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Paris Hilton: Britain’s best performing MEP

Paris Hilton MEP

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 this “research” in the bin.

Posted by Other TPA at 09:56am on 4 June 2009
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You make your usual splash about Tories supporting the Taxpayers Alliance which to me is like polar bears voting for more ice. As for the fact that some of them choose to give money to the organization, again, why the surprise?
What I think you might like to highlight is just how confused and possibly suspect is the support the totalitarian/authoritarian strand of politics - the egalitarian left - receives from sources that really should know better.
You promote on your Home page the upcoming No Turning Back event - a completely political gathering – and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s where you live after all. But when I look at the list of organisations supporting it I find the following: Action Aid, Age Concern, Amnesty International, Child Poverty Action Group, Friends of the Earth, Gingerbread, Help the Aged, NUS, Oxfam, One World Action,  Shelter and War On Want.
What are these organisations doing there? By attending and taking space at the event, their contributions/subscriptions can only help to finance the activities of Compass, an overtly political organisation.
If you want to look at dodgy funding I suggest you could start here?
You also regularly criticize the Taxpayers Alliance for claiming levels of support it does not, in your view, have (see your pie chart on your Home page). Are you saying that these charities which overwhelmingly draw their support - and workers - from middle class communities, are supported entirely by left wing voters? Or even a majority of people holding to that viewpoint? I think not.
All in all, it’s an imperfect world in which few of us are without sin and, as I have said before, I believe you should turn your fire on what the TPA says and not obsess about monied blues under the bed or, dare I say, in the duck house?

Posted by Brian Smith at 12:47pm on 5 June 2009

Congratulations on a sensible antidote to the ramblings off the Taxpayers Allience
When questioned today about the stupid report and the less than honest summery the rep on the other end off the phone became abusive
I see that you are having a seminer on providing cheaper public services and i welcome that
If you would like to log on to my blog you will see how as a multibly disable person with limited resources i am trying to change things here in Omagh North Ireland
I wish you all the best and hope that my post is within topic as i said come and see my ideas

Posted by kevin taylor at 03:27pm on 6 June 2009

Brian, the problem with the report isn’t its political bias - I’m all in favour of a bit of political bias - but that the TPA claims the report tells us “which MEPs are hard-working, and committed to transparency and accountability”, and which are “lazy, secretive and pro-establishment”. It does nothing of the kind.

Posted by Other TPA at 12:53pm on 7 June 2009

Firstly, I should apologise for being off topic. I was guilty of looking over the next hill and the comment I posted was really another rant about one-eyed politics rather than the subject at hand.

In my experience in industry it’s a lot of work and quite a science getting to accurately find out what people do; and that’s when they are tied to a desk and not jollying about all over Europe and beyond.

The TPA stuff was childish and facile but isn’t that the stuff of politics? Find a weakness and probe at it until you draw blood? And they do have a lot of webspace to fill…

For what it’s worth, I can’t believe they used Google hits as a measure; that’s really pushing the envelope.

Posted by Brian Smith at 06:18pm on 7 June 2009

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