MEPs don’t actually work, do they?


OK guys.  I know I shouldn’t do this.  I know that the anonymous hordes of internet trolls should be simply ignored.  They are unable to string two coherent thoughts together.  Most do little more than hurl generalised and obscene abuse at anyone they disagree with.  Their idea of an intellectual contribution to debate consists of vile language that I can scarcely repeat in a blog post intended for family reading by the fireside.

I should leave well alone.  I should decline to respond to the daily flood of accusations and abuse.  I should deny them the oxygen of publicity.  And yet there is one repetitive and consistent theme that rankles, and I can’t resist setting out a response.  “MEPs don’t do any work” (they say).  “They just sit on their a**es and take the money”.  I recognise of course that critics have every right to believe that the work I do is not helpful or constructive.  They are entitled to their opinion on that.  But they are not entitled to the view that MEPs don’t do any work, because that’s just plain wrong.

So let me set out on some flagrant self-justification, and describe for their benefit what actually happens.  I graduated from Cambridge in 1965, and since that time I have been in more or less continuous employment.  For the first 34 years, I worked in marketing and general management with a succession of companies, mostly multinationals.  That included a great deal of travel in Europe and the USA, plus a dozen years in total working in East and South East Asia.  I worked hard, long hours, and naturally did a great deal of travelling.

Then in 1999 I was elected as an MEP, and later re-elected (head of the regional list, if it matters) no fewer than three times, 2004/09/14.  I had assumed that I should be able to afford to take twenty or thirty days a year out, perhaps to take up a non-executive director rôle.   I soon found I was wrong.  An MEP’s job is 24/7.  Intensive work in Brussels and Strasbourg, often involving twelve-hour days – even fourteen or fifteen hours in some cases.  And then, typically a three-day weekend in the constituency.  But not a weekend as we know it.  Not leisure.  Meetings with staff, constituents, party branches and members, businesses and business organisations, schools and universities, campaigning, media interviews often at unsocial hours.

In short, after a reasonably successful and very busy business career, I find I am now, as an MEP, working harder – longer hours – and travelling far more – than I did previously.

One other troll-criticism is particularly ironic.  Eurosceptics are Little Englanders, they say, who can’t get on with foreigners, and are perhaps down-right xenophobic and racist.  In my case, and taking my business career and parliamentary work together, I have spent a total of 29 years overseas – and travelled extensively in the other 23.  I spent four years in Malaysia running a textile manufacturing business with around 300 employees, where I was the only Westerner.  Did I experience race-relations problems?  I certainly did.  But they were not between me and the Malaysians.  They were between the Malays and the Chinese, and I spent much time resolving tensions.  Perhaps worth adding that during my years in Brussels I have employed several ethnic-minority staffers.

Then there are those who say “MEPs are only in it for the money”.  In my experience, UKIP MEPs at least are primarily concerned with the political objective of getting our country out of the EU, not with the pay-cheque. In my own case, I actually took a salary cut when I left the private sector to become and MEP, and the same is true of Nigel Farage.

Another line of criticism is based on the published statistics of voting attendance, rapporteurships and so on.  Through most of my parliamentary career, I have been top quartile (and sometimes top decile) on voting participation.  True I have never done a report.  But that is because any report I drafted would be eviscerated by amendments in Committee, from the structural pro-EU majority, so there is simply no point in doing them.  A similar point applies to voting.  There is typically an 80% or so pro-integration majority, so it is rather rare that we can swing the outcome of a division.  I do vote, but it rarely makes much difference.

More generally the published statistics simply fail to reflect the priorities of UKIP MEPs.  Pro-EU MEPs are keen to “build Europe”, to “put another brick in the European construction”.  Careers are built on rapporteurships and chairmanship of committees.  But UKIP MEPs are not there for a career, we are there for a result (which we got on June 23rd).  Emphatically we are not there to create new European law, or to “build Europe”.  We are there to get out from under, which means we have different priorities.  Our job is to use our position in the parliament to influence public opinion at home, and I think we have done that rather well.

So what do we do?  In the parliament, I attend meetings of the Industry Committee.  Of course we don’t often win votes in committee – but it is salutary to cut through the group-think, to remind them that there are alternative views.  As UKIP energy spokesman, I also regularly attend meetings of the European Energy Forum (where I’m on the management committee).  While most other MEPs disagree with the UKIP position on energy and climate, I think it is fair to say that I command considerable respect.  Other MEPs welcome challenging alternative views, and industry members frequently thank me for my interventions.

A fair bit of time goes on organisational and party management issues – yesterday for example I chaired both the EFDD Group Bureau (=steering committee) meeting, and the subsequent group meeting.  A great deal of work is done on analysing legislation and drafting voting lists.  Then there is the mass of correspondence that all MEPs receive.  Of course we have staff to deal with routine matters, but many communications require personal responses.  And the working week in parliament is punctuated by media bids, which can range from regional papers and radio stations through to national and foreign media.

Work doesn’t stop at the weekend, with meetings, media interviews, speeches and so on.  And media bids don’t respect the Working Time Directive.  They can come at six in the morning or eleven at night.  I once did a series of hour-long appearances on Five Live’s Steven Nolan show between midnight and one a.m., getting home to bed by 1:30 a.m.

Constituents quite rightly expect their elected representatives to communicate with them.  I do this in a variety of ways:

The Blog:  I trust you’re reading it now.  The origins of my blog are lost in the mists of time, but I have written at least 2,116 blog posts, covering a wide range of policy issues, with an emphasis on (A) Europe; and (B) Climate and energy.  I also maintain a “Climate Interest” list who receive automatic copies of relevant posts (please let me now if you’d like your name added).  And before you ask, apart from one or two guest pieces, every blog post has been written by me personally – as are all my Tweets.

The Web-Site: contains a wealth of material and information, regularly up-dated.

The Newsletter: I publish an electronic newsletter monthly from Strasbourg (e-mail to to go onto the list).  Again its origins are lost in the mists of time – the earliest versions were paper sent out by post in 1999 – but I have done at least 200, mostly six to eight pages, outlining and commenting on current developments.  You can find recent newsletters on my website (see above).

Social Media: I am a regular Twitter user @RogerHelmerMEP (I never worked out how to do Facebook, I’m afraid).  I currently have 15,700+ Twitter followers (a standing rebuke to those trolls who regularly say “No one cares what you think”) and I have issued well over 20,000 Tweets.

Press Office: I maintain a press office in the East Midlands.  My Press Officer Nick Tite deals with media bids, arranges interviews, and maintains contact with regional media on my behalf.

Media interviews: I do frequent interviews (at all hours) with regional media – papers, radio and TV – I have frequently appeared on BBC Sunday Politics.  Plus interviews with national media, Jeremy Vine, 5 Live, LBC and so on.  Occasional appearances on national news channels.  Two successful outings on Question Time – regarded by many as the most challenging political exposure on UK TV.  I have also given interviews to media in many European countries, plus USA, Israel, and Asia.

Speeches:  I speak regularly in parliament and in committee, and these speeches are frequently posted on my blog, and on the UKIP MEPs’ web-site.  I speak at events across my East Midlands region.  Across the UK.  In European countries.  In the USA, the Middle East and in Asia.

At this stage I hope that someone somewhere is asking “don’t you ever take a holiday?”.  And for most of my parliamentary career I never went away for more than a few days.  The longest holiday I can remember was over Christmas and New Year, just recently, when I spent three weeks in Israel – and the first few days of that was a political conference.

So my message to the trolls: you can disagree with what I do – that’s your privilege.  But don’t tell me I don’t do any work.  When did you last work a fourteen hour day?












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13 Responses to MEPs don’t actually work, do they?

  1. KennieD says:

    Thank you Roger, for your blogs and especially for all your hard work. Special thanks to you, Nigel et al for successfully getting us on the way to getting out of that dreadful EU ‘organisation’.
    Whilst in Strasburg, do you think you could ask a question of Junckers and crowd? Could you ask, just out of interest of course, that when UK stops paying that ridiculously large fee to the EU, do they think they will still be able to afford to de-camp every month from Brussels to Strasburg and back again?

  2. Dung says:

    That you would take the time to answer a troll at all let alone in such detail, speaks volumes for you Roger ^.^
    If they ask a question fair enough but trolls rarely ask questions because they believe they already know the answers. On your blog there are no such idiots.

  3. Frances Fox says:

    Like and agree. Very pleased with the work you undertake.

    Thank you.

    Frances Fox



  4. mike5262015 says:

    ROGER. There is nothing new under the sun. What used to be the division of blue and white collar workers, still hangs around. I was 20 years Managing Director of a food wholesale Co. and the hours I worked were varied and mad. When the business failed, I was obliged to seek work in a Multi-National, getting sweat on my body, but had a start time and a finish time. Promotion was not given, so the guys I worked with asked me to be their Shop Steward. That brought some change of attitude on my part, though I have to admit that I rather enjoyed it, and was rather successful putting Management right within contract terms. I well remember having comments from the workforce, about our Managers and Representatives, who all wore suits and kept their hands clean. A little enlightenment between blue and white collar is never wasted !

    To put it quite simply Roger, just realise that there has always been, and still is, the division of labour with those using their brains, and those using their muscle. Although the brains are almost always paid more, both are inter reliant upon each other, hopefully to the benefit of the whole, and there is always the chance of a mongrel like me using oil on troubled waters !

  5. Jane Davies says:

    An illuminating blog post Roger…….although you don’t need to justify how hard you work to unintelligent idiots who’s one aim in life is to ridicule others in their attempt to feel better about their own sad lives. Just one thing though, if I can ‘do’ facebook then so can you! It’s dead easy and a good way of communicating directly with people. I have conversed with Nigel Farage, Stephen Woolfe and Ian Blackford SMP, the latter about the frozen pension scandal of which he is a strong supporter to the ending this injustice. Although I was blocked by Steve Webb when he was pensions minister on account he could not face the truth about his ‘about face’ on the frozen pension issue. Poor lamb couldn’t take the heat about being a hypocrite! Why not give it a try Roger, I’m sure you have someone in your office to help get you started.

  6. Ampers says:

    Great, what’s your full time job then? 😉

  7. barrymx5 says:

    Thank you Roger for all that you do. I am about your age and can only admire your stamina!
    Like you I have spent 20 years trying to get out of the EU and so the 23 June 2016 was a great day. As you rightly point out we are not quite out yet. Until then I will continue to do my bit here in Somerset and help William Dartmouth with international trade/WTO input.
    Like you when I started to argue we needed to exit the EU I was regarded as an eccentric – especially as I was then a senior civil servant! So yes there is a sense of satisfaction and job done – almost!

  8. martinbrumby says:

    When discussing with the many people espousing the “politicians are all alike – only in it for themselves” view, you are one of a select group (from several political parties) that I can convincingly use to refute their cynicism.

    Indeed, it must be said that you were also one of a very select group of politicians that (now many years ago) bothered to actually look at the then new, trendy (and preposterous) “concensus” global warming hoax and find it wanting. And with the intelligence to realise that the much vaunted Ruinable Energy idea has been and continues to be primarily a conspiracy to defraud energy users and taxpayers. (You would use more diplomatic words.).

    But it must be said that not all your fellow MEPs work as assiduously as you. The ‘sign in, collect £300, depart’ scandal is known by most people. And, whilst no doubt a few MEPs even from the pro-EU groups also work hard (and represent their electors’ interests – at least according to their beliefs), I am very sceptical that this is the normal case. I’m sorry if it causes offence, but I think that self-serving troughers aren’t exactly scarce in Brussels.

    Furthermore, it must be said that, if the next Ruinable Energy boondoggle to be supported and funded by the EU was to be cycle-pedal electricity generation, the peddlers themselves might well also work very hard, perhaps spurred on by Commission slave-drivers and to the strains of “Ode to Joy”, but would actually only produce a derisory amount of energy.

    No doubt that the results of much of your efforts in the EU Parliament are useful and that you may occasionally be able to avoid some of the more lunatic proposals being adopted. I don’t doubt that you are able to assist your Constituents if they have a particular EU problem. But it is never easy being in (a fairly small – but growing!) minority group. But maybe your most useful function may be in being able to prove in future that those voting for the latest nonsense were at the time confronted by you and your UKIP colleagues with those pesky inconvenient facts of which they will later pretend not to have been aware.
    And just to (hopefully) enjoy being the Spectre at the Feast!

  9. Katie says:

    Thank you for all your hard work Roger. You are obviously passionate about your work and cause to put so much time into the EU parliament. How lucky we all are to have you representing the UK. I am sure you will be pleased when we leave the EU and you are made redundant. I say that in the nicest possible way.

  10. Anne says:

    You speak of the past, yet the past is now but a hazy memory. The present is but an illusion, a silent thought, the future is the nightmare yet to come.
    Democracy was among the first of those victims to lose its head in those once hallowed Halls where honourable men and women of yesteryear did sit. But yesterday’s men and women fought and won a war, those whose names will ne’re be forgot, yet on they linger in the thoughts of man.
    They that gave ‘their all’ that we might live in peace, freedom and liberty, to be governed by laws the true Brit shall writ. To no man shall we be beholden nor bow, for we are well able to look out for ourselves, a once great Statesman said.
    I have no stomach to speak of truth, honesty or integrity, for they were the next victims to fall by the wayside, yet still ye look to the Crown, alas reduced in the signing of that first document, to just a figure-head.
    Hope is only a promise of deliverance left for you, unless you have “courage” to face that which is yet to come. But the way be strewn with debris that others before ye have cast away.
    Hold high your head, for you are surrounded by those that would harm you.

    Wear well your armour against the traitor waiting at the gate. Your patron saint, St George was indeed well chosen for the dragon spewing forth flames of hate of all things good, feeds on greed and power, a power that will in the end, devour itself.
    Be ye there, you ever faithful countryman, at the ready for it is to you, that those hard pressed forces abroad look to, to once more keep the home fires burning and the welcome light shining through the windows that have been darkened by the rules of strangers that you once extended the hand of friendship to. Remember that those ancient Barons gave you the greatest of all gifts, for it is yours forever.

  11. rfhmep says:

    Thanks to all for your very helpful and encouraging comments.

  12. David says:

    Not quite on subject Roger,but it may cause you a bit of work, when your talking to the climate change maniacs have you ever asked them what ended the Ice age, was it brent crude, internal combust engines etc, something caused the ice to melt, and it wasn’t man.

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