Jacob Rees-Mogg’s fear of the Maltese Spectre

Jacob Rees-Mogg had a talk for the Oxford Union, published on YouTube on 2013-11-11. The Oxford Union is a debating society. A debater’s aim is to win the audience over and not necessarily to discuss truth. Rees-Mogg had an entertaining talk but it is not targeted at discerning truth indeed. His presentation comes across as modest and forceful, with the charm of perhaps some old-fashioned style. Who closely considers his words may however be shocked by the unreasonableness and closed-mindedness.

Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have been criticised for spreading false arguments for the June 23 2016 Brexit referendum. Obviously, these two individuals cannot be held accountable for swinging the views of some 45 million voters. I wondered since the referendum whether they had had some help. Apparently Jacob Rees-Mogg had been giving a helping hand.

To clarify Rees-Mogg’s departure from truth, we first must mention some properties of the European Parliament.

Seat-to-vote ratio’s in the EU parliament

The EU Parliament has 751 seats, distributed over 28 member states with 500 million people. The distribution over countries is not proportional to the populations, since countries are units by themselves, and it is felt that this should have some effect. Thus Germany with its population of 82 million has 96 seats (1.17 seats per million), the UK with its population of 65 million has 73 seats (1.12 seats per million), and Malta with its population of 0.5 million has 6 seats (12 seats per million). There is relatively little tension about this apportionment, since the countries fall in comparable classes (large, medium, very small), and the major political differences translate into political parties. The divisions between Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals, and what have you, apparently are dispersed over countries in similar manner, or, the political parties are able to create alliances over nations. It is part of the wonder of the EU that nationalism is being channeled and that there is more scope for civil democracy. A recent paper of mine on proportional representation is here.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s quote on Malta

Jacob Rees-Mogg does not explain above democratic solution for dealing with Member States of different sizes. He criticises the EU that Malta is over-represented compared to the UK. It is a fact that Malta has a higher seat-to-vote ratio, but only pointing to this fact obscures the other considerations. He mentions a perhaps older figure of 15 instead of the current 11, but that is irrelevant here. The demagoguery is that many in his audience apparently are not be aware of the key notions in this apportionment, and he apparently takes advantage of their lack of knowledge to win them over to his own closed-mindedness. The demagoguery is that he creates a suggestion as if Malta has 15 times more influence than the UK, as if 6 is 15 times larger than 73 (as, indeed, 6 = 15 * 73).

The quote at the final minute starting at about 11.30 is, with the abusive “proportionally outvote” and the threat of “spectres”:

“So what is this great experiment doing ? It is helping once again the rise of the extreme right, and in some cases the extreme left. That is the threat to democracy that is there, that is coming, that is deeply destructive. But the fundamental problem, the real issue at hand tonight is that there is less democracy in this country, because of the European Union. Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, however you vote the next general election, 60% of our laws, and some say higher, is made on the basis of European agreements, where the Maltese proportionally outvote us 15 to 1. Whoever you vote for, matters less than somebody in Malta votes for, about the laws of our country. And if you are unsatisfied with that, and you want it changed, I cannot give you any redress, because the United Kingdom Parliament, the most ancient democratic Parliament in the world, has been made powerless. That is the threat to democracy. It is here, but it is on the continent as well. It is a frightening spectre. The best way to deal with it, is to deal with our relationship with the European Union, to put our own democracy first and foremost, and hope that others follow.”

Does it really require a protest ?

It is almost silly to protest to this demagoguery:

  • The situation w.r.t. the UK and Malta in the EU Parliament has been explained.
  • The UK has District Representation (DR) instead of Proportional Representation (PR), which causes that the UK is much less democratic than most countries in the EU or the EU Parliament itself. The PR Gini for the UK of 2017 is 15.6%, but there has been a lot of strategic voting, so that we don’t really know what the first preferences of UK voters are. By comparison, Holland has a PR Gini of only 3.6%, and people in Holland could vote for the party of their first choice. See this weblog text and this paper.
  • I tend to think that Rees-Mogg really worries about the state of democracy, while A.C. Grayling rather sees an elitist or even pecunary motive, see this article, as in “follow the money”. Yet Rees-Mogg doesn’t study the topic, and thus he is condemned to repeat an ideology. He studied history but not science. His voting track record apparently shows that he consistently voted against Proportional Representation. Old-fashioned hypocrisy apparently is also part of his old-fashioned style.

Malta enlarged some 30 x UK, dotted with 15 x UK. Spot the Real Malta

October 18: In memoriam Daphne Caruana Galizia (1964 – 2017), journalist, killed by a car bomb.


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