1996 – 13 July 2009
6 January 1955 |
Southport, Lancashire, England
Richard Corbett (born 6 January 1955) was a Member of the European Parliament for the Labour Party for Yorkshire and the Humber, serving between 1996 and 2009. Under the single member constituency system that predates the present proportional representation system, he represented Merseyside West from 1996 to 1999.
Corbett lost his seat in the 2009 European Parliament elections, and he is currently an adviser to the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. In this capacity, and as a frequent writer and commentator on European affairs, he was voted by a panel of retired diplomats, journalists, academics and think-tankers on 14 November 2012 as the fourth most influential Briton on EU policy, ahead of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Commission Vice President Baroness Ashton.
In spring 2013, he was shortlisted by the Labour Party as a possible candidate for the 2014 European Parliament elections. He came first in the subsequent ballot of Labour party members (with the highest proportion of first preference votes of all new candidates in the country) and will therefore be Labour's second candidate in Yorkshire & Humber, behind the sitting MEP Linda McAvan, in the 2014 election.
Corbett was born in Southport, Merseyside (then Lancashire) to parents of working-class background from Wales and London. He attended primary school at Farnborough Road School in Southport. When his father was offered a post as a statistician at the World Health Organisation, the family moved to Geneva, Switzerland and Corbett attended the International School of Geneva, obtaining the International Baccalaureate. He was captain of the football team and also played for the junior team of a Swiss second division club.
He won a place at Oxford University (Trinity College), the first generation of his family to be able to go to university, and obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). He was the Secretary of the Labour Club and chairman of the Oxford Committee for Europe. He co-ordinated the Oxford student "Yes" campaign in the 1975 referendum on membership of the European Community. He also skied for Oxford against Cambridge. Later did an external doctorate at the University of Hull.
Before the European Parliament
Richard Corbett's activities in the European Students at Oxford led on to him being elected first to the youth board of the European Movement in Britain and then to the international presidency of the youth wing of the European Movement and of the Union of European Federalists, the Young European Federalists (JEF), a post he held from 1979 to 1981, drafting their Manifesto which was the first to coin the phrase "democratic deficit" in relation to the European Parliament's then lack of any power over European legislation.
Corbett was secretary-general of the European Co-ordination Bureau of International non-governmental Youth Organisations from 1977 to 1981, representing youth organisations in the Council of Europe's European Youth Foundation and European Youth Centre; helped to set up the European Youth Forum; and represented western European youth organisations in negotiations with Eastern European organisations pursuant to the Helsinki Treaty (as well as at the World Festival of Youth in Havana in 1978 along with Charles Clarke and Peter Mandelson). He worked with Altiero Spinelli MEP on the latter's proposal for a draft treaty establishing a European Union, adopted by the European Parliament in 1984.
Before being elected to the European Parliament, Corbett worked in the voluntary sector and as a civil servant, later becoming a policy advisor to and then Deputy Secretary General of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. He worked on drafting the parts of the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam that increased the powers of the Parliament, notably helping to draft the "codecision procedure" which now applies for adopting European legislation through successive readings of the Parliament and the Council.
In 1992, Corbett was made Ambassador of Goodwill of the US State of Arkansas, by its then Governor, Bill Clinton.
The European Parliament
Corbett was a member of the Parliament's Constitutional Affairs committee and the spokesman for the Labour Party, as well as the whole of the wider Group of the Party of European Socialists, on European constitutional affairs. In 2006, he was elected Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, which he remained until the end of his period as an MEP, declining (to some surprise) to challenge for the leadership when Gary Titley stood down in 2008.
In 2003 his proposals to re-write the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure were largely accepted. In 2004–05, he was the co-rapporteur (with Iñigo Méndez de Vigo) for Parliament on the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. This report formed the basis of Parliament's official position on the treaty, which he was then invited to present to several national parliaments.
In 2005, he was appointed as Parliament's negotiator (along with Joseph Daul MEP) to broker a new system of parliamentary scrutiny over Commission implementing measures (under the previously much-criticised "comitology" procedure), which led to an agreement among the Council of ministers, the Commission and the Parliament in 2006 giving Parliament the right to veto quasi-legislative implementing measures. This represented a major increase in Parliament's powers over the Commission.
In 2007–08, he was again co-rapporteur with Iñigo Méndez de Vigo for Parliament on the Treaty of Lisbon, which replaced the constitutional treaty after two member states declined to ratify it, and was again rapporteur for a new overhaul of Parliament's procedures in 2009.
Throughout his career, Richard Corbett has been a strong advocate of EU reform and has a particular interest in improving democratic accountability by continuing to increase the European Parliament's power within the EU institutional system. Professor Juliet Lodge of Leeds University has named Corbett as one of five "movers and shakers" in the European Parliament who "have brought the European Parliament from being a mere talking shop to a legislature with genuine power".
In 2006 he served on the Independent Review of the governance of European Football, set up by several national governments and UEFA and chaired by the former Portuguese Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Arnaut. Corbett chaired the sub-group on political aspects. He has maintained an interest in the governance of football ever since, taking up a number of issues with UEFA.
He held a number of offices in the Labour Party. As well as being Deputy Leader of the Labour MEPs (EPLP), he was on the Regional Board (Yorkshire) and the National Policy Forum. He was Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe MEP group and elected national chair in 2009 succeeding Mary Creagh MP.
Richard Corbett is also the co-author of an eponymous academic textbook on the European Parliament (now the standard reference book on it across Europe) and several other publications (see below). He was the first MEP from any country to have a blog.
Corbett starred in the docudrama film “Do it like a European?” which won a prize at the international Winton Film Contest.
Richard Corbett lives in Saltaire, Yorkshire, a village which enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status (which Corbett helped campaign for) He had his constituency office in Leeds, where he shared premises with Hilary Benn MP.
Richard Corbett versus the UK Independence Party
Richard Corbett has been critical of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
In this context, he courted controversy in June 2004 with claims in The Independent newspaper of UKIP links with the far-right British National Party in the local elections: "In Yorkshire, where both the BNP and UKIP put up candidates, they appear to have come to an arrangement not to stand against one another".
Richard Corbett's pamphlet "25 Things You Didn't Know When You Voted For UKIP", published by Britain in Europe in 2004, was the subject of further controversy in October 2004, when UKIP demanded that the pamphlet be pulped, claiming that one item in the pamphlet "breaks a court order banning publication of details of a legal action involving one of the party's MEPs", namely the fraud case against Ashley Mote MEP. In practice, this gave further publicity to the pamphlet, which was not pulped, as it did not break any court order.
Following Ashley Mote’s imprisonment in September 2007 for fraud, Corbett called on the government to change the law which allowed the former UKIP MEP to be paid in full during his spell in jail. The Minister responsible for payment of MEPs (and MPs), Harriet Harman promised to look into the matter.
He lost his seat in the 2009 European Parliament elections, which saw a big fall in the Labour share of the vote in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal. The BNP took the seat. The BBC website carried the following comment from their European editor, Mark Mardell:
The saddest moment of the night: Labour MEP Richard Corbett lost his seat. Irrespective of party politics, there are some people who are good for politics as a whole. Mr Corbett, a decent, thoughtful politician, is also one of the few people who understand how the European Parliament actually works and explained it well. He'll be missed on all sides of the chamber.
Mark Mardell had previously referred to Richard Corbett as:
an example of a conscientious and hard working politician if ever there was one.
After the European Parliament
Corbett spent two months in Ireland from August to October 2009 helping (behind the scenes) the "Yes" campaign in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which resulted in an overwhelming 67% in favour.
In December 2009, he was invited to join the private office ("cabinet") of the first full-time President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, as his advisor on constitutional issues, but also handling his relations with the European Parliament and national parliaments, with the Committee of Regions and the Economic and Social Committee as well as helping on relations with some governments, including the UK.
In spring 2013, Corbett was shortlisted by the Labour Party as a possible candidate for the 2014 European Parliament elections. He came first in the subsequent ballot of Labour party members and will therefore be Labour's second candidate in Yorkshire & Humber, behind the sitting MEP Linda McAvan, in the 2014 election.
- ‘The European Union: How Does it Work?’ (3rd ed) with Profs Elizabeth Bomberg and John Peterson (2012, Oxford University Press) ISBN 978-0-19-957080-5 and ISBN 0-19-957080-9
- Corbett, Richard; [Francis]; Shackleton, Michael (2011), 'The European Parliament' (8 ed.), London: John Harper Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9564508-5-2. The same three co-authors have written every edition since the first in 1990.
- 'The Evolving Roles of the European Parliament and of National Parliaments' in ' EU Law after Lisbon' by Professors Piet Eeckhout, Andrea Biondi and Stephanie Ripley (2012, Oxford University Press) ISBN 978-0-19-964432-2
- 'Parameters of a Crisis' in 'The future of Economic Governance in the EU' (Policy Network, London, 2012)
- ‘President of the European Council, new kid on the block: asset or complication?’. In T. Christiansen, M. Shackelton and S. Vanhoonacker (eds), The European Union after the Lisbon Treaty. Maastricht: Maastricht Centre for European Governance, Maastricht Monnet Lecture Series Vol. 3 (2011).
- 'The Treaty of Maastricht: from conception to ratification' Longman - Cartermill Publishing (1993) ISBN 0-582-20906-4
- 'The European Parliament's Role in Closer European Integration', London, Macmillan (1998)ISBN 0-333-72252-3 and New York, St Martin's Press (1998) ISBN 0-312-21103-1. Reprinted in paperback by Palgrave, London (2001) ISBN 0-333-94938-2
- 'Electing Europe's First Parliament' Fabian tract, with Rod Northawl, Fabian Society, London (1977) ref no. 0307-7535. ISBN 978-0-7163-0449-4
- 'A Socialist Policy for Europe', pamphlet with Geoff Harris, introduction by thr Rt Hon Denis Howell MP. London, Labour Movement for Europe (1985)
- 'Progress and Prospects' (of the draft treaty on European Union) in Juliet Lodge (ed), Foreword by Altiero Spinelli; 'European Union: The European Community in Search of a Future' London, Macmillan (1986) ISBN 0-333-39739-8
- 'The 1985 Intergovernmental Conference and the Single European Act' in Roy Pryce (ed); The Dynamics of European Union', London, Croom Helm (1987) ISBN 0-7099-4327-X
- 'The European Parliament's new "Single Act" Powers, in 'Nieuw Europa' Magazine, year 15, nr 1 (1989), The Hague
- 'Representing the People', in A.Duff, J. Pinder and R. Pryce (eds); Maastricht and Beyond, London, Routledge (1994)
- 'The European Parliament and the Idea of European Representative Government' in John Pinder (ed), Foreword by Princess Margariet of the Netherlands; 'Foundations of Democracy in the European Union' London, Macmillan (1999) ISBN 0-333-77470-1 and New York, St Martin's Press (1999) ISBN 0-312-22296-3
- 'A Very Special Parliament: The European Parliament in the Twenty-First Century' in 'The Journal of Legislative Studies, Vol 8' (2002). Frank Cass. 1357-2334
- 'Combatting Mythology and Changing Reality: the Debate on the Future of Europe', London, Labour Movement for Europe (2003)
- 'The EU - Who makes the decisions? A guide to the process and the UK's role'. London, European Movement (2006)
- 'The European Parliament 2004-2009' in Juliet Lodge (ed), 'The 2009 elections to the European Parliament'. Palgrave macmillan 2010 ISBN 978-0-230-23040-8
- Numerous newspaper articles and articles in academic journals
- organised by the European Media Network EurActiv, see EurActiv.com/UK40
- "Richard Corbett MEP website holding page 2013". Richardcorbett.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "CV - Richard Corbett MEP". Richardcorbett.org.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
- "UPDATED: Movers and Shakers: The making of the European Parliament «". Jmecelabblog.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
- Richard Corbett 25 Things You Didn't Know When You Voted For UKIP
- Bonnie Malkin, "MEP jailed for benefit fraud", Daily Telegraph, 5 September 2007
- "European Council - Cabinet". European-council.europa.eu. Retrieved 2011-12-11.