Monday, 25 May 2009


To find out what’s going on in Brussels it’s best to get hold of ‘European Voice,’ a weekly newspaper that provides the most comprehensive coverage of the EU institutions. A recent edition reviewed the European Parliament over the past five years, highlighting “top moments” such as the rejection of the software patents’ directive, and “worst moments” like the refusal to publish auditors’ reports revealing MEPs’ abuse of expenses.

I missed the reference to “star performers” until it was pointed out to me later. Just four MEPs got a mention, and only one was British: “Chris Davies – UK, Liberal.”

Why I was singled out for special mention I have no idea. I’d like to think it was because I introduced a key mechanism to finance carbon capture and storage projects, but just as likely it was for leaking details of the auditors’ reports. It’s unfair to colleagues who have each done so much, but I’m pretty chuffed all the same.

It counts for nothing though in the ‘real’ world. I may be a “star performer” in Brussels but hardly a voter in the region I have represented for 10 years will know my name. Month after month I’ve worked to try and communicate what I do as MEP to the newspapers in my region, and maybe I get 15 mentions a week, but it’s an uphill struggle. The North West has a population bigger than 10 European countries but there is no regional media worth mentioning. The stories MEPs have to tell may be of interest, but they are not ‘local’ enough for the local papers.

“How is the European election campaign going?” friends ask. Members in more than 20 of my region’s 75 constituencies have worked their socks off to get freepost leaflets labelled and out. I’m charging around trying to get a few column inches here and there. But as for the media? One single local radio station has organised phone-ins so that candidates can be asked their views, and no newspaper has written about the elections in depth.

It’s sometimes claimed (wrongly) that 80% of British laws are made in Brussels. So why since 2004 has the BBC not had a single MEP other than Farage and Lucas on its ‘Question Time’ programmes? Why do the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Express newspapers not have a single reporter between them working in Brussels? Why is it that MEPs often have greater legislative influence than our colleagues at Westminster yet the work we do is totally ignored?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sorry if this isn't the right spot to post this, but I must say that the Swedish politician you debated against for the Swedish television show "Korrespondent Europa" was a total thickhead, i am Swedish myself and I feel embarassed for sharing the nationality with someone who barely can come with a sensible arguement..