26 October 2016

Strasbourg - The bleeding heart of Europe

Handbags at Dawn.....

I am in Strasbourg, in the aftermath of the Handbags at Dawn saga so unlike the image of UKIP I had developed over the Farage years…..

In Business Insider UK on Oct 7th, Adam Payne wrote that:

Mike Hookem the UK Independence Party MEP accused of punching colleague Steven Woolfe has vehemently denied striking the party's migration spokesperson.

Mr Hookem, MEP (born 9th October 1953 in Hull), is quoted as saying:

If you want the truth, I'll tell you the truth.

Mr Woolfe (born 6th October 1967 in Manchester),  explained to the meeting his part in the last leadership election. He stated that his paperwork had gone in and he had evidence of it but it hadn't been accepted.

{Woolfe was set to stand in the party's recent leadership contest but was blocked from entering after failing to submit his application documents on time}

I then said 'no Steven, you had 20 days to get this in and the reason it never went in was it was your fault'... Mr Woolfe stood up in front of the meeting, in front of witnesses, and said 'if this is going to be the tone of the meeting, let's me and you take this outside mano a mano;' he made for a small room, taking his jacket off.

I entered that room. He approached me. He came at me. There were no punches thrown. There were no blows thrown. There were no slapped faces. There was no pushing. It was a tussle between an elderly grandfather and a 40-year-old MEP. Quite silly and embarrassing. Handbags at dawn. Girl on girl. It was embarrassing. It lasted seconds.

Writing in The Telegraph on the same day Claire Cohen quoted Mr Hookem as saying, My hands were never round anyone’s neck – it was the pair of us hugging each other like a pair of tarts.

In a later comment, Hookem also referred to the incident as girl on girl. Nigel Farage (born 3rd April 1964 in Farnborough) then waded in, adding that the incident was one of those things that happens between men.

As a vignette of life in British politics, Ms Cohen comments, it’s embarrassing and hugely revealing.

Hookem’s language was clumsy and outdated (when was the last time anyone said ‘handbags at dawn’?) While Farage’s assertion that the odd mano a mano encounter is just ‘one of those things’ that happens between male politicians behind closed doors’ was nothing short of nasty. The implication being that we should all mind our own business and let the men get on with running things.

Just when you thought politics couldn’t seem like any more of a boy’s club. No wonder women are turned off from entering the political arena when this bunch of testosterone-fuelled ninnies is set on making it more gladiatorial than gender balanced.

Having spent a few days in hospital, and then, presumably, thinking about things, Mr Woolfe issued the following statement on October 17th:

It is with deep sorrow and regret that I am aborting my leadership campaign and announcing my resignation from UKIP with immediate effect.

In his statement he referred to Nigel Farage as one of Britain's greatest ever politicians.  

(Pause for applause.... and a stiff drink....)

He went on to say:

I believe that a strong UKIP would hold this government's feet to the fire and make sure it delivers a clean Brexit. However, I have come to the conclusion that UKIP is ungovernable without Nigel Farage leading it and the referendum cause to unite it.

The way I was treated by members of my own party during the Summer’s leadership campaign and the events that have led up to today have all contributed to me coming to this conclusion. The party is riddled with infighting, proxy wars between rival camps and is run by an NEC that is not fit for purpose.

Once my recovery is complete, it is my intention to sit as an independent MEP in the European Parliament.

I will continue to represent my constituents in the European Parliament until the UK's exit from the EU in 2019. I will champion the values I hold dear - those of freedom, democracy and an independent United Kingdom.

And he concludes with the clarification that:

With regards to the highly regrettable events in Strasbourg, I will reiterate my position that I received a blow from Mr Hookem that knocked me back into the meeting room and caused my subsequent injuries. Contrary to reports, I have made a police complaint.

On October 23rd Nigel Farage suggested, on Peston on Sunday that too much ambition had got the better of Steven Woolfe!



I don’t know much about Mr Woolfe, but one thing that puzzles me about these Ukippers (even if they resign) is how they square UK Independence etc with drawing a salary from the European Parliament?  

During the Leave Campaign, Mr Woolfe proclaimed that Mass migration has failed towns in the North West, and people, young and old are starting to see through what this European Union actually is - a political union, which only benefits to coalition of the comfortable. By taking back control of 55 million pounds a day in membership costs we send to the EU, we can start to reinvest some of that money in long term to spend on local communities in the North West.  Well a small start would be to give back the monthly pre-tax salary of MEPs of €8,213.02 plus travel allowance and other benefits (including a 3.5% of annual pay per year served pension from the age of 63)……  But this doesn’t seem to strike anyone as an issue…..

So, anyway, I am in Strasbourg, where there seems to be a slight edginess in the streets.  It is at the heart of Europe, which is why one of the two seats of the European Parliament is here.  

Poised as it is between France and Germany, and ruled by both in its history, Strasbourg is a city of style and significance, 

pomp and circumstance, 

rich and poor….

At the heart of the old town is the Cathedral of Notre Dame

an extraordinary gothic construction which seems almost to have fallen from the sky into the centre of the town.  

At night, unless the moon lights it,

it vanishes, 

and in the rain its 465ft spire (it was the world's tallest building from 1647 to 1847, and is still the highest completely medieval construction) gets lost in the clouds.

Tourists worship at this colossus, but then wander the alleys of Petite France 

and gorge themselves on Le Waedele (braised ham hock) or Baeckeoffe (mutton, beef and pork baked with potatoes and carrots) which are traditionally consumed with lots of Pinot Noir.  Before and after the drink to die for is Picon, which is a lethal concoction of North African orange liqueur, lemon cordial and beer.  A few of those and one really does feel like swinging handbags, UKIP style….

As far as I know, I don’t meet any MEPs on this trip, though La Victoire at lunchtime could easily be full of them (it’s full of some people).  My hotel is the sort of place they might stay – all grey and beige, some sort of sauna on the fifth floor – and the weather suits politicians, being dull and wet (shome mishtake there? Ed.)

Actually I really like Strasbourg…..  I just don’t like Handbags at Dawn....

(But I do like hats....)

And just in case you didn’t know, Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardennes-Lorraine region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament, which came about following the disastrous effects of the Second World War and the constant threat of an East-West confrontation (with the intention of removing risks of racist intolerance and promoting harmony). The institution is currently legally bound to meet in Strasbourg for twelve sessions a year lasting about four days each.  Meetings are held in the hemi-cyclical chamber in the Louise Weiss building, inaugurated in 1999, which lies in the Quartier Européen of the city.  Incidentally when the Louise Weiss building was opened, it was condemned by some for being shabby, dark and difficult to navigate with telecommunications and lifts being plagued by technical difficulties.  In 2002, the building's water supply was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and in 2008 the ceiling of the plenary chamber collapsed, necessitating that sessions be transferred to Brussels for much of that year.

According to its official website, Strasbourg is a young and dynamic city. 

It will definitely surprise you for its lively side, making it a hotbed of culture including museums, theatres, operas, concert halls and festivals. Everything is so close at hand here! Whether you love fine restaurants, monuments or entertainment, there's no doubt that you'll soon fall in love with this captivating city!  

In fact it is sited on the River Ill, two and a half miles west of the Rhine, and there was a Celtic settlement here before the Romans, then was variously occupied by Alemanni, Huns and Franks before being designated Imperial City in 1262 by Philip of Swabia.  After the 30 Years War, Louis XIV annexed it for France (in 1681), but then, following the Franco-Prussian War, in 1871, it became part of the German Empire, until 1918……

So, it’s a rough old place……  Perfect spot for the odd mano a mano encounter…..

Handbags at dawn. Girl on girl….


“One of those things that happens between men,” [Nigel Farage: “one of Britain's greatest ever politicians,” Steven Woolfe.]

Yeah...  Right...

(have you not forgot to wind up the clock?)

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For more on Strasbourg, see.....


It was one cool, refreshing evening, at the close of a very sultry day, in the latter end of the month of August, when a stranger, mounted upon a dark mule, with a small cloak-bag behind him, containing a few shirts, a pair of shoes, and a crimson-satin pair of breeches, entered the town of Strasburg......

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Volume IV

Laurence Sterne

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But back to the moment:  Stop Press: Breaking News  from the BBC website:

The clash at the European Parliament earlier this month between UKIP MEPs Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem has been reported to the French police.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said he had referred the "regrettable" incident after a probe.

The parliament's advisory committee on conduct concluded the two men's account of events "diverged substantially".

Mr Woolfe was rushed to hospital after collapsing in the parliament later on the day of the incident.

Mr Schulz said he had referred the matter "given the seriousness of the reported facts and their possible criminal implications".

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Schulz said medical examinations carried out following Mr Woolfe's hospital admission suggested his collapse followed a blow to the head.

He said he had taken note of Mr Woolfe's allegations, and had "no doubts about them personally".

Mr Woolfe collapsed earlier this month following an altercation with fellow MEP Mike Hookem, who has consistently denied hitting, pushing or punching Mr Woolfe.

UKIP's interim leader, Nigel Farage said there was "no evidence anybody was punched at all".

Mr Woolfe, who will sit as an independent, said last week that the incident led to him being treated by doctors for two seizures, partial paralysis and the loss of feeling in his face and body.

He insisted a blow from Mr Hookem knocked him back into the meeting room where UKIP MEPs were discussing reports that Mr Woolfe was in talks about defecting to the Conservatives.

Mr Hookem has said Mr Woolfe's political career "was over once he showed disloyalty to the UKIP party and membership when he held talks to join the Tories".




1 comment:

  1. Very amusing. What a bunch of tossers!