Paris Hilton: Britain’s best performing 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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