Clarkson on: the European parliament
Every day, 650 members of parliament decide what new laws they are going to foist on the country.
And they're not alone. We have parish councils and borough councils and county councils and the House of Lords and the European Parliament - thousands upon thousands of people whose job is very simple. They decide how we live our lives.
They dictate what we eat, what we say, where we go, how much we're paid, how we cut our hair and how often we're allowed to pick our nose.
Then, after a while, when we get bored with their proclamations, we have an election and they're replaced with thousands of new people, all of whom have new ideas. This is democracy at work. And when it comes to democracy there's only one end product - new laws. I read recently that, last year, the European parliament passed 27,000 new directives. 27,000, for Christ's sake. That's 74 a day.
Think what you were allowed to do 50 years ago that you aren't now. You can't drive quickly. You can't sell things on pavements without a licence. You can't build an extension. You can't buy more than 200 duty free cigarettes. And if you want to smoke them, you have to stand outside in the rain like a leper.
You see, even before the government gets round to actually banning something, political correctness steps in. You can't be a racist or poke fun at homosexuals. You can't employ a girl because she's got big tits. You can't fire her for not sleeping with you.
And in the time it's taken you to read this, Europe has passed another law. You are no longer allowed to keep a pet badger. And here comes another. Fish must be orange.
"In the time it’s taken you to read this, Europe has passed another law. You are no longer allowed to keep a pet badger"
You are, however, allowed to pop over to France and fill your car to the gunwales with cheap plonk. It's one of life's small pleasures, a tiny crumb of comfort to the battered people of this continent-sized nanny state.
But whoa, what's this - a press release from Tenneco Automotive which says that so-called Booze Cruising could be a false economy.
It warns drivers that if we overload our cars with wine and beer, we may not only break the law but also wreck our shock absorbers, thus negating the savings we've made on the drink. Really? Yup, and they've sent me a handy ready reckoner so that I can work out how many cases of wine is acceptable.
And here's the news. If you have a small car, a Fiesta, say, and there are five adults on board, the safe limit is 10 cases of wine. Well I reckon five people would pretty much fill a Fiesta, leaving you with just the boot. And I'm pretty certain you would only get four cases in there. So that leaves you able to carry six extra cases, but with nowhere to put them.
And don't think it gets any better if you leave your passengers at home. Go by yourself and Tenneco say you can carry 30 cases. I'm sorry, but if you can get 30 cases of wine in a Fiesta, you should call Norris McWhirter.
It says on my ready reckoner that the safe limit in a large car with no passengers is 31 cases but then, according to Tenneco (who make shock absorbers, by the way) a Mondeo is a ‘large' car.
So what is a Lamborghini LM002? How many cases of wine would I be allowed to put in this V12-powered, seven-foot-high, three-ton monster? My ready reckoner is unable to help but if you are allowed to put 30 cases in a Fiesta, as the Lambo is 10 times bigger, I could bring back 300 cases - 3,600 bottles. Which is enough to make you very, very drunk.
But there is one small problem. You can't have a Lamborghini LM002. Well you could, but in the last few minutes the European Parliament has announced that all four-wheel drive cars must be powered by corned beef from a boneless German cow. And Mr Prescott says that if you buy anything larger than a Vespa, it'll cost you £200 a minute to park it.
Tenneco say that if you're going to France on a booze cruise this year, you should think about the damage you're doing to your car, the laws you may foul and if, on a long drive, you should take frequent breaks.
I say you should get over there, buy as much as you want, in whatever car you want, and if anyone stops you, remind them that we're living in a free country. And then pull out their liver with a rusty hook. This, and I've checked, is still legal.