Abigail Fenton 11th April 2019
We’ll be the first to admit that numbers can not give the full picture, but we’ve taken some of the figures recorded by the European Parliament and crunched the numbers to give MEPs a rudimentary ranking. Here you’ll find some of the hardest-working British MEPs in the entire European Parliament — as well as those languishing at the bottom of the table.
Plenary attendance: 54.5%
Number of report amendments: 40
Louise Bours, MEP for North West England, is the absolute worst, according to our ranking system. What has she been up to since Brexit? Basically nothing.
She works on two committees — Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and Employment and Social Affairs — but “works” might be a bit generous, as another committee member told us Bours has only ever attended one or two meetings. In almost three years, she has made 40 report amendments, which is a bit better than some but nothing to be proud of; done zero reports of her own; submitted no written questions; and made no motions.
Credit to her, she has just about managed to attend more than half (54.5%) the plenary — big, monthly meetings in Strasbourg — which could have something to do with the fact that MEPs get half their staff allowance (€4,000 or £3,450) deducted if they show up less than that. But who’s to say?
Of course, Bours doesn’t have to turn up to the EP to debate the cases of women being prosecuted for miscarriage in El Salvador — rich, white British women’s rights, guys, c’mon! — if she doesn’t want to. I mean, there’s no one to hold her accountable.
If an MEP isn’t doing their job, it’s the responsibility of constituents to hold them to account. (“It’s about political criticism, rather than a sanction,” says Labour MEP Richard Corbett). But given how hard it was for The Overtake to even obtain most of this data — and how much horrible maths it took — that seems like a right laugh.
Corbett, who represents Yorkshire and the Humber, explains that accountability in the EP often comes from home parties — if Labour or Tory MEPs don’t turn up for example, they’re in danger of being deselected by the party. But Ukip, of which Bours was a member up until November, has “never operated by normal rule”, he says.
Bours now sits as an independent, so there isn’t even a party to keep her in check. It’s a good system, guys. It is.
Plenary attendance: 59.5%
Number of report amendments: 0
It’s hard to say what Brexiteer Paul Nuttall, representing North West England, has been up to since the 2016 referendum, because no one ever really knows where he is. Not kidding; people have written extensively about this subject.
He’s also on two committees he never bothers with — Regional Development, and Budgetary Control — but his attendance is slightly better than Bours’s, at 59.5% (gotta get that euro). Like his former office-mate, he’s made no effort with written questions, motions or reports in almost three years.
At least Bours had the good sense to chuck in an amendment or 40, just to prove she’s still alive and kicking, though. For all we know, Nuttall is dead and his cheques are being cashed by the gold-toothed, monocle-wearing tiger he keeps chained to his yacht-handler with a diamond leash. (The tiger would deserve the money more.)
Kidding, of course. A few MEPs told The Overtake they’ve actually seen Nuttall around the EP recently; just not at meetings.
No, Nuttall and other Ukip/Brexit/Ukip-turned-independent (let’s just agree to pretend they’re all different) MEPs tend to spend most of their time hanging out in the bar, according to one source. It’s a bit like going to school just to hide in the toilets with your friends to avoid cross-country, except Nuttall is a grown man who can just drink from home if he wants, and meetings don’t give you stitches, so it’s weirder.
Plenary attendance: 61.4%
Number of report amendments: 0
It’s hardly surprising Leave frontman Nigel Farage (pronounced “Gàrbàge”) doesn’t do any work for EU. The Brexit party leader, who represents south-west England, is on a committee, but has done no report work and filed no motions since the vote. He has submitted one written question, but he probably wasn’t there when it was answered.
Farage’s plenary attendance is barely higher than ex-pals Bours’s and Nuttall’s, at 61.4%. But it’s fine. Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia aren’t really a priority. No need to vote on what to do about it.
Not only has Farage, predictably, done no work to benefit his lifelong arch-nemesis the EU, he’s actually gone and robbed it. In 2018, the former-Ukip leader and MP-wannabe had €40,000 (£35,500) of misspent public funds docked from his salary. The money paid his assistant Christopher Adams, who financial controllers suspected wasn’t working on EP matters.
The one thing Farage does do is speeches. He’s made 49 of them since the referendum. You have to admit, that’s a lot more than you would expect from someone who clearly couldn’t care less about their job otherwise. However, Ukip MEPs and former-Ukippers have a reputation of “grandstanding” for social media, and their speeches are usually very off-topic, multiple MEPs told us.
“It’s all for YouTube,” Jude Kirton Darling, MEP for North East England, said. “Because there’s no real scrutiny of the European Parliament, that doesn’t come out.
“Because there were so many of them elected in 2014, they were given specific media training in how to deliver speeches that are good for Facebook and YouTube. They rarely have notes; it doesn’t matter if it’s on the point or not on the point. There’s lots gesturing, there’s lots of ‘calling out’ of people, kind of provocativeness and things. That doesn’t fit with the general culture of the European Parliament.”
Do you think Farage ends all his speeches with, “Don’t forget to like and subscribe”?
William (The Earl of) Dartmouth
Plenary attendance: 67.7%
Number of report amendments: 37
William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth and MEP for south-west England, is the most productive person on this list yet, which is… [sigh]. Not only is he a member of three committees, he’s put forward one motion and amended 37 reports since the Brexit vote. No reports of his own, but if your standards haven’t well and truly been lowered by now then I don’t know what to tell you.
Dartmouth’s attendance is even kind-of, almost acceptable if you’re squinting really hard and, for some reason, hanging upside down so all the blood rushes to your head. After all, 67.7% is pretty close to 70%, which is the equivalent of missing one-and-a-half days weekly of school, or a year-and-a-half in total.
He’s also made an absolute tonne (147) of speeches. But it’s worth remembering that he was a member of Ukip up until late last year, when he resigned due to “dissatisfaction” with leader Gerard Batten (he accused Batten of moving Ukip “farther and farther to the right”, and “hijacking” the party to “campaign against Islam as a religion”), so he has definitely been media-trained.
It’s therefore hard to say how many of Dartmouth’s speeches have been on-topic and how many have been “for YouTube”, but at least we know he wasn’t championing Tommy Robinson in any of them. Small victories.
Plenary attendance: 65.8%
Number of report amendments: 185
What to say about Conservative MEP for south-east England Nirj Deva? His attendance of 65.8% since the EU referendum isn’t great, and he doesn’t seem to have done a load of work, even if he’s definitely not the worst MEP on this list either. According to The Overtake’s data, Deva has submitted a single written question and made just one motion in about two years and nine months.
He has, however, been five committees, written six reports and amended 185 others. Compared to some of the others on this list, he’s Leslie frickin’ Knope.
He has a lot of opinions too, does Deva. He’s filed 34 draft opinions — documents that propose changes to both legislative and non-legislative reports — since Brexit, which is well above the UK average of five during that time. So maybe our rankings aren’t perfect, but maybe he could make an effort to drag himself to Strasbourg more often.
Plenary attendance: 73.4%
Number of report amendments: 4
Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP for south-east England, has been in Strasbourg for at least 73.4% of meetings since the Brexit vote, according to The Overtake’s data, so we’re finally getting somewhere.
Unfortunately, it’s not a long walk. The editor of The Conservative — a quarterly political journal — has written just two questions and amended four reports since June 2016. He’s also only prepared one draft opinion, which is surprising, as he evidently had plenty of opinions for The Sunday Telegraph and the International Business Times, among various other publications in which he has regular or semi-regular columns. And enough for 97 speeches.
He belongs to three committees, to give him his due. However, his lack of work on reports would indicate he doesn’t contribute a great deal to either.
Otherwise, Hannan has done nothing for his paycheck since June 2016 — in the European Parliament, that is, because he’s clearly been extremely busy writing about politics, even if he hasn’t actively participated in it.
Plenary attendance: 74.1%
Number of report amendments: 28
Jane Collins, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, is the only current Ukip party member to appear on this list. Much like her predecessors, Collins hasn’t bothered with reports, motions or written questions since the referendum. She’s on no committees at all. She has, at least, made 28 report amendments.
Her attendance of meetings isn’t the actual worst, if we’re being honest. I mean, sure, 74.1% isn’t great — again, schools used to kick kids out for better — but it’s not like it’s in the fifties. It’s so close to three quarters! And, to be really fair to her, she did battle breast cancer for nine months back in 2014, which she said still affects her quality of life today.
“I occasionally have after-effects, which previously have stopped me attending plenary sessions,” Collins told The Overtake. “In retrospect, I think my percentage of voting, which is in the seventies, is quite an achievement.” Absolutely fair.
She added that Labour and Tory MEPs will, of course, have higher attendance, as they have “all gone native and bought into the bubble” — the bubble being the EU, which calls into question what exactly Collins thinks her job is. But maybe it’s best this way. After all, a Ukip MEP who gets nothing done is surely a lesser evil than a really effective one.
Collins claimed she has done a lot of work liaising directly with government ministers regarding Brexit and opportunities to solve issues like the Northern Ireland border. She also pointed to work done for constituents but quickly clarified this work “is confidential and shall remain so”, so I guess we’ll just take her word for it, in absence of evidence.
Collins admonished us: “You may also not have seen that I provided the front page exclusive story for the Sunday Telegraph regarding the UK having to run in the European Parliament elections, which was picked up elsewhere.
“You don’t find out this kind of information by sitting in plenary waving your hand in the air.”
She then added that UK MEPs are “massively outvoted in European Parliament”, and our brains actually short-circuited. Maybe it’s because you’re out pretending to be a journalist while your old party mates are day-drinking, Jane.
Plenary attendance: 93.1%
Number of report amendments: 3,225 (!)
Lucy Anderson, Labour MEP for London, is the best British MEP, based on The Overtake’s scoring system. While a couple of (mostly Labour) MEPs do have Anderson’s impressive plenary attendance of 93.1% since the Brexit vote beat, her work ethic appears unparalleled.
Anderson is vice chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, as well as a member of two others. Over the past three years, she has produced four reports and made an overwhelming 3,225 report amendments, putting most of her coworkers to shame.
In addition, she has submitted a respectable 32 written questions, done 26 speeches, worked as a shadow rapporteur on five opinions — facilitating compromise on legislative report proposals — and put forward a motion. Her recent activities include a debate on new rights for the sale of digital content and goods and a proposal regarding the prevention of terrorist content online.
We take it back, Nirj Deva. Lucy Anderson is the real-life Leslie Knope, and she gives us hope.
Plenary attendance: 89.9%
Number of report amendments: 2,177
Theresa Griffin, Labour MEP for North West England, isn’t doing too badly, either. Our runner-up boasts an impressive 89.9% record of attendance over the period since the EU referendum and has made the second-highest number of report amendments, at 2,177. It’s crazy to think that eight of her coworkers have done zero, isn’t it?
Griffin is the chair of the EP Labour Party and a member of five committees. She’s made 16 motions, submitted 10 written questions, produced two reports, and made 172 speeches (really, take that Farage). Absolutely nothing to turn your nose up at here!
Some of her recent activities include a debate about the promotion of the use of renewable energy, a recommendation regarding the regulation of civil aviation safety, and a motion to do with EU-Morocco relations.
Plenary attendance: 95.6%
Number of report amendments: 1,461
Julie Ward, Labour MEP for North West England, rounds out our top three. Ward has barely missed any meetings at European Parliament in nearly three years, boasting an attendance of 95.6%. But like Anderson and Griffin, Ward doesn’t just show up — she rolls up her sleeves and gets down to work.
On top of her 1,461 report amendments, 193 speeches, 56 written question submissions, 43 motions and four opinions, Ward is a member of five committees and has spent the last few months working on the EU’s terrorism directive, which is seeking to prevent the dissemination of terrorist material online.
Being an MEP is more than a nine-to-five job for those who care about peace, equality and democracy, Ward told The Overtake. As an elected member, she is on call 24/7, like a doctor — “ready to offer a shot of hope and a promise to do everything I can”.
“We are all committed Europeans but that doesn’t mean you sit back and say how lovely the EU is,” Ward said. “There’s still lots of things that can and must improve, and if you roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, you can make a real difference.
“Also, from a human rights perspective, we are experiencing a backlash from the right-wing — the battles we fought as feminists decades ago are as relevant today. I prefer to be in the fight rather than on the sidelines. If that means I must work extra hard, I do it willingly.”
Also part of our MEPs investigation:
Abigail Fenton 11th April 2019