Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Who wears the trousers?

I enjoyed reading the Con-Home article this afternoon on whether not jeans are appropriate attire in a Council meeting. I recently spotted the normally most elegant Rachinda Dati MEP from the EPP wearing jeans (expensive looking ones) in the European Parliament but she was so surrounded by her usual entourage of TV cameras that I didn’t butt in – Ms Dati has a bit of a reputation for wearing Sarkos trousers when test driving his ideas in the European Parliament.

A few days later another French MEP Sylvie Goulard from the "Liberals" was again wearing jeans in a meeting. Sylvie is normally much more eloquent in both words and dress. Quietly, I lent over the rank of desks between us and told her that on this occasion I not only disapproved of her words but also her attire. By the time we had returned for the afternoon session the jeans had gone. I know my place and would never even think about “Out -Styling” a Parisian but after months of listening to Ms Goulard lecture the room on what is wrong with the UK, I did chuckle.

The past couple of weeks have been very intense in the Ford office with five of the pieces of legislation we are looking at all arriving at a climax at the same time. Those who are familiar with Westminster are often surprised with the level of detail that MEPs needs to get to grips with in any particular directive or report. As a committee member I can table amendments on each of the documents my committee is looking at (the Economic and Monetary affairs committee is scheduled to look at over 50 documents this year). After everyone has thrown in their cards most documents have over 100 amendments – some many more – there then follows a lengthy process behind the scenes of negotiating compromises and intricate complex voting lists winding through each amendment. Given that we rely on the babel-fish translation between 22 different languages and across 27 different countries it should be no surprise that most times the ending legislation is, at best, clunky.

The glass is sometimes half full though – where there are no combatants for trouser wearing and genuine sharing of interests. I have enjoyed working on a directive on dodgy drugs. The increase in counterfeit medicines from Internet Viagra sales to now hospital cancer drugs is potentially terrifying and its been good to work across country, across party and across the industry to try to find solutions – this needs the sort of international procedures that is why we went into common market in the first place. I’ve met pharma companies, pharmacists and doctors and I hope that new bar-coding procedures across Europe may save lives without making everyday asprin more expensive.

Sometimes the negotiations are trickier. Various MEPs from across the continent have been calling for “more powers to Europe” i.e. Megga trouser wearing in Brussels taking control of financial services. The UK is many miles from perfect but it is rather ironic that MEPs from the same countries suddenly tabled delaying amendments to new banking rules. Thus realising that perhaps there were more skeletons outside the UK’s closets than those within.

This has a long way to run – but it’s been good to have a few days back at home.

Today in Castlepoint, Basildon and Watford meeting voters and hearing their concerns over taxation, services and our national debt. Its very clear that on the Streets here there is not a lot of support for Gordon Brown continuing to wear the trousers in Downing Street.

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