European Politics has been trying to give itself a bit of a make-over to address public disinterest and dissatisfaction. The result? A spate of comics that the Parliament's political groups have been producing to garner interest in their activities on the environment committee or whatever, and prove that our elected representatives are paid to do more than lunch royally at the taxpayer's expense.
Although I'd have expected that the Liberal Group's effort - Operation Red Dragon - would provide at least passing amusement for visitors on open day, I was suprised to see that it had made it all the way into the Sunday Telegraph. Yannick, the guy who 'inspired' it, was awfully pleased with being quoted - until it transpired that 'he' was quoted as 'she'...
4 February 2007, The Sunday Telegraph
WHAT do Euro-MPs do when they are not lunching or filling in expenses forms?
It seems that they fall in love with investigative journalists, brave assassination attempts and single-handedly take on corrupt Chinese generals - according to the Liberal group in the European parliament, at least.
Tired of its staid image, the 106-strong group has spent pounds 25,000 printing 40,000 copies of Operation Red Dragon, a cartoon storybook depicting the glamorous and daring life of "Elisa Correr'', the personification of the "new breed'' of "exciting'' Liberal Euro-MP. While real parliamentarians fret about whether an amendment to the latest European Union directive might offend the committee chairman, the fictitious Miss Correr is ready to torpedo inter-continental trade deals or take on hit men for the sake of her principles.
Cosy compromises are just not her style, especially when her boyfriend Tony, a British photo-journalist, is being held prisoner by a renegade oriental general.
"The Liberal Democrats have principles to defend and this is a question of human rights, so we must take that risk,'' she says, when asked if it is worth upsetting one of the EU's biggest trade partners.
In one sequence of the 38-page giveaway, a scantily-clad Elisa is taken aback to find her boyfriend hiding in the wardrobe of her hotel room during a trade mission to "Dong Fang'', a country easily recognisable as China. "I had to see you, Elisa, but in private,'' he says, passing her photographs proving that an EU arms embargo is being flouted.
"Come back with me!'' she pleads. "They won't let me leave,'' he replies, "I'll have to chance my luck.'' The two depart after a lingering kiss.
After threatening to scupper the trade deal - and fighting off an assassination attempt - she forces her boyfriend's release, winning the praise of a Dong Fang counterpart who marvels at her courage."It's not courage, Mr Li. Just a few principles,'' she responds.
Yannick Laude, a Liberal group spokesman who was responsible for the storyline, said the objective in producing the book was to try to hold the attention of visitors to the parliament.
"We noticed that they took the umbrellas and the pens, but threw away the policy leaflets before they walked out of the door,'' she said. "This way we can get them to take some information back into their homes.''
The closest the Liberal group has to a real-life Elisa Correr is said to be Sophia in t'Veld(CORR)(CORR), the glamorous 43-year-old Dutch Euro-MP known for her tenacious pursuit of a civil liberties agenda.
But how do the 12 British members of the group match up to the new James Bond image? Group leader Graham Watson says that Baroness Ludford, "while not quite as young'', is probably the most dynamic. The 55-year-old has been a key mover in the parliament's fight for the US to recognise its CIA "rendition'' flights over Europe.