Those Sunday Strasbourg moments

I stomp out, recalling the quote from Gandhi that sustains me at such dishearteningly frequent momen

Surely it can't be that time of the month again, can it? I glare at my diary with the familiar sinking feeling that yet another Strasbourg week is looming - the ritual monthly travelling circus that sees 732 MEPs forced to decamp from the European Parliament buildings in Brussels to those in Strasbourg. Not that I don't like the city, you understand - it's spectacularly beautiful. But it is insane that, under EU law, parliament has to up sticks and travel there for one week every month, at an annual cost of over ?200m, for no better reason than to please the French.

It does nothing for the credibility of parliament, either. There can hardly be a more fitting symbol of the absurdity of this wasteful and costly commute than the fleet of lorries, carrying 3,700 trunks of office documents for MEPs, and their 2,000 officials and interpreters, making the pointless 220-mile journey south.

It's sod's law that no matter how carefully I've packed my own trunk, I'll have left a key document in the wrong office. Not even the prospect of a midnight assignation with Peter Mandelson (of which more, later) can release me from the gathering gloom of a pre-Strasbourg Sunday evening.

Cunning wheeze

The highlight (or nadir) of the week is a vote on the Services Directive - a piece of legislation designed, in the name of global competitiveness, to prevent democratically elected governments from being able to regulate their own public services (that's simplified, but you get the gist). In its original draft, it even provided for corporations to apply the laws of their country of origin in their country of operation - a cunning wheeze that would have seen firms falling over themselves to relocate to countries with the lowest standards, so the costs of complying with their "country of origin" laws would be the cheapest possible. Thankfully, we were able to throw that idea out. But the proposals in front of us are still unacceptable, so the Green Group votes against the whole package. We lose, however, and the directive is adopted. I stomp out, righteously recalling to myself the quote from Gandhi that sustains me at such (dishearteningly frequent) moments - even when you are in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.

Midnight tryst

My rhythm is interrupted by interviews I've been asked to give on the Queen's Speech back home. Does the inclusion of a Climate Change Bill show that Tony Blair has finally, truly, "gone green", they ask? No, I answer firmly. (Can they be serious?) Without annual targets to cut emissions, any climate bill will be toothless. And if Blair really wants to demonstrate green credentials, he could do it by scrapping his £30bn road-building programme and axing plans for a massive increase in aviation. I'm not holding my breath . . .

It's time for my midnight meeting with Mandelson. Despite the late hour, it's actually on an important issue - a trade scheme that offers developing countries easier access to European markets if they agree to meet core labour standards. Of course, the system works only if those countries implement the standards in practice rather than on paper. There's plenty of evidence that at least one of them, Colombia, is still guilty of blatant violations of labour laws. At this untimely hour, there are only about six of us left in the whole chamber, but I still call on the trade commissioner, with passion and fury, to "carry out an immediate investigation of the case". Mandelson grunts.

Drinks trolley

The only good thing about the five-hour train journey back to Brussels is that it gives you time to think and read. There's not the remotest danger of being interrupted by phone calls, since reception en route is non-existent. There is a similarly remote chance of being interrupted by calls to the buffet car or even - please God - a drinks trolley, for such luxuries are also sadly non-existent. I sink back into my book on the role of intensive poultry farming in spreading bird flu (don't get me on to that one - it's truly shocking) and ponder a range of (relatively) non-violent direct actions against the French for inflicting yet another Strasbourg week on us.

Caroline Lucas is a Green MEP

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

This article first appeared in the 27 November 2006 issue of the New Statesman, The real Afghan war