Two Labour MPs took part in a champagne drinking contest on an official Commons junket to Paris, which led to one of them being violently ill. Left-winger Bill Etherington drank so much that a doctor was called. It was feared the MP might die after he defeated fellow Labour MP Geraldine Smith in the expenses-fuelled boozing competition. The incident caused lasting damage to the UK’s relations with Europe, with Labour MPs saying it led to Britain being banned from a key European post.
Anti-monarchist and former miners’ union leader Mr Etherington outraged senior politicians from across the Continent when he projectile vomited at a dinner. The conduct of Labour’s self-styled ‘champion drinker’ was reported to Downing Street, but Labour Party leaders ordered a cover-up to prevent a major scandal.
Astonishingly, no action was taken against him. He was told to ‘carry on junketing’ – and returned to Britain yesterday from a trip to Romania similar to the one in Paris where, according to other Labour MPs, he disgraced himself and his country.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed shocking details of how MPs spend more than £800,000 a year on European junkets, which some of them freely admit are an orgy of drinking. Some spend up to two months a year on them, running up bills of around £30,000 each. So little work is done that some politicians regard them as a ‘holiday’. In some instances, MPs use them as opportunities for sex. They get free business-class travel and a daily allowance of £236 paid direct into their bank account by British taxpayers, with no questions asked.
Sunderland North MP Mr Etherington is one of 36 MPs and peers in the Council of Europe (CoE), which also involves membership of the Western European Union (WEU) talking shops on human rights and defence.
The champagne drinking competition took place at an official afternoon reception in Paris, attended by Britain’s all-party WEU delegation of MPs and peers. Unknown to Mr Etherington, as he downed glass after glass of free bubbly, Ms Smith poured her drinks into a plant pot.
Mr Etherington switched from champagne to wine when Labour MPs went on to a dinner with the WEU socialist group at an expensive restaurant. The incident is described in a new book by Labour MP Paul Flynn, who was at the dinner.
Without naming Mr Etherington or Ms Smith, Mr Flynn says CoE meetings were a ‘pretext for shameless alcohol-fuelled jaunts’. He writes: ‘There was a predictable, crucifying and embarrassing climax to a competition between two British MPs to discover who could drink the most champagne.
‘One cheated and dumped excess champagne into flowerpots at the reception. The other kept drinking to excess. 'He was in a “confused” state en route to a dinner in a splendid French restaurant. More champagne was guzzled. [He] had consumed a near lethal quantity of alcohol. ‘He was placed at the top table where he babbled incoherently. The event was a dinner for delegates from about 20 countries.
‘The reputation of the British is still damaged by this incident. It was not the idiotic competition or the wild inebriation that left an indelible memory. It was the display of projectile vomiting across the top table.
Read the whole article HERE. You can order Paul Flynn's book, HERE.