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Burns Night in Brussels

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Derek Bateman Derek Bateman | 15:02 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

Belgian bier

It was Brussels this week and straight into the heart of decision-making at the Parliament. But not high level interviews or big political stories. Instead I was giving the Toast to the Lassies at the EP's Burns Supper which raised money for the charity Mercy Corps. I thought I'd done enough to set a tough pace for my fellow diner the SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford who was replying on behalf of the Lassies but sadly she had an answer for everything and she managed to be charming and witty with it. Oh well, there's always next year.

I dropped into a drinks reception on Tuesday to be met by an avuncular, silver-haired bloke who said: "Welcome to Brussels. I'm the American Ambassador to London." And so he was. Louis B Susman was in town to join the US Ambassador to the EU Bill Kennard in a charm offensive with MEPs. Proof, if it were needed, that relations have been pretty low for too long.

We knocked about the issue of Megrahi's release before he said: "I love your whisky and your golf courses and my wife loves your jumpers. Let's call it a draw" I liked the Ambassadors' team of high-flying staffers straight from the West Wing. One was called Tweet! We played Spot the Spook and my money was on the broad-shouldered, crew-cut who had worked in the National Security Agency.

I also sat in on the fisheries committee and heard my host, the Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, who invited me to the Burns Night, tackle the Icelandic Ambassador on mackerel wars and Iceland's attempt to join the EU. The Ambassador is Stefan Johannesson who was on Newsweek last year. I button-holed him at the meeting and got him to agree to come on again this week when he gets home to Reykjavik from Brussels via Geneva. He's supposed to be painting his house on Saturday morning so he says his wife will kill him! I should have offered him my Toast to the Lassies to win her over. I think he likes Scotland too and his daughter is studying at Edinburgh University.

Meanwhile, we discuss the rolling movements in North Africa, especially Egypt which of course borders the Middle East theatre. We look back at the Greek tragedy of Tommy Sheridan's demise and disgrace and anything else Pauline the Producer has thought up while I was away. I'm off to sharpen the barbs in the Toast in case I get another go at the Lassies next year. Meanwhile my advice is: Don't tangle with Dr Eilidh Whiteford. I think even Rabbie would have been charmed into silence. Join me tomorrow at 8 am.


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