Tuesday, July 18, 2006

End of term review

And so here we are, the end of the Parliamentary year at last. The EU is supposedly still in shock from the no votes from the Netherlands and France last year, but it does not seem to have deterred our friends in Brussels and Strasbourg from forging ahead and providing fortress with much entertainment.

The issue that our beloved MEPs here in Brussels seemed to get most hepped up about this year was the whole EPP issue, and whether the Tories should stay or go. I have never seen so many people get so worked up about the issue, believing it to be a vote winner/loser depending on the point of view – supposedly the issue that will make or break Cameron’s honeymoon as Tory leader. When the issue finally came to a long awaited climax, the papers gave the “pledge fulfilling” decision to leave in 2009 the same amount of column inches as "Minor Earthquake in Peru, 3 injured”

The Parliament also said goodbye to North West MEP and all round good guy Terry Wynn after 17 years of loyal service. His recent send off in Strasbourg would not have been amiss in an all singing, all dancing performance of Cabaret. Not only was Europe minister Geoff Hoon spotted singing karaoke to the tune of New York New York, he was flanked by a mix of Tory and Labour MEPs kicking their legs in tune. However, the winner of Comedy Moment of the Evening, must surely go jointly to Roger Helmer and Sir Robert Atkins; the latter was seen desperately scurrying around trying to get a snapshot of the former singing his heart out to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

The Parliament starts its six week recess this week, with MEPs safe in the knowledge that they can never be criticised for excess holiday, while their constituents toil away with 24 days a year, as the Westminster recess still beats it by double.

In September I look forward to more comedy moments from UKIP, such as Thomas Wise (who everyone knows is wise by name… er)and Mike Natrass coming up to the Tory 14th floor shaking their fists at and chasing a certain UK MEP assistant who was alleged to have been leaking top secret information, hic, that he overheard in the Mickey Mouse bar to blogs in Westminster. Luckily for the hapless chap, he was not there and our two heros were pacified by other assistants; more self-absorbed moments from the Tory MEPs as they never seem to realise that no one in Westminster really cares about what they think (“When I was a minister...) – note how many MEPs didn’t manage to get places on Cameron's new policy groups; more conceited Labour MEPs such as when they tried to give the Tories advice on the EPP issue, and fell for the trap of thinking that a) the Conservatives would actually listen to them, and b) that any papers were actually going to publish any more about this horse that had been flogged ad nauseam. Give me Terry Wynn’s leaving do any day; Finally, please no more Lib Dem leaders emailing their Jewish constituents telling them to "wallow in their own filth".

But in the meantime it is time for holidays generously sponsored by Greek shipping magnates and titled party donors.

The Grapevine

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Someone needs media training...

A Press Release has just been released from Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott in Brussels, with a first line that probably should have been better thought out:

"I am involved with several cases of child abduction in the UK"

Obviously, the press release goes on to state that our Ed is involved doing lots of great work to try and sort out these tragedies, but I think the Tories probably need to work on their language skills - this sort of thing can make a serious issue sound very silly...

Mannekin Pis

Euro-loving sceptics

I have been in and around the European Parliament for quite a while now, and some things, no matter how much I hear them, still annoy me. Mainly the French and their annoyance with the Brits 'ruining' everything for the rest of Europe with their nasty scepticism. "If you don't like it here, why don't you just cut your losses and leave?" Sometimes I am tempted. But it is not the French themselves that annoy me, it is the look of disgust I get when I criticise the EU project.

However, what I really don't understand is why they don't like the sceptics so much. In many ways, I see us free-market Europsceptics as more 'Europhile' than the Euro-loving French. In my opinion the overarching aim of the EU is to provide an internal/common market, with no barriers to the free movement of people, goods or services - great! We need to trust that our neighbours can produce the quality goods and services that we require, and if they don't, then the market will weed them out. I sign up to this part of the EU wholeheartedly. This is what the EU should be all about.

Yet when it comes down to it, the greatest barriers to this were the French and German elites, and still they have the nerve to whinge about the Brits being Eurosceptic and not signing up to the project. If I remember correctly, the British Tories were one of the few componants of the 'centre-right' EPP who actually voted for the undiluted Services Directive (no one followed our lead), whereas the old European States, who are also the most Europhile, watered it down. If the old Member States want to protect their markets, fine - I believe in the competition of ideas as well as the competition of businesses - just don't then complain when we want to protect our sovreignty from the harmonising straightjacket that is the EU.

I apologise for this post/rant, but I recently got into an argument with a very sleazy Frenchman and I felt that I needed to get this off my chest!

The Grapevine