Is Paris Hilton really Britain’s best performing MEP?


3:30 pm - June 7th 2009

by Clifford Singer    


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Is the TaxPayers Alliance’s latest report, Could Do Better? Grading the Performance of British MEPs, its worst ever?

There’s no lack of competition, but this report is breathtakingly stupid.

MEPs are measured against criteria including “campaigning activity”. This is defined as “their frequency as internet hits, demonstrating campaigning and local activity”. However many times I read that explanation – and despite working as a web designer – I don’t understand it.

The report’s ambitiously-titled “methodology” section has a longer definition:

“Internet count of ‘name’ plus ‘MEP’, rated in proportion to the most reported. The baseline figure has been set at 30,000 hits, as this has been reached by 5% of the MEPs, from multiple parties. Unusual personal names, for instance accented ones or ones with variants, receive broader search latitude. This can be a measure of the activity of the individual in the constituency attending public events as reported in the local media, and in pursuing major campaigns.”

Still as clear as mud, but I’ll take that to mean they did a Google search for each name followed by “MEP” and wrote down the number of results. In which case we ought to be celebrating Britney Spears and Paris Hilton as among our highest-performing MEPs in terms of campaigning activity.

The report also judges the 78 MEPs over how they voted on “key transparency, red tape, spending controls and anti-corruption legislation”. This is a completely arbitrary list of things the TPA agrees with, so voting to opt out of the working time directive wins points, but supporting closer European integration loses them.

And the astonishing result of this survey? Nearly all the top performers are Tories, while the worst performers are almost exclusively Labour. Former UKIP MEP Ashley Mote is ranked relatively highly at number 19 despite having been sentenced to nine months in jail for benefit fraud since he was elected. And Robert Kilroy-Silk appears at number 15, although he has the worst European Parliament attendance record among UK MEPs.

The report was written by Dr Lee Rotherham. A lengthy blurb mentions his MPhil and PhD, and that he is “one of the most experienced researchers on EU issues working in British politics”, but neglects to mention that he is a twice-defeated Conservative parliamentary candidate.

His last attempt was to unseat Labour’s Denis MacShane in Rotherham in 2005, where he campaigned under the slogan “Rotherham for Rotherham”. My own sitting Labour MP is no doubt relieved that Dr Lee’s surname isn’t Hackney North.

While the Daily Telegraph appeared to take the report at face value, it was refreshing to see local and regional media – from whom the TPA often gets most mileage – either ignore the survey or take a more critical stance.

The Western Mail, for example, reported that “all four existing Welsh MEPs fare badly in the Taxpayers’ Alliance report published today, though serious questions have been raised about the report’s methodology”, and gave reasonable space to the report’s critics.

So two cheers to the Western Mail. And three cheers to those newspapers that did the obvious thing and dumped the TPA’s ‘research’ in the bin.

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About the author
This is a guest contribution. Clifford Singer runs The Other Taxpayer's Alliance website. You can join the Facebook group here.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Think-tanks ,Westminster

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Reader comments


It is a very poor (or I should say, partisan) report. I really need to get a blog up so I could have posted about it myself!

2/5ths (I think) of the scores consisted of if MEP’s voted how the TaxPayers Alliance thought they should in 20 votes. Some of these were valid. Personally, I did actually agree with most of them- but they were not in any way a neutral measure of MP’s perfomance.

Votes which were deemed vital enough to be included:
Accepting various annual reports, which TPA typically treats as if it was a motion document and should be dismissed for disagreeing with one line.
Funding a Euro GPS system- I agree its an inefficent use of funds. I don’t agree that MEP’s who disagree with me on this are “poorly performing”- we just disagree.
A obscure procedural vote to prevent a filibuster- apparently shutting down a fillibuster makes you a bad MEP. This is the most pathetic inclusion.

An MEP who is convicted of fraud can make up for it by voting with the TPA just 10 times. Ridiculous.

Its a shame, because many MEP’s don’t do a lot of work and there were some valid points in the report, such as the Parliament approving accounts that don’t get past auditors, the second pension scheme and efforts to put money into PR for Europe being great.

At a glance is does seem like Labour would still do badly on the basis of a fair analysis- but thats not good enough for TPA. A table with the Greens, Nationalists and Lib Dems doing better than many or most tories simply isn’t acceptable. Hopefully this report will make the media aware that the TPA should be treated as partisan (though I don’t think everything they say should be ignored, they had some valid points on council publicity and staffing spending a while ago).

The Tax Payers’ alliance are like Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion; a facade of intellectual integrity designed to cover a potent and vicious right-wing agenda.

I was most disappointed to see the BBC letting Tax Payers’ Alliance idiots sound off on the 6 o’clock news, as though this bunch of service slashers are uniquely qualified to comment on the expenses scandal because they are against “state inefficiency”.

Note that this so-caled Tax Payers’ Alliance is wholly uninterested in the staggering loss of tax revenue suffered by the UK due to the actions of corporations and wealthy individuals avoiding and evading legally due tax. Funny that, isn’t it? They claim to stand up for tax payers’ interests, but expect the majority of (low income) tax payers to fork out and cover for the rich who are not paying their fair share. No prizes for guessing why they take this attitude.

A good demolition of their latest “research”, Mr Singer. These charlatans need to be exposed more often.

Why does the BBC always interview the Taxpayers’ Alliance?
How many Taxpayers do they represent?
What is the Taxpayers platform?
Who runs it? How is it funded?

Before this or any other un-elected pressure group is wheeled onto our screens I’d like to know more details so I can make my own mind up.

Tax Payers alliance are not really a proper think-tank, in that their reports are often dubious. The same can’t really be said for Centre for Social Cohesion and certainly not for Policy Exchange, who – while still capable of making mistakes and being breathtakingly stupid – occasionally produce relevant and well written reports. TPA belong in the Progressive Vision bracket of think tanks i.e. incompetents.


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