Where have UKIP's absent MEPs really been?

The party's members talk incessantly about how awful Brussels is. Perhaps that explains the amount of time their officials (don't) spend there.

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The UKIP conference that opens in Birmingham today may shed some light on what UKIP members of the European Parliament actually do. What they don’t do, judging from raw data published on the Votewatch website, is take much part in the work of that Parliament. According to the figures for the three years until Jul 2012, they have the worst attendance, voting and work performance of any political party from anywhere across the EU.

When MEPs take a vote, it is as likely as not that UKIP’s energetic leader Nigel Farage will not be anywhere except in the European Parliament. He has missed 447 votes in three years, almost half the total. When MEPs are ranked by the number of votes for which they have been present, he comes 740th out of 753. The attendance record shows that there were 47 days when the Parliament was sitting without the benefit of his presence. Yet his attendance records compares well with that of Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for North West England, who is down as having missed 67 sitting days and 456 votes.

Between them, the party’s 12 MEPs have tabled no reports, 11 have tabled no opinions, nine have signed no written declarations or motions, and seven have tabled no amendments to reports ranking them at the bottom of the pile out of all 753 MEPs. Or at least that is what the Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies claims, after poring over the figures. “In Brussels the UKIP representatives reduce our country’s reputation to that of a laughing stock. The nearest thing to a UKIP MEP you are likely to see is an empty seat,” he said.

It could be argued that given that UKIP MEPs have better things to do than hang around in Brussels, since their mission is to get Britain out of the EU – an argument that would stand up better if they had not trousered £11.5 million in salaries, staffing and office costs. And that is not counting their expenses.

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ITV’s newsman Tim Gatt Tweets that he was out filming yesterday with Iain Duncan Smith, the Works and Pensions Secretary, when a woman shopper shouted: “You’re out of touch, Mr Hague!” Study the haircut, Madame. You tell them apart by their haircuts.

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Following yesterday’s item about the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, moving into the vast office once occupied by Michael Heseltine, his people have been in touch wanting it known that the same office was used by Tessa Jowell and Liam Byrne when Labour was in power. Happy to clear that up. And on the subject of Cabinet Office offices, viewers of that now famous apology video by Nick Clegg, set to music by The Poke, may wonder why it was filmed in Mr Clegg’s home rather than in his office. It is because there is redecorating under way in the Cabinet Office. The Deputy Prime Minister is in office, but not currently in his Cabinet Office office.

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Richard D North, right wing commentator, ex-Independent hack, and author of The Right Wing Guide to Nearly Everything, was on The Daily Politics yesterday pontificating on How To Be A Right Winger. He listed as his heroes two men named Keith – Richards and Joseph. Sir Keith Joseph one can understand. He is practically a patron saint of the Tory right, John the Baptist to the Blessed Margaret, but Keith Richards? The lead guitarist for the rock band that brought out “Street Fighting Man” in 1968, when Europe and the USA were brought to a near standstill by street demonstrations is a right wing hero?

North was not given time on the programme to elaborate, but on the train journey home tapped out this explanatory message for the Diary’s benefit: “KR is a hero for his robust sense of personal responsibility in his abuse of drugs. It’s sort of “Take what you want, says God, and pay for it,” (as the Spanish apochrypha has it). So he’s some sort of tatterdemalion unreconstructed Cavalier, which the Right-winger ought to prefer to the sensible Roundhead.”

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