him on their own, he has to resign, die or become ineligible somehow.
As an independent MEP, Ashley joined the same bloc as populated by the French Front National and the Italian Alternativa Sociale (represented by Mussolini’s granddaughter, who has inherited all of the old boy’s charm and many of his views). The BNP are also allied to these parties.
You’d think, however, that several convictions (guilty on 21 charges) would be enough for Mote to lose his seat. Especially for fraud. Then UKIP would be able to put a replacement in his place and we’d have a full complement of MEPs working for the South East. However, because his sentence was less than a year, he gets to keep his seat, again, thanks to those ‘wacky’ EU rules (and a lenient judge). Which, as one of his constituents, really gets my goat.
What does a closet-fascist fraudster MEP have to do to lose his seat?
[edit: turns out that the rule about only losing your seat if imprisoned for one year is the same as for the UK parliament, so it's not just a wacky EU thing. Also, Skuds blogged on this one too]