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By Ray Fleming

AS Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions showed the House of Commons can be a most unruly and offensive place. But is it necessary for such features of British politics to be exported to the European Parliament? The United Kingdom Independent Party seems to think so. A couple of weeks ago its former leader Nigel Farage blatantly insulted Herman Van Rompuy, the newly-appointed President of the EU's Council of Ministers. Earlier this week another UKIP MEP, William Dartmouth, turned his attention to Catherine Ashton, the newly-appointed High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy, describing her as “supremely unqualified, the Sarah Palin of the student left”. He was suspended from the sitting since personal insults are unacceptable in the European Parliament. There is a certain piquancy in this incident since William Dartmouth is the Earl of Dartmouth and Catherine Ashton is Baroness Ashton. How the untitled Europeans will have enjoyed this spat.

Catherine Ashton was giving the Parliament an account of the progress she is making with her new responsibilities which include the creation of the EU's first diplomatic corps and a review of French proposals for a single centre for joint EU military operations. By all accounts she impressed many MEPs, especially by her readiness to share with them the inevitable tensions that occur when the occupant of a newly-created post takes over functions previously handled to a greater or lesser degree by others.