‘A Day in the Life of a Member of the European Parliament’

The UK press are apt to report on the activities of the 78 UK Members of the European Parliament only when BSE hits the headlines or as an adjunct to spats between so-called Europhile and Eurosceptic British Ministers. Their work is then generally portrayed as a high-salaried series of receptions and expensive flights to and from Brussels and Strasbourg, all of which makes Jean Lambert, one of the 9 MEPs for the Greater London region, and one of the first 2 Green Party MEPs to be elected from the UK, furious, “the press here sells the British public very short,… we are dealing daily with politics and legislation that is as real as any business in Westminster and affects peoples' lives.”

A teacher by training, Jean has not found it difficult to adjust to the hectic lifestyle of an MEP since her election in June 1999. However since her re-election in June 2004, it seems that her work has increased significantly. Jean usually arrives in the office around 8am addressing the matters that need her urgent attention.

Today Jean arrives in her Brussels office straight from the Eurostar terminal, collects her weekly agenda and then has a meeting with the shadow-rapporteurs and other MEPs about her Report on Asylum. Jean then speaks at an event organised by her office on the human rights situation in India and chairs the subsequent debate on caste discrimination and what can be done at EU level. Often Jean does not have time for lunch and has to grab a sandwich between meetings. Today she has a working lunch meeting on the Working Time Directive with a group of Trade Union representatives.

After lunch Jean goes to the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, which will last the whole afternoon. These meetings take place in Committee rooms specially equipped with microphones and headsets so that the team of translators who sit in the fish-tank like booths around the side of the main room can simultaneously translate the discussion into the Community languages. It is quite something to behold.

Once the meeting has finished, Jean returns to the office to check if there are any urgent messages or emails. She jots down a few notes for her speech at the seminar she has to attend tomorrow and then runs out again to meet representatives from AGE Concern at a reception for the launch of the Inter-group on Ageing (of which she is co President).

When Jean finally arrives back at her small flat situated close to the European Parliament she retires with a detective novel, her preferred literature, for some well-needed relaxation.

Although this has been a busy day for Jean, it is quite a typical day for her and while going to receptions or dinners may seem glamorous, it is the ideal place to meet NGOs, lobbyists and MEPs from other political groups and to exchange views in a more informal setting.

Jean divides her time between her London Constituency where she frequently attends weekend events, and the Parliament either in Brussels or Strasbourg.

"No politician I know works 9-5, Monday to Friday," she reflects, "...as an elected person you are a public figure who is always in demand. It's just frustrating that there isn't time to pursue every issue raised by the people who voted you in." Despite the hectic lifestyle, the constant traveling and the separation from her family, it is clear from Jean's animated enthusiasm that she relishes even the more challenging aspects of the job. "I can't think of any other occupation with more possibilities for somebody who wants to influence real social and political change."