Imagine I had a job (which I do), and that job required me to work five days a week (which it does). Imagine, then, that I only attended two days a week of that work. Or two. Or even one day. Imagine I did not show up for the majority or working days without a single good reason. You would expect me to be fired, surely?
I don’t, of course. I am, rain or shine, at my desk 45 hours a week, Monday through Friday. I also earn below the average wage, and pay my own train fares.
I am pointing this out not as some sort of “poor me” sob story — I enjoy my job, and consider myself very lucky to do so. No, I am saying this because I want to make a contrast with another job. This job is paid three times the average wage, alongside a plethora of expenses to cover travel and living costs.
This job is, of course, Member of the European Parliament, of whom, UKIP have nine. It is therefore striking that UKIP MEP’s record of turning up for work is so — frankly — abysmal.
This isn’t a new accusation, but it is one which bears repeating in the face of UKIP claims to be valiant fighters for the best interests of the British people. It is slightly maddening, then, that despite this they more resemble the take-the-money-and-run politicians which they claim to despise.
Let’s look at Nigel Farage, to begin with. The vaunted leader of UKIP, who seems barely to be off TV screens whether he has something of relevance to say or not. This is a man who warns (incorrectly) that 70% of British law is made in Brussels and yet:
- Farage has been present for only 42.97% of EU parliament votes, which is the equivalent of most people only working two days of their five day working week.
- Farage attended only only two meetings (out of 42 in the three years Farage was a member) of the Fisheries Committee which he sits, on, despite frequently citing lost of “British control” over fishing policy in his damnation of the EU, and describing EU fisheries policy as “shameful”.
- Farage still takes his £78,000 salary as an MEP, and all of the expenses and allowances which go along with it, despite not going the job that they are supposed to pay for.
Now, UKIP argue that this is all perfectly acceptable. MEP for the North West of England Paul Nuttall, in particular, is blasé about it, saying:
“I’ll hold my hands up, as my attendance record is flaky to say the least. But so what? I treat Brussels with the contempt it deserves: it has no real democratic mandate and MEPs only exist as a pretence to make the EU look democratic, when in fact we all know it is not. I also keep abreast of what is going on out there through the work of the excellent UKIP staff. So as I always say, one does not have to be in the joke shop to know the jokes.“
That is one argument, I suppose. Except, as with a lot of UKIP’s arguments, it falls apart on closer inspection.
There are a lot of people who don’t particularly like the European Union. I can understand that, even if I don’t agree with it. But here’s the point: UKIP aren’t serving their voters or the country by not turning up to the EU Parliament, any more than Sinn Fein are serving their voters or Northern Ireland by not turning up to the House of Commons. But at least Sinn Fein don’t take a salary; UKIP MEPs are still drawing hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money.
So on your way to the ballot box a week on Thursday, ask yourself this: is it fair that, whilst you would be fired for not turning up to work, UKIP MEPs do just that and are paid £72,000 each by yourselves? It’s a question worth considering.