Thursday, March 31, 2005
...young lords: these war-like principles
Do not throw from you: and you, my lords, farewell:
Share the advice betwixt you; if both gain, all
The gift doth stretch itself as ’tis receiv’d,
And is enough for both."
All's Well That Ends Well, Act I. Scene II.
For reasons to be entered into forthwith, the post count on this blog has dwindled in recent months. In short, I have been searching for a suitable way to bring the blog to a conclusion synchronicitous with the end of my time in Brussels. With a small degree of serendipity, a recent comment posted onto the Black Watch entry from waaaaay back (see below somewhere) gave me the opening I was looking for (I do, however, apologise if this post errs on the mammoth side of things). Allow me to replicate the second half of the comment from "The Fonctionnaire" (I have answered the first part under the original comment):
I assume you are employed as a "permanent" temporary agent by the political group in question. I find it quite dismal that you display the sheer "bite the hand that feeds you" hypocrisy that you do, dressing it up as the epitome of wit and sophistication (not being bound by the Staff Regulation you can pass on any insider information with impunity whilst drawing a salary and attempting to carve out a reputation for yourself). The rest of us, however, take our principles (and contractual obligations) a little more seriously.
This criticism requires a rather vulgar, but apt, American saying: "When you assume, you make an ass out of 'u' and me". Firstly, I'm nothing like "permanent" - I'm leaving Brussels for the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in ten days, and this European Parliament job was merely something to fill the gap. I wanted to do something worthy with these six months - I don't work for a group; I have been working for a specific MEP, who is a committed Eurosceptic, whose views on the EU mirror my own, and who is one of only maybe three MEPs for whom I would have even considered working. It has been a privilege to be able to act on my principles for the last six months and undertake work and research that attacks the EU's waste and corruption and supports my own country's cause. I have nothing but praise for "The hand that feeds me"; indeed, it is somewhere to the bottom of my nibbling agenda.
I don't think I've been indiscreet in this blog; I certainly haven't revealed anything that isn't in the public domain, I've merely endeavoured to give my own perspective on things. I don't have a contract to breach in any case; however, "carving out a career" is absolutely the last thing I have been aiming to do here. This is it for politics and I; one thing I have learned (or rather, had confirmed) since working out here is that most politicians are unpleasant, unprincipled, self-serving careerists, who are unhesitating in wielding a knife and all too reticent in following their principles if it puts their career in question. Count how many members of the EPP (including UK Conservatives) voted against the Barroso Commission last year. So few MEPs out here are worthy of any respect at all; politics simply isn't a game I'd want to play. That's one of the reasons why working for a genuine, principled politician has been such a pleasure.
The truth is quite the opposite of The Fonctionnaire's assertion: I'm joining the Army as I believe in the UK; it has been very good to me; and I want to serve and protect my country. I believe in my principles enough that I'm about to enter a profession where I might end up dying for them - not to be too melodramatic about it - how much more seriously am I supposed to take them?
Working here has certainly helped me solidify, or firm up, my principles. My anti-EUism has has been hardened to a diamond point. The EU is a corrupt, inefficient and, frankly, unpleasant organisation. I could write far more pages than I have about financial irregularity, wastage, corruption, arrogance and the like; however, others have done so far better than I. Ultimately, my objection is this: the UK being run by largely unelected foreigners who do not have our own national best interest at heart. To quote Daniel Hannan MEP:
No country has contributed as has Britain to the happiness of mankind. We were responsible for the end of slavery, for the introduction of civilisation to much of the New World, for the establishment of global free trade. Twice, we fought for the freedom and nationhood of all Europeans against tyranny. These were our achievements as an independent and self-governing people.
This sums it up, for me: above all, the British people deserve the right to live under their own laws and their own accountable, elected representatives in Parliament. The EU is bad for Britain; it is bad for our economy in terms of red tape and the like - however, one thing is dangerously clear to me having worked out here: the EU is headed towards a superstate. Outside the British media, European politicians are quite open about this; that is why I reject the "we can reform it" argument. The United States of Europe plan has been on the cards since day one and we are not going to stop it now. All we can do is leave before it becomes reality, as it means an end to British parliamentary democracy, and an end to our country as an independent nation state.
So, that's me. I hope anyone reading this has enjoyed the blog; you can vote for it in the Guardian Weblog Awards if you like - many thanks to whoever it was that nominated me. Wish me luck at Sandhurst, and for our country's sake, please vote No in the European Constitution referendum.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Happy St David's Day.
The four Welsh MEPs have circulated daffodils to all MEP lockers in Parliament. My sneaky colleague, however, had already bagged ours! So, I went to Kilroy's locker and stole his. I'm sure the loss will provide a whole chat-show of emotional trauma.
"Researchers stole my daffodil!" - a thirty minute show featuring defeated-by-life, forty-something housewives whose St David's Day daffodils have been cunningly thieved by European Parliament researchers.
Still, in tribute to the orange slurry man, THIS LINK is very funny. Great Bob Dylan impression, too.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Bush seeks to renew German ties
From the BBC.
Does this mean the USA is going to invade Tie Rack?
Monday, February 21, 2005
Dubya Comes To Town
I haven't posted for a while as I've been in Rome, watching Wales whup Wop backside, and back in the UK, for minor surgery, thereby bagging a week off. Upon my return to Brussels, I was surprised that the Belgian police had deemed me worthy of deploying quite so many riot vans - they've blocked off streets, and wagonloads of armoured coppers are zipping up and down the main roads. It turns out, however, that they weren't there for me at all. Some low IQ'd, gung-ho Texan with an ill-thought out foreign policy is visiting Brussels, and they were worried he might go on a rampage through the Schuman area, looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction under every shrub.
Pah! Enough of the monobraincelled warmonger. Far more importantly for the UK, the cowardly, terrorist-surrendering Spanish have ratified the EU Constitution by referendum. No-one is surprised; Spain have done bloody well out of Europe - annually, they receive a fortune from EU Region 1 funding. Despite their record of biting the hand that feeds them (cf. Spain taxing the British for importing gunpowder during the Napoleonic wars), they certainly weren't stupid enough to spurn the billions of euros poured into their economy by the EU every year.
Of far more serious note is the BBC's reporting of the referendum result. They have been consistently and persistently pushing the original New Labour line on the Constitution - that it is a "tidying up" exercise, and nothing more. Even the Government have desisted from this line of argument, but still the BBC push on. They don't even use the word "constitution" in the headline: "Spain voters" have approved a new "EU charter", apparently. Reading on,
"The EU constitution is designed to streamline the EU's decision-making process after the bloc brought in 10 new members - mostly from central and eastern Europe - last May."
Oh really? So all that business about an EU Foreign Minister; transferring more powers from national governments to Brussels; giving up national vetos; increased legislation and bureaucracy; increased EU control over employment policy, social security policy, competition policy, economic policy, trade policy and energy policy, are all secondary and necessary to a "tidying up exercise"?
What rubbish. Typically, the BBC are acting as a propaganda machine and pushing their own pro-EU agenda. This is bad journalism at best, and a blatent lie at worst. The worst aspect is that the BBC are a trusted information source for many people who don't really know about or understand the way the EU works, and this sort of whitewashing misreporting poses a real threat to the "No" campaign in the UK.
It's enough to make me wish I were American. I'd rather have George W Bush as my President than have my country's sovereignty spirited away through the back door and gifted wholesale to the undemocratic, mindlessly bureaucratic and socialistic EU.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Friday, February 04, 2005
Wales v England
Here it is. The drinking high-point of the year. And, given that we might actually have a chance of winning this year, I'm rather excited. I'd still say that the hated Saes are the favourites; their front five is awesome and if we fail to keep the ball we're going to get creamed. No room for mistakes; they're a better side than Wales and they should win. I expect them to. But: if we can get the ball wide and keep it in hand, it's anyone's game.
I'll get drunk either way.
I leave you with words from a glorious product of the Welsh Outside Half Factory, Phil Bennett:
"Look at what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our houses but only live in them for a fortnight a year. And what have they given us in return? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English - and that's who you are playing this afternoon!"
We're shortly approaching one of the regular "Constituency Weeks" for MEPs, which are coloured yellow in the Parliament schedules, and are thus snappily nickednamed "yellow weeks". These are weeks where no plenary sessions or committees are held, giving MEPs the chance to, er, work in their constituencies, obviously. I'm sure they'll be haring around their Euro-designated "regions" like greyhounds on speed, canvassing like demons, propagating the Euro-dream with statesmanlike pearls of wisdom cast forth like seeds upon good soil, and in no way simply taking a week off to do their own thing.
The interesting thing at work next week will be MEP-spotting. MEPs have no reasons to be here next week: no plenary, no committees, no receptions, nothing. Nada. Rien. Those who are here, then, are essentially milking their travel allowances. The great scam MEPs have is that no matter what method of travel they use to sally between their homes and Strasbourg/Brussels, they are paid a supremely generous set fee per mile. So, even if they travel by bicycle at minimal cost, they will be paid the same as if they have flown first-class. This obvious result of this is that the cheaper an MEP travels, the more money they trouser from travel allowance. So, those here next week are unlikely to be here for any other reason other than making a cool thousand euros or so from the travel fund.
Nice work if you can get it.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
The phrase "nail on the head" comes to mind
I've poached this from a forum on which I post occasionally. The author Frederick Forsyth received a surprise letter from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) inviting him to become an 'East of England Ambassador'. Read EEDA's letter below and Mr Forsyth's response in which he turns down such a gilt-edged opportunity. His response is superb, and sums up the EU to perfection.
Dear Mr Forsyth
East of England - space for ideas
A chance to contribute
By 2010 the East of England Region region aims to be one of the top regions in Europe. Made up of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, the East of England is a diverse and fascinating region and one that you are closely associated with.
Key to its future success will be our ability to promote the East of England on the world stage. One way that our goal will be achieved, for the good of all who live, work, visit and invest in the region, is by building a strong brand for the region. This brand is called 'East of England - space for ideas'.
In 2004 we, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) have some very exciting plans for the brand. And this is where we would like your help. A diverse mix of companies, individuals and organisations has already committed their assistance, and as a recognised member of the regional community I would like to invite you to become an East of England ambassador.
I will call your offices over the next week to explore the possibility of setting up a 15-minute East of England - space for ideas introduction meeting to talk you through both the commercial and non-commercial opportunities available. Please be assured that any commitment you do make will take up a minimum amount of your time. If, in the meantime, you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me on 0845 226 0803/07771 964 595 or email email@example.com.
Through collective effort and commitment we hope:
'to make the East of England a world-class economy, renowned for its knowledge base, the creativity and enterprise of its people and the quality of life of all who live and work here' East of England strategic review goal 2002
Ambitious as it might be, we are all 100% committed to our goal and would ask you to recognise both the personal and community based rewards of investing in the East of England's future.
I look forward to speaking to you and/or your representative over the coming weeks.
On behalf of East of England - space for ideas
Dear Mr Caruth
For some ten years, since I became fascinated by the sheer duplicity and mendacity of the Europe Project I have studied it with some intensity and no little research. I presume you are in the same position, so we need not fool each other.
We both know that, for the Europe of (say) 2010 (your own choice) there are only two viable visions. One is what we thought, back in 1972, we were being inducted into until we learned we had been comprehensively lied to. This was the Europe De Gaulle had referred to as 'Une Union des Patries.' Brits have always translated this as 'A Europe of Nations'. It is what the Conservative Party has always claimed to support and what New Labour also pretends to seek, though once again it is lying.
Basically, a confederation of self-governing and sovereign nation-states who have chose by free volition to cooperate towards a goal of enhanced mutual prosperity by the creation of a huge Free Market. That vision was effectively terminated by euthanasia in the Maastricht Treaty, though fools and liars continue to employ the phrase.
The other vision can best be described in the title of a recent pamphlet from the Comite des Regions in Brussels: 'A Europe of Cities and Regions in an Integrated Continent.' This is a Europe where so-often pooh-poohed words like 'ever closer union', 'complete political integration' and United States of Europe, have become literal realities. That clearly is the vision to which you and yours aspire with self-denying fanaticism.
But like all Euro-integrationists, you are being less than frank with the public. Behind the Utopian propaganda lie several less happy truths. The creation of the USE and the continuation of the nation-state are quite simply mutually incompatible. The creation of the USE must mean the End-of-Nation, now at last being openly mentioned in print, though a long-held dream of the Post-Modernists.
Now I happen to be one of the (approx) ninety per cent of the citizens of the UK who regard this country with love, affection and loyalty. I find the end-of-nation, with its concomitant partner end-of-democracy anathema. So I look carefully at how this nightmare might be achieved.
Clearly not by free vote, by fair referendum. Therefore, as ever, by deception, mendacity, dissimulation and fraud. But via which vehicles? One is clearly the abrogation and abolition of the national currency. There has never been a single example in history of a nation abolishing its currency to adopt the currency of a larger neighbouring unit which was still a self-governing country ten years later.
Second, there is abolition of the national constitution, or its supercession by another alien constitution. Parliamentary democracy is the only known governmental system which requires as an absolute need the consent of the governed. All other systems are variants of dictatorship. What Giscard d'Estaing has prepared (and Gisela Stuart MP recently confirmed this in her brilliant Fabian Society pamphlet) is a blueprint for oligarchy, warmly supported by all the oligarths of Europe and the UK. That is why Tony Blair dare not permit the people to speak.
The third way of terminating the nation-state is break-up. That is your chosen road. If you can break provincial England into eight parts, an unavoidable development must then be the abolition of District, Shire, and Borough as units of real local government. That is a given, even admitted by Prescott in an unguarded moment.
The second unavoidable consequence must be the reduction to irrelevance of the national government and its Parliament at Westminster. But there must be two levels of government, for the Region cannot be a nation-state on its own. It must defer to something bigger than itself. That 'something' if not Westminster, Crown in Parliament, can only be the Federal Government of the USE in Brussels. QED.
So when you say to me: 'By 2010 the East of England region aims to be one of the top regions in Europe,' you should, if you were to be scrupulously honest, phrase it thus: 'By 2010, following the abolition of this and other outdated nation-states, and in a New Europe of devolved regional territories, the East of England region....' etc.
Your problem is not me but Abraham Lincoln. 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all of the time.' Regionalism, behind its mask of local democracy, enhanced prosperity for all, but in truth standing for millions more unaccountable gravy-slurping jobsworths, has got to fool enough of the people enough of the time; i.e. until the referendum, which will be as rigged as Prescott and Blair can fix it.
But you run into a group of people far more numerous than yourself, just as committed to the retention of England as you are to its disappearance, just as smart and just as moneyed. Before the fight is over you and yours will have learned the hard way that this old country of ours is not yet prepared to be led into the knacker's yard.
So, Mr Caruth, until Philippi, ave atque vale.
Frederick Forsyth - 27 February 2004
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Belgian Red Cross poster seen in Parliament:
"Immense vague de solidarité pour l'Asie".
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
An e-mail from Polish MEPs
I just received this email from the Polish League of Families; I thought it fairly pertinent, and it's attacking the vile Martin Schulz, so I asked for (and was given) permission to reproduce it in full. There's a wider point to be made here about the way in which the EU plays free-and-easy in the message it sends out: be it perceived Holocaust-revisionism; to surpressing its opponents (see posts passim); or be it exaggerating the EU's role in history (the current propoganda is that it was the EU that ensured peace in Europe since 1945 - nothing to do with the USA or NATO, obviously).
The whole process is redolent of far darker times and I consider it important to flag such things to people's attention. God knows the EU spends millions of euros a year pumping out its own propaganda in order to con voters Europe-wide; it's yet another aspect of the EU juggernaut that terrifies me.
From: ROGALSKI Boguslaw
Sent: 25 January 2005 17:29
To: MEP; ASSISTANTS
Subject: An appeal to reject a revisionist account of German history
An appeal to reject a revisionist account of German history
The Sixtieth Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp will be commemorated on January 27, 2005 at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. Most members of the European Parliament feel that it is important to remember the past in order to never allow the kind of horrendous acts against humanity that Hitler's Germany committed during World War II. It is a historical fact that Germany, in the name of National Socialism (NAZI), exterminated millions of innocent people of different backgrounds including Jews, Poles, Roma, Slavic peoples, Catholic clergy, and many other nations, peoples, and individuals that were deemed subhuman or useless to the German race in the view of National Socialists.
Martin Schulz, a German member and Chairman of the Socialists in the EP, in his Oral Questions (O-0089/2004,O-0090/2004), commemorates the 60th anniversary of the opening of the gates of Auschwitz extermination camp on 27 January 1945 and asks the Council and the Commission of how aware they are of the fact that the fight with Anti-Semitism and Racism is not over. His resolution (B6-0069/2005), however, gives a revisionist account of the very history which we are commemorating. Namely, his resolution contains such misleading statements such as "the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the gates of the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland." Perhaps, like other misguided revisionist historians, Mr. Schulz is trying to rewrite history and shift the blame from Germany for the annihilation of the Central European Jewish population to some unspecified NAZIs. There is no trace, in his resolution, that it was the German III Reich, German National Socialists (NAZIs), or Hitler's Germany that built the camps and exterminated innocent human beings.
We pose new questions to our colleagues in this Parliament in this debate:
Why is it that 60 years after the fact, some members of this Parliament want to give a false account of the Holocaust and ignore the fact that many nations and groups of people were murdered alongside their Jewish neighbours, that it was in fact, National Socialist Germany that committed these great crimes against humanity and not some "extermination camp in Poland"?
The joint resolution that will be voted on January 27, unfortunately, was construed to leave the same revisionism that was drafted by the Socialists. Namely, the fact, that it was a German death camp, was omitted.
We urge you to vote against the joint resolution and to vote for the resolution, by IND/DEM, which concisely depicts the true historical account of these tragic moments in European Twentieth Century history.
Polish Delegation - IND/DEM
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Please give freely, unless you're British
"I hate ingratitude more in a man
than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,
or any taint of vice whose strong corruption
inhabits our frail blood."
We received two emails in our inbox today; one advertising the Belgian Red Cross blood donation stand in the Parliament today. The other reminded us that, as British nationals, we are barred from giving blood due to the BSE crisis.
I suspect they're using BSE as an excuse to cover up the fact that British blood is simply far too strong for your average European to handle.
Hmm. In amongst all the general anti-EU complaining, I thought I'd be nice to nominate my favourite MEP; i.e. the one with whom I most enjoy working. Also, I suppose it gives (some, meagre) profile to good politicians who, let's face it, wouldn't be recognised by your average pleb if the politico in question ran up to them and slapped them in the face with a still-damp haddock.
Runners-up medals to Michal Kaminski, Chris Heaton-Harris and Roger Helmer, but the winner has to be Czech MEP Ivo Strejcek. He's a stupendously pleasant chap, always happy to chat, and not to mention politically very sound as far as the EU and the new Constitution goes. The Czech MEPs played a blinder in the recent Constitution vote, with 17 out of 24 voting 'No'.
The lanyard I have for my Parliament pass reads "No to the Constitution", produced by the Czech ODS Party - I made a joke about Mr Strejcek's (he's the ODS chief whip), and the next day he brought me down a handful to distribute. Thoroughly nice man.
I can't imagine Phil Bradbourn (Tory chief whip) doing the same for a random Czech researcher...
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Highly suspect reverse-metaphor
The party structure within the European Parliament is specifically designed to ensure maximum pro-EU co-operativeness in all concerned. There are three main groups: the EPP-ED (Christian Democrat / Centre-"right"), ALDE (Liberals), and the Party of European Socialists. On top of that, you've got your fringe nutters like the Greens, the Green Left (tautology, I know, I know), and Independence & Democracy (UKIP). To be fair, describing the EPP-ED as "centre-right" is giving them too much credit: they're centrist and federalist and I see no difference between them and the socialists - they want the same thing, a federal Europe, they just disagree on the precise method of how to achieve that end.
As I say, the system is designed to shaft those parties who won't play Europhile ball; make trouble by going your own way, and your funding and plenary speaking time get vastly reduced - the bigger the Party, the more cash and speaking time they receive. UKIP get few of either, sitting as they do with Independence & Democracy - and as such they like to attack the Conservatives for their membership of the federalist EPP-ED(albeit under very strained terms and special circumstances).
All of which leads me to my tenuous metaphor in reverse; as I dragged my hungover arse into work this morning through the Brussels drizzle, hunched under my EPP-ED golfing umbrella, the thought struck me - my umbrella usage was almost the Conservatives' situation in reverse. In the same way that my EPP-ED umbrella kept me dry (remove it and I get wet), the Conservatives' position under the EPP-ED makes them Wet; however, remove that EPP-ED umbrella and the funding would slow to a trickle, leaving them high and dry.
I did say it was a highly suspect reverse-metaphor.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Guns Don't Kill People, MEPs do
Bonus points if anyone can guess which Conservative MEP has asked to borrow my copy of the Goldie Lookin Chain debut album, 'Greatest Hits', after I walked into his office on Tuesday to find him listening to their recent top pop smash, Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do?
Friday, January 14, 2005
So this is the pro-Europeans' secret plan!
"All the member states must ratify the constitution for it to come into effect, and several, including eurosceptic Britain, will hold referendums on it over the next two years. Veteran pro-Europe MEP and co-president of the Green party in parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit said:
'Blair will do his referendum last. Twenty-four countries will have ratified it. Blair, when it comes to England's turn, will tell them: listen, it's very simple; either we say yes or we get out. And he wins with 70%.'"
January Strasbourg, Part Two
The European Parliament voted in favour of the constitution. This is about as newsworthy a story as "Dog Bites Man". What did make front-page news in the press, Europe-wide (Das Bild, El Pais), was our little protest. As you might be able to see below, they worked brilliantly. All those "Not In My Name" posters? I made them! Well, more accurately, with a rather pithy irony I ripped the logo straight off the Stop The War campaign website and made them into anti-EU posters, and then colleagues and I spent all of Tuesday co-ordinating the various protests. One hundred posters in all, it made rather an impact.
The day as a whole could not have gone better. It started with the MEPs protesting in the chamber, as one may see below. The whole affair then moved to outside the chamber, where ten or so of our researchers were waiting with "Not In My Name" t-shirts and The Constitution Monster (one of our chaps in a werewolf suit, wearing the slogan "Devouring Democracy" and brandishing copies of the constitution). It's fair to say the media went for it hook, line and sinker - cameras everywhere, MEPs were interviewed into the ground. We then unfurled a huge banner, wrestled with security guards who were attempting to take it off us, and headed outside for part two of the protest.
The office part of the Strasbourg building is like a big donut. There is a large courtyard in the middle, where the Yes campaign had planned media interviews to a backdrop of balloons and a triumphant small band. Instead, they conducted their interviews to a succession of 'No' campaigners, banners, t-shirts and a shower of confetti - the latter of which drew admiring gasps from onlookers, believing it to be part of the festivities - only to be crushed upon seeing the confetti all bore the phrase, "No!".
None of the footage taken will be used in the 'Yes' campaign propaganda, that's for sure. Mission accomplished.
The one black part of the day (vote result aside, but no-one's surprised at that) was the conduct of security. They were clearly utterly unprepared for such protests, and resorted to violence to try and restore order - not only did they try to stop protesters carrying 'No' placards back into the building whilst letting 'Yes' campaigners straight through, but far worse, two female UKIP researchers were physically assaulted by security guards. The behaviour of security was an absolute disgrace.
UKIP's protests, I might add, were a disaster - stopped by security at the first hurdle, and they had their banners confiscated. It needs to be pointed out that Wednesday's protests were all Tory-led - at last the Party has done something right on Europe (although I have used the picture of UKIP members holding up Tory-produced and -organised posters, below - I thought it appropriate!).
Finally, to sum up the bungling incompetence of these pro-EU idiots; the finale of the day was supposed to be the release of huge, helium-filled 'Yes' balloons. The reason they weren't released? The 'Yes' organisers had neglected to obtain permission from Strasbourg airport, as the building is under the flightpath. Muppets.
Still, 'No' campaign One, 'Yes' campaign Nil.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
January Strasbourg, Part One
To borrow a line from Blackadder, I'm happier than a Frenchman who has just invented a pair of self-removing trousers. Tomorrow is the vote on the Méndez de Vigo-Corbett report on the Constitution. Last night and all of today have been a whirlwind of organising publicity stunts and minority reports; co-ordinating and liaising with MEP's; and generally fizzing around the Strasbourg building like a blue-arsed fly. It has been firstly enormous fun, but secondly, and more importantly, I'm actively involved in opposing "this fucking Constitution" (a Polish MEP, to me, earlier) - something about which I care passionately.
Were the referenda Europe-wide to support the Constitution - were unparalleled, unprecented, emphatic "Yes" votes to wing their way from the four corners of the continent, ringing democratic endorsements of the document from all twenty-five nations; then, I would accept the Constitution with a heavy heart, as the will of the people. Instead, what we are facing is an undemocratic farce; the Constitution is being voted through by MEP's and implemented by Commissioners and the European Court of Justice without so much as a single referendum ballot being cast in any country, let alone the Treaty itself being ratified by the governments of nation states. It's unfair; it's undemocratic; it is wrong, plain and simple.
That's why I'm so fired up and full of energy, with a spring in my step and a gleam in my eye - in spite of lack of sleep and a mild hangover (last night's evening meal was technically-speaking a working dinner, but soon degenerated into cigars and port). I'm getting an opportunity to make my voice heard in protest against something that I believe will be a mortal blow to my country's independence, democracy and sovereignty. This opportunity is something that most UK citizens are being denied by the EU - and I intend to take full advantage. The protest will be small, and almost certainly will be meaningless in the long run - the vote will still pass. But at least we can use our voices before it's too late - and if we irritate the bastards that are doing this to our country, and ruin their self-congratulatory little party in the meantime? All the better.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Being a sad politicogeek, I'm a regular contributor to the Liberal Democrat Youth forum. The reason for this being (as you may realise) that I'm fairly combative in nature, and arguing with those who have totally different viewpoints to one's own is far more enjoyable than arguing minutiae with those who, in essence, agree with you.
Still, I've been nominated as "Most Amusing Troll" on there, receiving such high praise as:
"Most amusing troll has to go to Foxy. He may be a shameless bastard, but he's still bloody funny when people just don't get the point."
I'm not sure whether I'm more proud of the "amusing" bit or the "shameless bastard" bit! Either way, the point of this post is to publicise the site, as it's a very decent level of argument with some entirely pleasant folks. Recommended.
They couldn't be more wrong on Europe, mind you.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
We in our office are trying to get a poster we've produced blown up to A2 size. Not hard, you'd think...
You take the original A4-size poster to the copy shop, you say, "Fifty prints on A2 size, please, Johnny Belgian". Poirot takes the original, and the next day he hands you back fifty prints in the size you requested, in exchange for a fistful of grubby euros.
Or so one would think... Instead, the following conversation ensues:
"Hello, I'd like this A4 poster blown up to A2 size, please."
"We don't have A2 in Belgium."
"Are you sure? It's a very common size."
"We don't do it."
"Can you recommend anywhere that might be able to do this for us?"
Belgian customer service in microcosm.
Happy New Year
Am back in Brussels. Yay.
It's only a five minute walk from my flat to the Parliament; I must say, however, that the local Belgian dog-walkers have surpassed themselves this morning. Quite how they managed to achieve such a thick, even and widespread layer of dog shit on the pavement all the way from my front door to the small park outside Parliament, I don't know. Impressive work (not to mention providing a handy simile when talking about the EU - i.e. "the EU is about as effective and efficient as a Brussels pavement cleaner").
Tough as I am on Belgium - not to mention the causes of Belgium - I have to say that they do whup our backsides on health care. I had some weird, alcohol-related allergic reaction before Christmas (much facial redness, lack of breathing. All rather irritating), which necessitated a visit to hospital. Thirty seconds after arrival at A&E, I was whisked into a cubicle, given a couple of shots, and was right as rain within an hour. The nurses were unrushed and attentive, the doctor was polite and spoke better English than the last doctor I saw in the UK, and the hospital was clean and tidy. I was happy to pay. When, O when, are we going to realise the folly of having an NHS and give our country the private healthcare system it deserves?
I have been roped into next week's Strasbourg debacle. Am not too fussed, as it should be rather a laugh - the Parliament is voting on the Méndez de Vigo-Corbett Report. This is a report by two MEPs on the new Constitution, which turned out wholly in favour of it and was - shock, horror - adopted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee by 20 votes to three, with three abstentions. Incidentally, Richard Corbett is a member of the Party of European Socialists (i.e. a Labour MEP) and is one of the most vile, treasonous federasts in the whole Parliament.
The text concludes that "the Constitution is, globally, a good compromise and a vast improvement on the existing treaties which will, once implemented, bring about visible benefits for citizens". The committee's report will now be forwarded for discussion by all MEPs in the January plenary session. It is certain to be adopted by the overwhelmingly pro-integration Parliament; a huge fete is being planned in celebration of the inevitable "Yes" vote. Various protests and objections are being planned by Eurosceptics of different parties, and I am very much looking forward to getting involved in these.
It should be enormous fun winding up the people who are signing away our sovereignty and nationhood without so much as a by-your-leave, but one should not lose sight of the enormous implications of this move, when coupled with the recent statements by many new Commissioners that they will act "in the spirit of the Constitution". without so much as a single referendum result in, the EU establishment is implementing the new Constitution by stealth. The political elite of Europe are bypassing democracy, regardless of the wishes of their citizens, in order to further their own political aims. It sums up the arrogance of the EU Empire Builders, and is a complete travesty of democracy. And yet, not a whisper in the British press.
One can't help but fear the battle for nationhood and sovereignty is lost, with such an overwhelmingly pro-EU consensus amongst the political elite, and such widespread public apathy on the subject.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Last day of the year
This is it - the final Friday before leaving Brussels for the Christmas break. No more work until January 3rd. I can't wait to get back to the UK to enjoy hills, homecooked food, and no Belgians. Eurostar on Sunday.
It's been a very good week - I managed to avoid the Strasbourg carnival, so have remained in Brussels, partying away my colleague D's last week (he's found a job in the House of Lords, the jammy sod). Brussels is invariably dead during the Strasbourg plenary weeks, so we've enjoyed no queues at the sandwich bar, free squash courts at the gym, and minimal work. The hardest-working member of our office this week was the couch, which regularly had to support one or other of our hungover arses.
There have been some notable events this week. Europhile Timothy Kirkhope was elected leader of the Conservative delegation, defeating the excellent Chris Heaton-Harris and the raving leftist Giles Chichester. How the Tories ever expect to counter the UKIP threat by electing Wet pro-Europeans to key positions, is beyond me.
The Conservatives clearly expect to counter Labour on crime, however, by being even more draconian and wasteful on the issue than Labour are themselves. Predictions are that the upcoming General Election will be a "domestic safety" election similar to the recent US one; i.e. anti-crime and counter-terrorism. To that end, the Tories have announced their support for Labour's massively expensive, pointless and grossly illiberal ID card scheme. I haven't yet spoken to a fellow Conservative who approves of this step. ID cards are contrary to personal freedom, and stink of the worst kind of nanny statism. The Tory bigwigs clearly believe that aping Labour at every turn is the way to win the election - cleverly alienating their key party workers in the process. I despair.
Finally, the Turkey summit is going on this week in Brussels. I'm not going to go into the issue of whether Turkey should join (my gut reaction is against it on grounds that we should be trying to cut back the EU, not extend it; however Turkey joining would bugger utterly any further social integration, and that's a good thing). What I would say, however, is that the Belgian Police are out in force: riot vans on every corner; vicious barbed-wire fences blocking off roads; glowing orange-jacketed policemen wandering the streets, glowering at passing pedestrians; that type of thing. The area around the Council of Ministers building is in virtual lockdown, making it rather difficult to get to the pubs in that area; very annoying. Also, I'd better make sure that when I'm there, I cross the road at the delineated points and only when the little man turns green; otherwise I could be descended upon and truncheoned to death by a horde of bored, fluorescent-robed Belgian coppers.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Yet more bureaucracy
Have just received a scathing email from the Direction Generale de la Presidence Direction de L'information et des Telecommunications(I kid you not). Apparently - Jesu forfend - I have neglected to return the form stating that:
1) I am the 2nd Assistant in my office,
2) I do use the phone,
3) I promise not to tell anyone the Top Secret code that allows me to make international phone calls, even though everyone else in the building has a code, and anyone with half a brain can go into the MEP's office and make international calls without needing to input a code anyway.
The best part of all is that I am listed as "2nd Assistant", and my name is omitted from the form I have to sign. Two of us use my work station; it could be either of us signing without the other's knowledge; and this whole thing is essentially a complete and utter waste of my time and theirs. I can't believe they pay some clown to send this crap out for a living (and, indeed, most likely give them a Baggy Trousers allowance and Big Red Nose tax exemption).
Rest assured, though. I will fax back the requisite form immediately and put this poor person's mind at rest that my secret number is safe with me and in no way written on my phone in pencil because I can never remember it. Not at all.
I discovered over the weekend just why the Berlaymont building took so long to be made safe. To fill the reader in, the star-shaped Berlaymont is home to the European Commission. Originally built in the 1960s, asbestos was discovered in the building in the early 90s, and Berlaymont was subsequently evacuated.
The renovation, however, has been a typical example of the EU frittering away taxpayers' money. The Commission kindly purchased the building from the Belgian government in 2002 for a mere €553 milllion. Seven years late and three times over budget, it cost, in total, over six hundred million pounds to remove the asbestos and overhaul the building. With typical Belgian efficiency, it took four years to actually start removing the asbestos after it was discovered, and then took another nine years to reopen the building.
With a splendidly pompous and grandiose lack of irony, the outside of the building has been renovated with glass panels, apparently as a metaphor for the increased transparency of the Commission to the average EU citizen. Quite honestly, words fail me.
To quote Margaret Thatcher, speaking in the Hague on May 15, 1992:
"Goethe described architecture as ‘frozen music’...
...What music would Goethe hear if he could look upon the Berlaymont, perhaps while acting as an advisor to the Commissioner responsible for developing a policy for European culture (which has languished so long without one)?
Surely the music would be something atonal and very long, perhaps performed by an orchestra including vacuum cleaners, scrubbing boards, and taxi-horns, with Songs of Harmonisation sung by a mixed choir from the Paris School of Deconstructionism.
And what a climax of discord and disharmony!"
The Lady sums it up better than I ever could. And besides, I'm sure the vast length of time needed to renovate Berlaymont had nothing to do with the fact that the offices being used by Commission during renovation were leased from... the same firm who were performing those essential Berlaymont repairs.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
This is a daft message to have to post, but please note that any dull comments will be deleted. Witty, clever, intelligent, funny comments, be they complimentary or rude or whatever are most welcome; however, monosyllabic, agrammatical comments posted by intellectually-limited, teddy-out-of-pram, stroppy Americans called "blazer48", will be removed at once.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Back in Blighty
Have hied myself back to Airstrip One this weekend; I needed a break from Brussels and wanted to see something resembling a landscape again. A quick trip to the blue remembered hills was just what the doctor ordered, although negotiating Waterloo station during Friday evening rush hour reminded me firstly of how much I dislike conurbations, and secondly how overpopulated the South of England is.
With the obvious high points of greenery, fresh air and lack of Belgians set aside, this weekend has had two other notable high points. Firstly, the sport has been great. Wales chalked up an all-time record win (Japan, 98-0), the Scum in White lost to Australia, and the Aussie rugby league team treated us to a virtuoso display as they trounced the British Lions; shame about the result, but an awesome match.
The second great high point of the weekend was that I discovered that I know nothing about the latest series of I'm A Complete Tosser, Punch Me In The Face! or whatever it is called. I hope to return to Brussels without learning the name of a single "contestant".
God, I hate the British tabloid culture; lowest-common-denominator trash designed to appeal to the stupidest elements of the prole psyche. That said, whoever realised that people would be dumb enough to buy into a bunch of ugly chimps singing karaoke, was a genius. It just goes to show there is no underestimating the stupidity of the public en masse (I don't know why I'm surprised; they voted in two Labour landslides, after all.)
Back to Brussels on Monday morning: refreshed, refuelled, ready to continue doing my bit. Tough on federalism; tough on the causes of federalism.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
I'm not the only one who hates Belgium
This country really is that frustrating. From an unnamed MEP this morning:
"Argh! This country is like being in fucking Africa."
See? He was elected and everything. It must be true.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Back after a break
And ready to rant, frankly.
1) Strasbourg. I spent last week taking part in the ridiculous travelling circus that is the monthly Strasbourg plenary session. The whole European Parliament ups sticks from Brussels and moves wholesale to Strasbourg; MEP's, staff, office paperwork, the Parliament gym, lobbyists, the works; all at a cost of millions a year to the EU taxpayer. This incredible, pointless waste of money revolts me on every level.
That said, Strasbourg is a lovely mediaeval town and it made a pleasant change to get away from grey, miserable Brussels and the utterly vile Belgians. Insufficient reason, however, to move to a tiny office with only one computer, in a crazy labyrinth of a modern architecture monstrosity, for three days a month at the cost of millions of euros.
2) Belgians. Hate them, hate them, hate them. I could forgive their surly uncooperativeness; their rudeness; their abysmal customer service; their facial ugliness; and their bureaucratic nanny state micromanagement of the lives of their citizens; if only they could actually get their godforsaken country to run properly.
Instead, the streets are paved with dog crap; the bloody public transport workers go on strike every twelve seconds; in spite of one million road rules they still can't drive with any degree of safety or consideration; you have to sign forms in triplicate whenever you want anything (and usually don't even get what you asked for anyway); the Police roam the underground looking for foreigners to victimise, instead of doing their bloody job and clearing away the gangs of blacks who congregate on street corners and intimidate pedestrians.
God, I'm glad I'm British (although, we have to take a huge proportion of the blame for creating this disgusting little backwater in the first place. And for rescuing it from warmongering Krauts. Twice. They'd have been far better off if we'd just let the Germans keep the damned place; at least the sausage-munchers know how to run a country properly - even if they can't cook. But German food is another rant altogether.)
3) Amsterdam. Vile, drug-and-whore ridden, filthy, hell-hole. Full of the worst kind of drunken English proles, it is absolutely the most horrible city I've ever visited. I was actually glad to get back to Brussels - and that is saying something. I was vaguely neutral on cannabis legalisation until I visited Amsterdam. Now I could not be more in favour of keeping the stuff illegal, if Amsterdam is any indication of what happens to a city post-legalisation. It has become a sinkhole for Europe's criminal classes. I can't believe I missed Wales v New Zealand rugby to visit the bloody place. And it is expensive.
4) The European People's Party. The Tories sit with them in the European Parliament. Cowardly, pro-federal quislings, supposedly the European "right"; they all voted en masse for the new Commission, in spite of the raft of prior fraud convictions, unrepented communist links, suspected financial irregularities, and histories of repeated political dodginess of the incoming Commissioners. And yet they got rid of Buttiglione because he was a Christian and Udre because she was mildly eurosceptic. Unbelievable hypocrisy.
FIVE Conservatives voted 'yes' to this crop of crooks, and only one against - in spite of an official "abstain" three-line whip. The election of the new Commission presents the utter hypocrisy of both the EU and Conservative EU policy, in a convenient nutshell.
Phew. Glad I've got that off my chest.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
They're Americans, what did you expect?
So, the Yanks have re-elected George Bush, proving that just over half of their voting electorate are red-necked, gullible half-wits who've been suckered into buying the "We're under threat / at war / all going to die" line - rather like their President has, one might suggest (representative government at its most literal!). I predicted (with a heavy heart and an overwhelming sense of the inevitable) a Bush victory by 10 - I was surprised the victory margin was as large as it turned out to be; that said, it was clearly all over when Florida came in Republican, and it serves the Democrats right for selecting such an uncharismatic mong as their candidate. Emphatic though Kerry's victories were in the debates, US politics seems to come down to the sound-bite, and "good ol' boy" Bush had that licked where Kerry seemed wooden and forced.
One thing that puzzled me throughout the campaign was the contradictory messages coming from both sides. Bush preaches "small government", yet advocates increased state interference in the lives of their citizens by restricting abortion and the like and foisting onto people his own hard-line pro-Christian agenda through government investment in such choice items as "faith based" projects, etc. Not to mention the fact that he's taken a $2 billion budget surplus and turned it into a -$5 billion deficit in four years, or that levels of state expenditure have mushroomed during his presidency. Hey! - he implemented tax cuts, so that's ok...
The Democrats are just as bad, however. They seemingly advocate nothing short of a welfare state - idiocy, surely, given the example of the unmitigated disaster of the welfare state in this country. Yes, a basic level of healthcare is needed for your poorest citizens, but steady on! It's a fine line between taking care of the most needy and creating a cash-sucking NHS-style drain on the state and Kerry seemed to be leaning towards the latter.
And the horrible hypocrisy of the Democrat position is evident in their rhetoric; they preached equality of opportunity for all, and talked about creating "One America" - yet they advocate positive discrimination, the best way of creating resentment and socially engineering a deeply unfair selection method for jobs, university places and the like. America's social problems are clearly far more deeply rooted than university places and jobs; they stem from poverty and poor basic education levels and constructing a false system of selection further along the line doesn't address the problem at the base, it merely creates a facade of equality for a lucky few, leaving behind those most needy.
So, pity America for having to make a choice between a intellectually-challenged, gung-ho simpleton and a bien-pensant, head-in-the-clouds liberal do-gooder. I still fear that, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, they made the wrong choice.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Get the tear gas for the Trots...
My walk to work this morning was disrupted by a demonstration. The bloody Metro workers are on strike, which means firstly, no tube to work, and secondly, they feel the need to disrupt traffic and pedestrians by marching through the main streets of Brussels, letting off firecrackers.
I cannot understand for the life of me why public sector workers are allowed to strike. The Police can't; the Army can't; so why should those who provide an essential public service (fire brigades, transport workers) be allowed to disrupt the lives of everyone just because they want a few more poxy shekels?
The Belgian Police react brilliantly to protest marches, even the student ones we had recently; it's clearly the excuse they need to wheel out the riot trucks, don their body armour, and feel like Real Men for the day. There were umpteen battalions of heavily armoured coppers wandering the streets today, in gangs, clearly spoiling for a fight. They should have just turned the water cannon and tear gas on the bloody Metro workers, regardless, to teach the ungrateful bastards a lesson for disrupting the lives of the rest of us.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Who really cares?
Yesterday, as I was relaxing in the gym following a hectic day, one thing occurred to me. Amongst all the overenthusiastic whooping, hollering and jubilation of Conservative Press Officers, as they celebrated the downfall of Kilroy; amongst the scornful sniggers of Eurosceptics as they revelled in the display of Europhile disarray over the Commission vote delay; and amongst the general excitement of a bear-pit debating chamber in Strasbourg, the thought struck me: does anyone at home in the UK care? The more I thought about it, the more downcast I became.
So Kilroy has quit? Who cares? One news page and a sub-heading on BBC News.
So the Commission vote was delayed? Who gives a damn? Does it affect house prices, fuel costs and the price of bananas? No.
So lots of MEP's got angry and shouted at each other. How many Britons in one hundred would be able to name even one of those MEP's? One? Two, if lucky?
One of the reasons the EU has been able to inveigle itself so easily into British life and British law is that no-one knows or much cares about it. The EU Institutions can do what they like: people at home feel disclocated from the EU, so EU stories won't sell newspapers (except the Daily Mail...), so there's no effective Fourth Estate scrutiny as there's no imperative for the media to raise hype about it.
At national level, some of the things the EU gets away with would cause governments to fall and Prime Ministers to resign - the Eurostat scandal, the repeated failure to balance their books, the financial waste on a vast scale, the ardent expenditure of taxpayers' money on ceaseless self-promotion. Yet because no-one knows or cares, and the media fail to properly inform the electorate, there is barely a flicker of interest in these massive scandals.
Yes, the Commission nonsense was a big deal for us politics hacks in our Eurobubble, but it means absolutely nothing to the average UK man-in-the-street. The EU is responsible for the origin of 66% of British law. They're actually far more important in legislative terms than Blair, or Howard, or (snigger) Kennedy, and yet not one person in ten can name one of the Commissioners-elect. We can get as excited as we like here in Brussels over Euroshenanigans; however, until people realise just how crucial and utterly vital to our national interest this EU business is, both Eurosceptics and Europhiles alike will have difficulty in getting anyone at home to care.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
I laughed until I cried.
Won't somebody think of the children?
I attended a Youth Parliament back in the UK last Friday; it was a day of group discussions and debates on the EU in general, including such topics as "Integration and Expansion", "What has the EU done for us?", "The Constitution" and an afternoon debate on the Euro (which, incidentally, the No vote won by 78% - good stuff). I was invited along in an advisory capacity (well, my boss was - but he sent me!).
It was great fun, I have to say. Working with idealistic 13-18 year olds made an enthusing change from working with embittered, cynical political hacks, and I really enjoyed the day - not to mention crushing the poor pro-Euro kiddies, and, far more amusingly, the local Labour MP, with my unfairly superior knowledge and experience (well, I have got a degree in European Law and European Public Policy, AND I work in the god-damned place...). I was delighted at how sound most of the kids were - the vast majority were anti-EU, for various reasons.
Two things became quickly clear, however. Firstly, despite the healthy anti-EU attitudes on display, young people are utterly clueless about the EU and what it really stands for. Some of the misunderstandings and misapprehensions about the EU and the Constitution were baffling - "I want EU expansion as it means we'll have a bigger Army," and "Just because a one-size-fits-all interest rate hasn't worked for the Eurozone countries doesn't mean it won't work for us", amongst others. And comprehension as to what the Constitution would actually mean (legal personality, etc) was nil.
Secondly, the way in which the pro-Europeans have insidiously spread their propaganda really hit home to me. I blame, again, the BBC - for example, on the Breakfast News this morning they had a vile 4 minute piece on the Constitution, and completely airbrushed out the deeper implications of loss of national sovereignty).
In Friday's "What has the EU done for us?" debate, it seemed accepted without question that "Trade" was an automatic benefit of EU membership. Oh really? I'm glad I was able to put that particular myth to bed, anyway.
Yes, we have more than 50% of our trade with the EU, but most of it is in imports: ergo, they need us to buy from them far more than we need the EU to sell to. Furthermore, the UK Treasury's own import/export Balance of Trade figures since 1973 show that we're actually operating at a massive trade deficit with the EU - equivalent to £30 million per day since we joined. Last year alone, we were £28 billion in deficit. We have been in net surplus in only one year since joining. For most of the past 30 years, the UK has been in surplus with every continent in the world except Europe.
So let us hear no more of this "the EU improves our trade" argument. If nothing else, I'm glad that last Friday gave me the opportunity to put across to young people the other side of the EU argument.
...and whaddya know?
Barroso has postponed the vote on his Commission for a month. Well, it was either that or get voted down, so the poor sod really was stuck between a rock and a hard place. This extra month should give him the time he needs to swap his team around jigger-poker enough support form MEP's to pass them.
Still, this is excellent news for several reasons.
Firstly, it has outraged and upset the Euro-hacks in Brussels, and anything that wipes off the supercilious, condescending smirks from their faces has to be a good thing.
Secondly, it makes the Commission look really stupid at a key time for the EU, with national referenda on the new constitution just around the corner. This really is a complete embarrassment - and by implication it discredits every EU Institution. No-one comes out of this sorry mess looking good.
Thirdly, it will disrupt and delay on-going EU business. Great! It all goes to show why the EU can never work: at a crucial time for EU expansion, when a presentation of unity of purpose is vital, two of the most pro-EU bodies (the Commission and the left-wingers in Parliament) fall out in the most public way imaginable, and put petty political and personal differences ahead of the "common good".
Fellow Eurosceptics and I can afford a good belly laugh at this one.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Major tension in the Parliament, as the new Commission is voted on tomorrow by MEP's in Strasbourg. It's either a yay or nay; they either reject the lot of them or accept them as a slate. The possibility of a "No" vote arose after comments by the Italian candidate, Rocco Buttiglione, who dared to express his own personal beliefs as a right-wing Catholic. The whole mess hinges on the fact that he referred to homosexuality as "a sin" - which, actually, he didn't - that exact word was used by a Green MEP in cross-examination.
So, we have an instance of a massive storm kicked up by the Left, after having seized on a minor part of a Commissioner-elect's testimony, placed words in his mouth and blown the whole thing out of all proportion.
Set aside the ardent Catholic-bashing of certain left-wingers. The reason behind this storm is simple. When Berlusconi was elected President of the Commission, you may recall he took objection to heckling from the leader of the Party of European Socialists, Martin Schulz, and inferred that Herr Schulz would make a good Nazi Camp Commandant in a film. Again, a huge media tempest resulted.
Take note, however: the man leading the push to vote "No" to the new Commission, over the Berlusconi-appointed Signor Buttiglione? Step forward, Martin Schulz. The controversy is nothing more than inflated payback for Signor Berlusconi's falling-out with the Party of European Socialists.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
OK - all this kerfuffle about redeploying British troops in Iraq: I fail to see why the media are kicking up such a fuss. As I see it, the situation stands thus:
1. There is no change to the length of the Black Watch's deployment - they will still be home for Christmas.
2. They're not going to be deployed to Baghdad or Fallujah - they're moving to replace US troops, so that the US forces can be moved to the major combat zones.
3. They're technically under US control already, as are every British unit in Iraq, so it's not as if we're parcelling out our troops willy-nilly.
So why is there a problem? The Black Watch is comprised of gap-toothed inner city Glaswegians anyway - I'm sure they'll be delighted to get away from Basra and have an increased opportunity to get into a fight.
Once again, then, the BBC are using every minor development in Iraq to push their anti-war agenda by blowing everything completely out of proportion and using it to bash the government with. I want my licence fee back.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Argh! So much to say...
Have been busy as hell for a week so have not had time to post. That's the way it goes...
1. The girlfriend has been ill this week; some kind of rather nasty virus, coupled with her weakened immune system (vegetarian, you see - if she'd been a red meat eater she'd have shrugged the damned virus off in days), means that the poor thing has been bed-ridden for five days with no signs of recovery. Bless. Still, it gave me a good insight into the Belgian medical system.
Firstly, we had to pay for hospital treatment. I would have been fine with that, had the "you pay for better service" myth been true; alas not in this instance. There's a major external factor at play here, however; I suspect that the poor service was simply because the hospital staff were Belgian. A Belgian in a service-based industry has one prime concern with regard to a customer: to get rid of them as soon as possible. We approached the casualty desk, with my poor girlfriend half-conscious in a wheelchair, and I waited patiently for the woman behind the desk to finish what she was doing and take my details. Sixty seconds later, she hasn't even looked up. I tap the window. "I'm busy!" she snaps, and storms off!
Still, once we had got past the front desk the staff were brisk and efficient, and all things considered I think the private sector (once again) outperforms the British public sector health service. I'm confirmed in my resolution that the NHS should be privatised as soon as possible, with the burden of payment placed on private health insurance and, ideally, employer-based insurance deals (with a state-funded safety net only for those who genuinely can't afford it). The Belgian system, with Belgian staff removed and replaced with British ones, would work excellently. Having seen how easy it is out here, I'm almost embarrassed at the way British NHS workers have to suffer with a cumbersome, outdated and overstretched public sector. They, and their patients, deserve better.
2. A quick post on the US Presidential election. Up until the TV debates, I was fairly undecided - I thought that both candidates were a waste of space. Post-debates (I stayed up to watch them, political geek that I am), in my view, Kerry towered over Bush in eloquence, demeanour, and policy. He argued Bush into the ground; Dubya seemed incoherent, peevish, small-minded, and completely unable to defend his own domestic policies, instead resorting to petty attacks on Kerry and an obsession with his "War on Terr'r". Kerry seemed like a statesman. Kerry all the way!
3. UKIP have finally realised what they've done in unleashing Kilroy. They sold their soul to the devil in exchange for increased publicity, and now Kilroy's ego is tearing their party in two. He's demanding the leadership of UKIP, he's alienating their core support with comments about "killing" the Tories, and he's generally stirring up dissent and trouble at every turn. I give it a matter of weeks before he has the whip removed...
Monday, October 11, 2004
Always shit on the English side of the bridge...
...yes, we were. What an embarrassment Wales were on Saturday; no guts, no flair, no hwyl - Giggs might as well not have been on the pitch. I can take solace in two facts, however: 1) football is a rubbish sport for girls and poofs, and 2) at least Wales's captain isn't a petulant nancy boy.
Euro update: NOTHING WORKS in this god-damned country. The cash machines are always empty; the (French, needless to say) waiters are hopeless - my vegetarian girlfriend had to contend with being given... a PLATE OF CHEESE when she requested a veggie main course in a restaurant the other day; and to top it all my co-worker D and I just had to fill out forms in triplicate to qualify for purchasing a Diet Coke (well, not really, but you get my drift).