This week a new TV drama hit Dutch TV screens about politics, intrigue and power. It promises to be a sexed up version of politics set in the European Parliament and I got wondering if it will ever make it to UK screens? One of the things I found about becoming an MEP suddenly, is how little I knew the landscape of my new surroundings.
Like many others I have watched enough Yes Minister and The Thick of It to have a rough idea not only of the inner workings of a ministerial office but also the kind of conversations, daily events and crises that can arise. Added to that with a diet of the West Wing, films like Primary Colours or latterly US House of Cards, I sort of feel that I could be left in Washington and I'd have a rough grasp of how politics operates there. But quite frankly, I would have found it easier to navigate my way around Hogwarts’ secret passageways than to first find my way around the European Parliament!
In fact, the European Parliament feels somewhat like an international airport lounge, constantly surrounded by foreign languages. Some people are completely relaxed and others rushing between meetings as if they were running late for a flight. Once we are in the Chamber, name cards sit neatly on desks not unlike an international conference.
Some of the quirks are also quite strange. I had expected to take the seat of the previous Labour MEP, Richard Howitt and while I figuratively did, I did not literally. In the European Parliament everyone sits in alphabetical order, which means that many of my colleagues had to move down a seat.
The European Parliament takes its tradition more from the continental democracies than that of our own, with a horseshoe shaped layout reminiscent of the German and Dutch parliaments. The nature of proportional representation means that European politics is about compromise, agreements and consensus. There is no "government" and no official "opposition" that a Westminster politician would recognise.
Yet the fight between left and right is one we know very well. Left of centre politicians across Europe are having the same conversations that we are having in Britain. We are all are worried about insecurity at work, zero hours contracts and of course, the spectre of populism. I recently voted to ensure better protections are put in place for employees of companies such as Deliveroo and Uber and participated in an emergency debate on emergency aid for refugees who are facing snow and freezing conditions in camps across Europe. Meanwhile the right wing European Peoples Party (EPP) and European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) groups seek to amend legislation in favour of big business, voting against whistleblower protection and seeking lower environmental standards.
Brexit looms large but it's not everything. With the race to replace the outgoing President of the European Parliament, people are not talking about Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox but Antonio Tajani, Gianni Pittella and Guy Verhofstadt (the latter of YouTube fame for his put downs of UKIP's Nigel Farage.) French and German politicians are focused on their own elections later this year. The refugee crisis continues to cause massive concern and so does improving the economy. To many Europeans, these issues are more worrying than whether Britain remains in the single market or falls back on the WTO option.
Of course Brexit is a big issue, and only last week I attended a packed event discussing British and German business relations post Brexit. When it was the turn of the British speaker on the platform he took the microphone and said: ”Brexit means Brexit. Thank you very much for coming”, and handed the microphone on. Everyone laughed, but sadly the joke's on us.
I look forward to watching the new political TV show "Brussels". Yet in real life I worry Brexit will turn out not to be a thriller or even a sitcom but more, as reality unfolds, a tragic drama.