Postcard from Strasbourg by Richard Steel

Dear Fred,

Die Mannschaft returned triumphant to Strasbourg. Skilfully led by their manager, Angela Merkel, the all-conquering German team were praised for their tactics and ability to influence the game. Leading on the right-wing was new signing Manfred Weber from Bayern CSU, who was assisted by no less than nine German EPP coordinators in key areas of the field, such as environment, internal market, trade and economics.

The team was nicely balanced on the left, where veteran Martin Schulz regained the captain’s armband. He could also count on the support of eight SPD coordinators, mirroring their colleagues on the right in the environment and internal market field and adding some extra dash in the transport and employment sector. There was still room for controversy over the omission from the squad of the (Deutsche mark) defender, Bernd Lucke, from the newly promoted AfD team. Praise was also heaped on the backroom staff who had orchestrated the victory, with special mention going to Klaus “the darkness” Welle.

The week of course was dominated by another German speaker (along with French and a smattering of English) as Jean-Claude Juncker made it 1-0 for the Spitzenkandidat team. He will have taken some small pleasure in having again won more votes than Martin Schulz, receiving 422 votes to Schulz’s 409 when re-elected EP president. The figures of course betray the fact that at least 60 or 70 MEPs from the three core groups behind the Juncker/Schuz deal failed to support them. Fingers were pointed in every direction. Philippe Lamberts, the newly elected Green co-president, noted that applause for Juncker had been louder on the left of the house and rather muted on the right and mischievously wondered if he could rely on the support of his own group to deliver his programme. Liberal leader Guy Verhofsatdt warned any wavering EPP or Socialist Member that a vote against Juncker was a vote for the UKIP rabble that he has taken to taunting at every available occasion. Gianni Pittella was asked if he was not worried the Socialists would be accused of not respecting the deal and made to pay by their coalition partners? He rounded on the journalist,  asking if he was in the ballot box to see how Socialist MEPs had voted. The answer should have been “No I just read the tweets and press releases from some of your French and Spanish members explaining why they couldn’t vote for Juncker”.

Tweets have of course become the new sound bites and the news of Lord Hill’s nomination as British Commissioner was “trending” in the corridors of Strasbourg. “Who he?” was of course the initial response and the Wikipedia page on the leader of the House of Lords must have been in danger of crashing. We all quickly learnt that he was a former lobbyist, which will make his hearing all the more interesting. Martin Schulz illustrated how little is known about him when he was forced into an embarrassing  U-turn after initially labelling him as “radically anti-European”, which seems to be his default setting for anyone with an English accent.  What we do know of the man from his own tweets is that he has a good sense of humour:

Lord Hill @LordHillEU  •  Jul 15 Perhaps the multilingualism dossier. I SAID, PERHAPS THE MULTILI… jesus doesn’t anyone here speak English? 

We also learnt from no less a source than Nigel Farage that Jean-Claude Juncker, for all his federalist dreams, is a “social sort of chap, with a good sense of humour”. Twitter again bears him out with the following entry from the Commission President: 

Jean-Claude Juncker ‏@Juncker_JC •  Jul 15  I’ve always respected Mr. Cameron’s principled stand against total unknowns being put in office without a vote. Also, welcome to Lord Hill. 

It turns out sadly that both twitter accounts are spoofs which is a shame as a good sense of humour (GSOH in twitter speak) would seem to be a much needed criteria for the new Commission.

Happy holidays,




Richard Steel

Senior Associate

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