UKIP candidates’ Brussels visit

The European Parliament and surrounding buildings are the perfect metaphor for the institutions themselves.  Everything is larger than life, expensive and luxurious.  Floor upon floor of office space dominates the skyline and everything around it, with an army of staff shuttling backwards and forwards – from one building to another, or from Brussels to Luxembourg, from Luxembourg to Strasbourg.  But for all the luxury, the buildings are grey and entirely soulless.  Today, though, the sun is shining because a UKIP visit is in town.

We are lectured at every turn; in the restaurant, a sign informs us of the carbon footprint of the different types of food on the menu.

The chamber in Brussels hasn’t been used for a plenary session in over 18 months.  The roof suffered damage, and in typical Brussels fashion the simple task of repair has dragged on and on incessantly, with bills getting higher and higher as time rolls on.  Perhaps, we are told with no real enthusiasm, it might be ready for the April sitting.

The roof in Strasbourg also collapsed, but that was fixed within a month.  The French would surely not allow a minor matter such as the collapse of a roof to endanger the 150 million euro travelling circus, whereby the entire staff, paperwork and contents of offices make a long road trip to Strasbourg on a monthly basis.  What, one might ask, is the carbon footprint of that?  But there will be no answers to that question.

The 15-million euro ‘Parliamentarium’ building was initially a failure, with just 20,000 visitors in its first year.  Undeterred, the European Union found a way to turn it into a success.  It’s now a compulsory part of the tour of the European Parliament, and visitors on official visits sponsored by MEPs have to go if they want to get their cash.  This, perhaps, is the only Parliament that has to pay people to go and visit it!  The Parliamentarium becomes an overnight success, through the simple expedient of forcing people to go.  The irony is lost on the European Union, which doesn’t think twice about asking people to vote a second time when their referendum gives the ‘wrong’ answer.  Switzerland’s democracy now appears to be the next target.
The European Parliament’s ‘House of History’ is still being built.  The cost has escalated from 12 million euros to 44 million euros already, and the project is years behind schedule.  The House of History will no doubt be revisionist history, with people talking in hushed tones about the ‘second European Civil War’ rather than World War 2.  The absurdity of such a proposition is beyond satire; how, for example, could America and Japan have been such a part of a ‘European Civil War’?  But if you’re comfortable with rewriting history, perhaps rewriting geography is not such a problem either.  
These are not the biggest examples of European Union waste that we see.  Hundreds of millions of euros spent on projects here and there all add up, and after a while you become almost immune to the obscene amounts of money.  Local people are aware too: in some streets around the European Parliament, almost every house is boarded up.  The owners are just waiting for the European Parliament to buy the buildings at inflated, above-market prices.  The senselessness of it all is breathtaking, just as outside the European Commission a sign boldly describes what the ‘soul of Brussels’ looked like before the European Union, with vibrant parks and buildings making a city of real interest.  Now, the city has the dullest of hearts.
I would hate to spend too much time in this place, and I think that should be the same for all MEPs.  It’s all too obvious how Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour MEPs might ‘go native’, growing to love the institution through luxury.  Anyone who likes to spend time in Brussels is eminently unsuitable for the role of MEP.  MEPs should be coming back to the UK whenever possible, and letting the public know just how badly our 55 million pounds a day is being mismanaged.
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