After a gruelling few months and a joyous few days of results, it was a quick glass of celebratory Merlot and then back on the Eurostar for me.
A big difference between Westminster and Brussels is that regardless of the success of one party in one country, it has to meet strict European Parliament requirements to get speaking time allocated, positions on committees, and funding for campaigns.
For a Eurosceptic group like Ukip it is much harder to do that than it is for the status-quo or federalist parties who just rejoin the huge groups they have been part of for years. They can then barter for cushy jobs as vice-presidents of the parliament, or committee chairmen, and boast that their dull, grey offices are a few square centimetres bigger than their political rivals.
But for those of us who are more concerned with representing the best interests of our constituents in the countries we come from, not supporting the Euro project means we have much more to disagree on, and we cause potential problems when arranging alliances.
One of the first post-election meetings which MEPs had was to discuss their recommendation for the next European Commission President. It might be the case that the barista in the local coffee shop would still have to ask the name of Jose Manuel Barroso when writing his name on the side of his take away low fat soya latte, but the position is one which holds immense, if unelected, power.
As a group leader I am part of the Conference of Presidents and this was where I was headed on Tuesday morning. Joining me was the Parliament President Martin Schultz in the chair, and the leaders of the Christian Democrats (until a few years ago home to the British Conservatives), the European Socialists, Alliance of European Liberals and the Greens. Also in attendance was Mr Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium, who always looks unimpressed when people tell him how well the Belgian economy did when the country had no government.
Mr Verhofstadt and Martin Schulz - a rather rotund, hairy-looking chap who has never hidden his dislike of having to be fair to people with different political opinions – are contenders for the top job. For Mr Schulz to get it is, to be frank, a terrifying prospect – and not just because he once got very upset when I waved some £20 notes at him during a debate on the failure of the euro.
I didn’t know how I was going to be greeted as I arrived, having rather put a spanner in the works of the federalists. But no one snarled at me. Mind you, no one said “Well done”, either. It was just a studious silence as my colleagues found how interesting their notepads and desk surfaces were. We conducted the meeting as if absolutely nothing had changed after these elections at all.
Because the Christian Democrats have come out the biggest in parliament we had a vote on the former Luxembourg president Jean-Claude Juncker as the Parliament’s proposed candidate. If Mr Junker is rejected by the Heads of State, the next choices on the list are also raging federalists in the shape of Schulz and Verhofstadt.
I said at the meeting, “Surely the time has come to choose someone different and to respond to the result of the European elections?” But I was met with a polite silence. It’s perfectly clear to me that despite these election results, nothing has changed in the EU and Mr Cameron’s negotiating position in the EU puts him in a minority of one.
Get it right please, lastminute.com
The advertisers at lastminute.com seem to have read my column last week in which I offered my European holiday tips. Amalgamating clips from interviews I’ve done, they’ve created an ad in which mine appears to be the voice of authority on the European destinations people should be heading for.
But I’m not sure lastminute has bothered to listen to much of what I have been saying outside “I love Europe”, because there isn’t a single mention of France or Italy in the Farage holiday recommendations that the ad features.
Instead they appear to have gone for Bulgaria and Romania. The former is quite good for skiing holidays, I understand, but I have been on two trips to Romania, and while I experienced some great hospitality from the Roma community, the division and poverty I witnessed made it somewhere I don’t wish to return to.
Perhaps I can also point out that while I know times are still not as good as they were before the entirely predictable credit crash, lastminute seems to have forgotten my appearance fee. I’d appreciate it if a cheque was made payable to the RNLI in Poole. After all, many people still holiday in the UK, particularly if they are keen anglers.Reuse content