Weiss up

Brian Wheeler has been shadowing MEPs in Strasbourg this week. He has a good breakdown on pay and perks and hooked up with two of our local MEPs.

  • Andrew

    On Jim Allister:

    “Some of you have asked for more nitty-gritty detail about the work MEPs do. I’ve just had a meeting with Jim Allister, who replaced Rev Ian Paisley here in 2004 but quit his party over its decision to power share with Sinn Fein.

    He now sits with non-aligned MEPs, which including a surprising large number of British members, mostly disgruntled or expelled former members of UKIP such as Robert Kilroy-Silk, Tom Wise and Ashley Mote. Far right figures such as the French MEP Jean Marie Le-Pen are also among the non-aligned.

    Being non-aligned gives him more time for constituency work, although he does sit on committees as well. Among the issues he is dealing with at the moment are constituents who have fallen foul of cross-border tobacco smuggling rules and others who have bought properties in Spain, only to have them repossessed by the authorities there (Alyn Smith, of the SNP, also said he was dealing with this issue).

    Far from being sidelined, he says being a member of the non-aligned group has given more opportunity to speak in the chamber. Speaking time in debates is allocated according to the size of the group the MEP belongs to, which means the centre right EPP group, which the Tories are currently trying to leave, get the most time.

    He deals with a lot of agricultural issues on behalf constituents. Ironically, for a self-confessed eurosceptic he actually finds the civil servants at the European Commission more helpful than their British counterparts. On the Spanish property front, he says there is a Danish proposal to sort the problem out, but it will take time.

    He also showed me the large white trunk he, like all the other MEPs, and his assistant lug over from Brussels each month which contains all of his paperwork. I will try to post a picture of it later, if anybody is interested…”

  • Andrew

    The other Jim on the Gravy Train …

    “I had a conversation with Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson last night, one of the longest serving MEPs and the only British member to be elected as a Quaestor.

    These are six shop steward figures, who act as a link between the MEPs and the Parliamentary authorities, and take care of issues such as building security and MEPs’ conduct.

    He was on the committee charged with bringing in the new allowances regime and he told me of the howls of protest from some MEPs, who sadly he declined to name, at the reforms.

    “It did not make me a popular man,” he told me.

    It was also a bit of a nightmare trying to harmonise the rules across 27 different tax systems, he says, but he believes reform was necessary, to save the reputation of the Parliament if nothing else.

    “I am sure that what we have done will not be seen as enough, but we have come a long way and achieved a lot,” he said.”

  • Mark McGregor

    Indeed, Jim Allister does get a pretty heavy slice of speaking time in plenary (mainly as the extreme right he works with to negotiate it have no interest or ability to deal in ideas as complex as sentences nevermind speeches) but given the horse-trading and requirement to have votes to trade his independence means he has exactly zero influence on anything regardless of how much hot air he produces during his speechifying.

    de Brún aint far behind being in a small group but does have something to trade as demonstrated by the fact her and Nichoson have actually drafted reports endorsed by the Parliament (admittedly meaningless reports by both).

    The only one with real access to the levers of power is Nicholson as part of the Tory group in the main political bloc (EPP/ED)- his legislative record shows he hasn’t used this postion to any real affect.

  • Mark McGregor

    “He also showed me the large white trunk he, like all the other MEPs, and his assistant lug over from Brussels each month which contains all of his paperwork”

    No they don’t. He goes by plane and chauffeur, the assistant gets the train from Brussels, the trunk goes in one of a fleet of lorries and is delivered door-to-door at enormous expense.