'The lamps are going out all over Europe'
MONSIEUR Brocklebanque had the pleasure of a trip to the European Parliament in Brussels last week.
But the pleasure, it seems, is all the Parliament's.
While Europe is falling apart at the seems, as Athens burns and the people of Madrid fight running battles with police in the streets, things are remarkably sedate in Brussels.
One really wouldn't know the continent was facing financial Armageddon.
And staff at the Parliament are certainly not facing financial meltdown - Mr B learned that when they start there they are entitled to VAT off the first car they buy (hence a lot of 4x4s driving around, in contrast to the armoured cars to be found in many other parts of Europe).
Apparently, the most senior translators (of whom there are many, given all the languages that need to be spoken so the MEPs understand each other, or at least get close to understanding each other) can earn up to £12,000 a month, and need hardly spend any of it, given the bars in the buildings are so heavily subsidised that a glass of beer is as little 85p. Compared to up to £2.80 for a half at bars in the streets nearby.
And then, there are the MEPs themselves. The Parliament is such a gravy train that you can almost see raggy-trousered kids with their noses in the air following a trail of Bisto vapour.
Around £70,000 a year salary, around £3,000 a month expenses (no receipts necessary, of course), and up to £280 a day just for turning up. Aaah, Bisto indeed.
But it is quite amazing that they should be so handsomely remunerated, given that it is actually the un-elected European Commission that comes up with all the laws, with MEPs only at best able to endeavour to amend them.
As one MEP remarked to Mr B, "If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it."
MR B remarked lately how he wouldn't say Liverpool council's employment and skills cabinet member Nick Small was publicity hungry, but that he can hear a lens cap being removed at a thousand yards.
But little did Mr B truly realise the lengths to which he will go to get into the public eye.
For as Mr B was walking into a mightily fine reception at the Palais de Beux-Arts in Brussels, who should he bump into but ... Cllr Small himself!
It turned out he was over there for the Committee of the Regions conference, and fresh back from a mission to Latvia, no less!
The squire could see from the good councillor's slightly crestfallen face exactly what he was thinking, and Cllr Small duly remarked: "So, it'll be a Euro special Brocklebank column next week, then?"
At least he was in good humour. For when one delegate innocently asked him if he had been at the Parliament earlier that day for the big photo call of all the politicians who had travelled there, the answer, directed at Mr B with a smirk, "No, didn't know about that one. Wouldn't have missed it if I'd known . . . would I?"