EUROSTAR carriages were rammed with politicians en route to Brussels, as the EU rolled out the red carpet for newly elected MEPs last week.
I was there for just 24 hours, but that was quite enough to get a taste of the extraordinary perks and privileges that go with the job.
I left feeling sick — and more determined than ever to ensure that my time as an MEP for the Brexit Party is short.
The EU is rotten to the core: We HAVE to get out.
After more than 30 years in business, running companies large and small, domestic and multi-national, I know what a lean, well-run operation looks like.
I have also seen plenty of waste and extravagance.
This week when I was in the belly of the beast at the EU, none of what I have seen in the corporate world prepared me for the nauseating displays of largesse.
I have read plenty about the EU’s disregard for taxpayers’ money: The armies of mediocre bureaucrats, PR people, lawyers and lobbyists all getting fat off the oily machine.
Hard to imagine British voters are on their radar.
I know about the millions squandered on vanity projects, cocktail parties and grants for everything from dog rehabilitation centres to inspiring people to learn languages through “virtual swimming.” I’m not making this up.
It is no secret that the EU is a gravy train, but I assumed whoever runs the place would be smart enough not to make it too obvious.
I was wrong.
Pitching up with my fellow Brexit Party MEPs for our induction day, we were greeted by a posse of butlers in white tie and tails. The ridiculous costumes say it all.
If you look after the pennies, the pounds look after themselves. The opposite is also true. Multiple small extravagances indicate an organisation in which waste is out of control.
Only last week it was revealed that outgoing leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker will receive a £432,000 golden handshake between them.
Some 30,000 EU staff work at the European Parliament, along with 15,000 lobbyists. That is 40 staff and 20 lobbyists for every MEP.
You can only imagine the scale of wining and dining as armies of smooth corporate spinners do what it takes to protect the interests of multi-nationals.
It is hard to imagine that the needs of British voters are remotely on their radar as they hustle for whatever suits their shareholders. As we continued our tour, there were piles of free chocolates on every surface, desks that seemed to magically raise or lower themselves at the touch of a button, clean, well-painted walls being unnecessarily repainted. To me, all this stinks.
My induction pack included information about the EU’s own travel agency. I was told they could handle all my transport.
Sadly, they only ever book full-price business class seats.
The next surprise was being issued with a free iPad. There is a laptop to follow and two desktop computers — one for me in Brussels and one for Strasbourg. There was also lots of information about the salary — which I will be giving to charity — and allowances, as well as a daily signing-on fee of over 300 euros.
An introductory session in a very grand committee chamber was useful but equally depressing.
We were told how the place works, as well as who proposes, makes and finalises rules and laws.
The bottom line is that MEPs are just window dressing. Nothing more, nothing less. An inconvenient but necessary doff of the cap towards fig-leaf democracy.
We cannot propose or repeal any laws. We have little, if any, power to change what is proposed by the EU Commission.
As I wandered out of the session, feeling a bit dazed, the icing on the cake was an entire section of the parking lot devoted to chauffeur-driven cars.
Why bother hailing a taxi or calling an Uber when you can hop in a sleek Mercedes and be ferried pretty much wherever you like?
So my plan remains the same: I am asking the next Tory leader, whoever it is, to make me redundant, as fast as they can.
The sooner we leave this grotesque temple of excess, the better.