In light of the tumultuous year we’ve had here in the European Parliament as a result of the UK referendum, it has been difficult and somewhat strange. As MEPs we take our responsibilities to represent our constituents very seriously and this can make for a busy and sometimes fretful working life. So for this festive season I thought I would look back over some of the lighter moments I’ve had in 2016.
I’m afraid to say there have been a couple of mishaps to report. Earlier this year, much to the amusement of my colleagues, I became stuck in one of the Parliament lifts. After a busy day of voting, it was quite late in the evening and I was alone so it became rather boring while I waited to be rescued. So after a while I decided to record my last will and testament and upload it onto the Internet. Needless to say it gained far more ‘hits’ than anything I’ve said politically and it’s the only time I’ve made it into the tabloids as an MEP!
Likewise the photographs I posted of when the socialist members of the agriculture committee, myself included, found ourselves locked in a meeting room after the door handle came off in comrade Palo de Castro’s hand, travelled far and wide, unlike my musings on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post Brexit.
But my biggest Internet hit as an MEP was a combination of humour and politics. The corridors of the Brussels Parliament are scattered with large potted plastic plants, so I stuck a notice on one of them which read, ‘I’m artificial, just like UKIP’s concern for the NHS”. Maybe nothing else was happening in the world at precisely that moment in history because before you could say, ‘I do like a Craster Kipper for breakfast’; it had gone viral!
Mishaps aside there is also the famous Brussels bureaucracy to deal with. Like any large institution, the Parliament can, of course, be a bit bonkers. For example, the simple act of handing over a form is made all the more complicated when the administrator tells you that you are in the wrong office, and that you need to be three doors back down the corridor. So you retrace your steps, find the correct door, knock and enter. Only to find yourself greeted by the same woman who just redirected you, she having walked through two connecting office doors, parallel to you!
And having found the right office you are then told the set of forms you carefully filled in needs to be completed in triplicate”. So you leave with your single set and return the next day to hand over three sets of fully completed forms. “Thank you”, comes the reply, whereupon two sets are immediately returned to you. “But I thought you said you needed three sets?” “Yes, one for the Parliament and two for you”.
As an MEP my time is split between the UK, Brussels and Strasbourg. Being out and about in my North East constituency is always welcome and also brings its share of light hearted moments. I’ve been nibbled by an Alpaca, dressed as a Roman Centurion and posed with EU-promoting superhero, Captain Europe, all of which has been captured on camera!
During the Referendum campaign I even conquered the North Sea in my Union Jack swim shorts to highlight how the EU has helped to clean up our beautiful coastline. Five swims in one day from Berwick to Redcar definitely made for a memorable occasion, although the sea temperature meant that my constituency team, armed with towels, a beach ball and a plastic seagull, were far more amused than I was! The fish and chips at the end of that day were certainly very welcome.
Although the turn of events in 2016 has meant that I end the year a little more sadly than I began it, these lighter moments have made me smile.
Oh, and I forgot to say, I was stuck in that Parliament lift for two hours before being rescued but it could have been a lot worse, Nigel Farage could have been in there with me.