March 30. George Galloway has upset the apple cart in Bradford
West. You have to salute his indefatigability. Not to mention
his brass neck. On the plus side it’s a punch up the trousers
for Milliband, as well as the clueless coalition government currently
drowning in a sea of self-inflicted troubles (remind me again,
what should we be hoarding – petrol or pasties? I’ve forgotten).
And yes it feels good to see any maverick outsider rattle the
political establishment. But for all his wonderful oratory, Galloway
is a deeply flawed, self-serving cynic who shamelessly played
to the Islamist gallery with his rhetoric and religious nods and
winks, just as he once equally shamelessly kissed the metaphorical
backsides of Middle East dictators. If this was the US and Galloway
had wooed Bible Belt Christians in the same manner, he’d be widely
denounced as a backwards-looking buffoon. Gorgeous Geo’s victory
has brought the politics of religious communalism into the mainstream.
Just don’t mention the honour killings, arranged marriages and
open anti-Semitism. Not for the first time, we see a figure of
the self-styled progressive Left openly embracing the deeply regressive.
Incidentally, widely unreported, the only other political party
to put on votes yesterday was UKIP. The public is increasingly
alienated from the stale consensus of our ruling elite. The challenge
is to turn that disillusionment into something positive.
Spring Watch: there are some great things coming in the next
couple of months, not least the Cockney Rejects documentary film
East End Babylon (premiere, April 26th) and the Bob Marley doc
Marley (April 13). Sasha Baron Cohen’s new movie The Dictator
opens 18th May. On telly, don’t miss series two of the brilliant
Game Of Thrones (April 2). And Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up show
hits Birmingham and Manchester in May. St George’s events include
a Bad Manners headlined Ska Fest (April 21st), and for the more
classically inclined, the St George’s Day Gala at the Albert Hall
(April 22nd), featuring music from Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton
and more, plus readings from Wordsworth, Betjeman and of course
the always stirring St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.
March 24.While I was in Belgium, I paid a visit to the European
Parliament. Now I’m as sceptical about The Project as the next
man, as long as the next man is Nigel Farage, but even I was shocked
by what I saw inside the belly of the beast. Here is my Brussels
There is a dirty sexy secret lurking alongside the dull and
respectable facade of the European Union. Two hotels in easy walking
distance of the Brussels Parliament provide short-term rooms to
rent for grubby encounters. It costs £21 to hire a room for two
hours in Studio Intime in Parnassusstraat – and nobody books one
to sleep. Inside the air is heavily perfumed and cupids adorn
the walls; outside the canopy is blue with yellow stars mirroring
the European Union flag. The two establishments known locally
as “fuck hotels” are used largely by EU staff for afternoon delights.
Over an hour long period, I watched three couples leave and walk
back to work in the lavish Parliamentary building less than fifty
yards away. Studio Intime is open about its purposes, advertising
its services as providing “rendezvous rooms in Brussels...totally
intimate.” Nine different rooms are available from 9am until midnight.
The ad promises “complete discretion, impeccable rooms with showers”.
These fuck hotels are an open secret within Parliament. But when
you consider the many official perks on offer here you might conclude
that tax-payers are the ones getting properly screwed. The children
of EU civil servants get free private education, they pay tax
at special low rates and they get preferential mortgage rates
from banks. The first car they buy is VAT free. Staff can smoke
in their offices and bars, where the booze, like the coffee and
the high-quality canteen food is subsidised. Half a lager costs
you £1 and you can have it for breakfast. The Parliament has a
brand new massage parlour, a state of the arts gym, and two saunas.
The masseuse is Melody Fortuna, a beautician whose tasteful promotional
picture features her naked bathing in milk she has poured from
a stein: http://pokeuroparl.eu/site/estheticienne/melody-fortuna/.
Despite the beauty treatment studio being called “POKEuroparl”,
there is no suggestion that anything underhand is available here.
But has milk ever looked sexier? Talk about Watch out there’s
a Hump about...
The Brussels Parliament is bigger than the grandest Las Vegas
hotel, but depressingly soulless; the labyrinthine nature of the
building perhaps mirroring the baffling complexity of the institution.
Inside, the carpets, like the corridor walls, are uniformly as
grey as a ghost. The building’s nine bars appear to be thriving
though. At 3pm on a Monday I watched a merry group of eight demolish
several bottles of champagne. They were interpreters, all on a
little under 1,000 Euros a day. In the EU, you get to say “Cheers!”
in twenty-three different languages...
The gender imbalance is hard to avoid. Civil service figures
reveal that 80 per cent of the younger staff are female, while
70 per cent of the oldest are male. The atmosphere is sexually
charged and affairs are rife. “Conversation is how much they get
paid and how they get laid,” shrugs a cynical barman. In the EU’s
second seat, in Strasbourg, open smoking in the MEPs’ bar is allowed.
In Brussels, smokers are supposed to use smoking shelters, which
are sited bizarrely inside and are wide open, so that the smoke
drifts out anyway. But MEPs who choose to light up at the tables
instead go unpunished.
My investigation unearthed a staggering catalogue of waste, privilege,
and double standards. More than 1,000 EU officials earn more than
David Cameron, who is on £142,000 a year. Civil servants are big
earners too. Those in the highest pay grade take home more in
a month – £15,482 - than a British nurse earns in a year. Four
in every ten are on more than £70K a year – for working a 37 hour
week. In Britain, the MPs expenses scandal shocked the nation;
but MEPs have it much easier. They don’t need to claim expenses,
they all receive a monthly allowance of just over £3,000 – no
receipts required. There are 754 MEPs who in addition to their
hefty salaries get £237 a day just for signing in; many sign in
and disappear. “No-one ever checks,” one tells me. They have chauffeur-driven
limousines laid on for them at a cost of £4.25million a year;
all drivers sign a confidentiality clause “guaranteeing absolute
discretion.” It’s unclear where they are taking them however because,
as debates on YouTube show, the chamber is usually empty. The
only place you will see it full is in filmed footage inside the
recently opened Parliamentarium – a plush visitors’ centre built
at a cost of £18million which is devoted to plugging the EU. The
centre is as bizarre as it is deserted. One wall, more than 100
yards long, is covered in historical pictures which bafflingly
include minor British pop stars Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Another long
wall displays head-shots of MEPs. A third room boats an array
of furniture and flat film footage of the sea and various citizens.
It’s like Armchair Theatre for the lobotomised. But on the plus
side, visiting school-kids do get the chance to role-play at being
The EU has also given the go-head for a House Of European History
at a cost of £137million to “promote an awareness of European
identity.” Its history will begin in 1946 so it does not include
World War Two – known here as “the European Civil War.” They don’t
want to upset the Germans.
The Eurozone crisis may be sparking chaos across southern Europe
but in the EU the spending never stops. Arguably the biggest waste
is Strasbourg. Each month staff and MEPs pack up and commute to
eastern France. This “travelling circus” costs £135million a year.
But the arrangement, thought up to symbolise French-German friendship,
brings so much money into Strasbourg the French won’t allow it
to stop. The third seat in Luxembourg has two debating chambers
that have never been used and more than 3,000 permanent staff.
Their new HQ, with sports facilities and a swimming pool, cost
£716million to build.
While the EU lectures member states about austerity and cutting
their budgets, they’re merrily raising theirs. The thought of
economising never seems to cross their minds. When van Rompuy
and Commission President José Barroso flew to China last year,
they went in separate jets. This place is the biggest organised
racket since the Kray Twins – and vastly more lucrative. “Life
in the Brussels bubble is completely cut off from the reality
of life outside,” Scouse UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall tells me. But sensitive
to mounting criticism, the EU pays news agency AFB to pump out
pro-EU propaganda. In 2008, they also launched a European parliament
TV channel which costs £7million a year to run and has 830 viewers
a day. The total cost of pro-EU propaganda is £2.02 billion per
year, according to research by reform group New Direction. The
BBC has benefited from low interest loans from the European Investment
Bank. And the EU look after their own. Two British MEPs who lost
their seats in 2009 were given jobs working for van Rompuy. The
EU also gifts money to professors to undertake ‘research on the
EU’; many of these Jean Monnet professors teach European studies
at UK universities. Their classes are of course uncritical.
THE European Commission, a short walk from the Parliament, is
the real seat of power. 5,000 laws a year are passed but only
one in five appears before MEPs, the rest go through as directives
and decrees. “The Parliament is democratic facade, a confidence
trick,” says Nuttall. “Article 17, paragraph 2 states that the
Commission has the sole right of legislative proposal. If MEPs
make amendments, the Commission has the power to insist on a unanimous
decision.” Yet rules and regulations don’t seem to apply to the
EU themselves. Despite passing laws to force down greenhouse gas
emissions, they ignore the fact that travelling to Strasbourg
creates an extra 18,884 tonnes of CO2 per year. Similarly despite
their energy saving policies, the large neon sign on the Paliamentarium
building is left on all night, even though there is no-one to
see it and no passing traffic. More disturbing is the revelation
that Eurocrats are breeding. It is estimated that around one in
eight civil servants are second generation, a small but rising
number are third generation. They are becoming a hereditary class.
Rebel Euro-sceptic MEP Godfrey Bloom says: “Nothing prepares you
for the reality, the waste, the remoteness of it all. When I first
arrived in 2004, I was saddened and sickened by what I found.”
“It’s the death of democracy – at your expense,” says Nuttall.
“EU membership costs the British tax-payer £50million per day.
If people knew what was going on here, they would be up in arms.”
If you support a British referendum on EU membership, sign up
There is another, dearer ‘fuck hotel’ called the Treviso on Place
Stephanie which is used by the more well-heeled Eurocrats. This
one rents out its rather more glamorous, brothel-style rooms at
a hefty £66 an hour. Its promotional material tempts would be
adulterers with a promise of "room service and discretion assured."
Anne De Schepper, the hotel's manager, said that EU officials
prefer to book out rooms over their long lunch breaks. “Eurocrats
are 80 per cent of our business,” she revealed. “We are busiest
at lunch time, followed by early evening in between the end of
office hours and the time people need to get back to their homes.”
She added: “Unlike the traditional hotel industry, we have not
experienced the economic crisis thanks largely to the Europeans
Euro Facts: EU security bosses recently issued a memo warning
that middle-aged Eurocrat adulterers were being targeted by Mata
Hari style interns who were said to be trading sex for EU secrets.
They said they were easy prey for the "pretty trainee with the
long legs and the blonde hair."
Reports by the Parliament’s internal auditor leaked last year
revealed that EU staff are allowed to authorise their own expenses
and pay allowances to family members. The auditor, British accountant
Robert Galvin, found serious problems with the way “personal entitlements”
and perks, worth more than £81 million a year, are being paid
to civil servants. His investigation, kept secret from most MEPs,
revealed multiple examples of officials being paid twice for the
same thing or claiming allowances they were not entitled over
a three year period. Cash is paid without proof of “eligibility
of costs” or any proper audit checks that the money is spent properly.
Rule-breaking is common. The reports also found “critical” irregularities
and conflicts of interest concerning procurement contracts worth
more than £600 million a year. Marta Andreasen, the former whistle-blowing
European Commission chief accountant, said: “The parliament’s
bureaucracy operates with a total lack of transparency, which
is how it gets away with these irregularities.”
Euro Stats: Total number of staff employed by EU: 6684. Of whom,
5540 are civil servants, 129 are temps and 1015 work for political
As well as Brussels, I visited the beautiful Black Forest with
my band, and Bologna, one of the mainstays of the Italian Oi and
Punk scenes, as part of my signing tour for the Dance Craze book
(both trips reported on the Gonads blog). Here I noticed teenage
skinheads with ‘Oi’ tattooed on one arm and the hammer and sickle
on the other – a sight to blow the minds of the UK media who,
to a sheep, are happy to write off skins and streetpunk as exclusively
rightwing phenomena. They were never that in 1980/81 and they
Osborne’s Budget wasn’t much cop. Here’s how to get the economy
moving in three simple steps - make the City a free trade zone,
scrap stamp duty, and introduce a 15% flat tax across the board.
Leaping free of the EU would help.
In the great scheme of things, nobody particularly cares about
gay marriage; there has been no mass protest movement calling
for it, even gay activists don’t seem fussed. So why is this issue
dominating the national debate as opposed to say the urgent need
for job creation or the shocking military blunder of sending our
troops out in motorised coffins instead of blast-deflecting vehicles?
It says a lot about the values and obsessions of the chattering
Scientists appear to be blaming premature deaths on meat eating.
If you believe the media, it seems that just looking at a well-done
beef-burger will kill you dead, and if you’ve ever so much as
smelt bacon you may as well book the hearse now. The source study
reads differently though, it actually shows that those who eat
the most meat have the lowest incidence of high cholesterol –
an insight that has remained largely unreported. See you in KFC.
Dance Craze - the book the 2-Tone stars read! Here’s Charley
Bembridge, aka H from the Selecter, with the hottest Ska read