The Votewatch website has published attendance figures for MEPs for the last year. These need a little interpretation. They only reflect MEPs attending the plenary voting sessions of the Parliament. Like most of my colleagues I spend more time in committees and working with the different political groupings.
To recognise this the European Parliamentary Labour Party publishes the attendance records of Labour MEPs every quarter. This demonstrates that we do not just turn up to vote. Voting remains MEPs strongest power where we agree, amend or refuse legislation. So attendance should be good but there are times when we have conflicting commitments. This especially applies to people like Labour’s Leader in Europe Glenis Willmott (90%) who also has to attend meetings with leading members of the Labour Party in the UK. This results inevitably in diary clashes and a similar situation probably explains Conservative Leader Timothy Kirkhope’s 79% attendance. UKIP’s Nigel Farage had a serious accident which partly explains his 70%. My own attendance is 87%.
620 of the 736 MEPs had attendance records of 80% or better. I think it is worth examining those British MEPs with attendance records in the bottom sixth of all MEPs. If any of those I mention have had health or other reasons which explain their attendance records then I will be happy to acknowledge that. I assume in my comments that as MEPs we should be ensuring we represent and vote for our electors.
I am surprised to see Vicky Ford (79%) and Ashley Fox (79%) as new Conservative MEPs having poorer attendance records. My view is that one of the best ways to understand the job is to spend as much time as you can in the Parliament in your first year. Far more typical is the new Welsh Labour MEP Derek Vaughan (93%). Continuing Conservatives Nirj Deva (77%), Roger Helmer (76%) and James Elles (75%) take almost a quarter of their time elsewhere.
Scottish Nationalist Alyn Smith (74%) and Scottish Liberal George Lyon (74%)both have similar records.
Continuing with the Conservatives Robert Sturdy (69%), Dan Hannan (67%) and Saj Karim (65%) consider that they can spend a third of their time elsewhere. All in it together? Not if you are a Conservative MEP. Imagine the outrage for a teacher, police officer or job centre worker who was absent a third of the time. Over a third of the Conservative MEPs (9 of 25) effectively take a day off a week from their responsibilities to represent the British people in Europe.
Of course I am very unhappy with the BNP’s Nick Griffin who attends 79% of the time. I’ve got a nice big fat round figure of zero which would be far more suitable to me.
UKIP MEPs have consistently set poor performance standards so it is unsurprising they have poor attendance records. For those UKIP supporters who say their poor attendance record reflect their disdain for the Parliament, why do some attend regularly whilst others stay away? Some consistency would be welcome.
Right at the bottom (and pictured) is Paul Nuttall (58%) competing closely with Godfrey Bloom (60%) to be Britain’s worst attending MEP. David Campbell-Bannerman (65%) is not far behind and Gerard Batten (78%) is London’s worst MEP. 5 out of 12 UKIP MEPs with poor attendance records is sadly not that great a surprise.
Two parties who claim they will represent British interests in Europe have many representatives with the poorest attendance records.
I want to finish with a gentle boast. Of the British mainland parties only Labour has representatives consistently voting on behalf of the British people.