Gales view (June 18th 2008)
The Irish would appear, for the moment, to have saved the day and spared us from the Treaty of Lisbon about which we, the ordinary public, were denied the right to vote in the United Kingdom. As one who was originally in favour of the Common Market as a trading entity I have come to the view that the concept of a federal United States of Europe as the "global player" that some dream of is too appalling to contemplate. As a result, I have developed a growing sympathy for the Better Off Out movement. The following piece of trivia suggests why!
Those of us who rise early sometimes find ourselves listening to "Farming Today" on the radio. So it was that I recently found myself listening to the views of one of the Mister Men who, the wireless tells me, is with the European Commission in Brussels.
Mr. Man, who sounded very English, used the phrase "as I am speaking on British radio" and referred several times to "you", meaning us, here in the United Kingdom. This threw my mind back to a visit to the Euro-capital with the Home Affairs Select Committee when we were conducting an enquiry into the future of transfrontier broadcasting. A civil servant, seconded from Whitehall, rounded on me at that time and in all seriousness said "Mr. Gale, just because I am speaking English you must not think of me as an Englishman"! I cannot imagine the public servants of any other nation going so "native" as to renounce their nationality or to so sublimate their allegiance to the Great European Ideal.
But back to Mr. Man. We were told, in sombre tones and without the hint of a fleck of humour and with absolutely no sense of the ridiculous, on a day that was not 1st April, that the European Commission is actively considering allowing the marketing of a second class of vegetable!
Those who have sought to deny that Europe seeks to impose only the perfect and straight cucumber upon us have, I fear, had the bottom kicked out of their apology for argument.. Here we were, at about ten to six in the morning, seriously discussing the status of the straight cucumber and the possibility that "because of world food shortages" we might no longer wish to throw sub-euro-standard food away but, possibly, search for a formula that might allow the sale, in supermarkets, of second-class vegetables!
These substandard legumes would, of course, have to be properly labelled. They might, perhaps, mused Mr. Europe, be described as "suitable for soup" or "good for casseroles" or sold under somesuch formula that makes it abundantly plain that only a straight cucumber may be classed by the food police as suitable for use in salads or sandwiches.
Now, while I know that we will all take comfort from the fact that the Euro-purity of the harmonised cucumber is safe in the hands of an ever-vigilant uberqualitatfuhrer I cannot help allowing myself the politically incorrect and highly seditious thought that it is hard if not well-nigh impossible, once a cucumber is sliced, to determine whether its provenance was straight or, if you will pardon the expression, bent!
If you detect a slight note of frivolity in my approach to this then you might be forgiven. Remember, though, that while half of the world is starving and crops are failing and even for those living in lands still flowing with pasteurised milk and honey the prices of those commodities are rising out of control there are actually people, paid by you and me the Euro taxpayer, who are seeking to find acceptable ways of not throwing perfectly good food away!
I have a suggestion to make. How about we sack the bureaucrats, close down the office and let the customer decide whether he or she wants to buy a straight or a crooked cucumber or a scrubbed or an unwashed potato? Or is that too radical a possibility?