A teacher by training, Jean did not find it difficult to adjust to the hectic lifestyle of an MEP. However, since her re-election in June 2009, it seems her workload has increased significantly, specifically with her appointment as Chair of the Delegation for relations with countries in South Asia.
Here is a typical week:-
The hectic lifestyle of an MEP:
Today (a Monday), Jean takes an early morning train from London to Brussels, using the two hour journey to address matters that need her urgent attention (via her Blackberry) and review her weekly agenda. She goes straight to her office from the train terminal where she holds a briefing with her key researcher. Jean then has a meeting with the shadow rapporteurs about her report on the revision of the EU’s asylum qualifications directive for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
No time for lunch:
Often Jean does not have time for lunch and grabs something on the go. Today, she is hosting a lunchtime workshop organised by her office on domestic violence. The event includes presentations from two London-based community groups, representatives from organisations in Hungary and Spain and the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
After lunch, Jean attends a meeting of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. This will last the whole of the 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.
Speaking to the press:
Once the meeting has finished, Jean returns to the office for a telephone interview with a journalist from the paper Asia Today regarding her recent trip to Pakistan. Because of her busy schedule, Jean cannot always meet journalists face-to-face. The European Parliament has special media suites equipped for high quality radio recordings, and many European correspondents for the UK press are based in Brussels. The European Parliament also has its own in-house online channel, EuroparlTV.
No clocking off:
Often Jean’s evenings are taken up with formal Parliamentary work, including Greens/EFA group meetings that run late into the night, or debates during plenary sessions at Strasbourg that can be scheduled up till midnight. Tonight, Jean has been invited to speak at a launch reception for the European Year of Volunteering 2011. While going to receptions or dinners may sound glamorous, it is the ideal place to meet NGOs, lobbyist and MEPs from other political groups and to exchange views in a more informal setting.
When Jean finally arrives back at her small flat situation close to the European Parliament, she retires with a detective novel, her preferred literature, for some well-needed relaxation.
Jean said: “No politician I know works 9-5, Monday to Friday. 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. Like every job it has its downside – the long hours, being away from my family, the negative press – but I can’t think of any other occupation with more possibilities for somebody who wants to influence real social and political change.”