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TV debate fury as UKIP Euro voting record is challenged

March 24, 2014 1:58 PM
By John Hess - Political editor, East Midlands in BBC Politics Show
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

It exploded completely out of the blue in Brussels.

Bill Newton Dunn in EU ParliamentA studio debate for BBC's Sunday Politics between the MEPs of the East Midlands had been lively enough.

Then it happened - the Liberal Democrat Bill Newton-Dunn lobbed in his accusation against UKIP's Roger Helmer.

He accused the veteran former Conservative, now UKIP MEP, of "not bothering to turn up to vote" at the European Parliament.

Mr Helmer was outraged and demanded an immediate on-air apology from Mr Newton-Dunn.

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Verbal parries

The election debate special was recorded by the Sunday Politics' team for the East Midlands in the new TV studios of the European Parliament in Brussels .

Around the discussion table was also Labour's Glenis Willmott and the Conservative's Emma McClarkin.

Together with programme presenter Marie Ashby, they looked on in bewilderment as the two veteran MEPs, like sumo wrestlers, started their verbal grappling.

And the two warring politicians didn't call off the truce on leaving the Brussels TV studios.

They took to Twitter and a public exchange of emails.

U-KIP East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer and team hard at work in the European Parliament again…

Roger Helmer - Sleeping or Voting?

"Your individual voting rate is way below mine," said the Lib Dem's Bill Newton-Dunn.

Roger Helmer responded that his voting participation rate was greater than the average Lib Dem MEP, which Newton-Dunn challenged.

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Voting records

For the record, both MEPs have higher voting records than most. Roger Helmer is at 88.14%. Bill Newton-Dunn is 95.5%.

The average turn-out for the 14 Lib Dem MEPs is 85.72%.

For UKIP's group of eight MEPs, the voting record is 67.95%.

If you include the Yorkshire and Humber MEP Geoffrey Bloom - until his suspension from UKIP last September - the voting record is lower, at 63%.

"You made a false and damaging assertion," Mr Helmer told Mr Newton-Dunn.

"Admit it Bill and stop wriggling. You're wrong."

In reply, Mr Newton-Dunn said: "Just get on and improve your own record and that of the rest of your UKIP colleagues and stop them risking the jobs of British people."

Other issues were discussed: workers' rights, mobile phone roaming charges and farming subsidies. But the sparks from the Lib Dem-UKIP clash will be the moment to remember .

The elections to the European Parliament are not until 22 May but with a TV debate between UKIP's Nigel Farage and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to come, now you know what to expect in the weeks ahead.

You can listen to the whole programme at http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/b03y6r9f/?t=33m11s

The Nick v Nigel debate is on LBC on Wednesday 26 March at 7pm (duration I hour - with phone in afterwards) and is available on DAB (digital) radio (retune your set if you don't get it since you last retuned), Sky digital channel 0112, Virgin media 973 and Freesat 734, 97.3 FM London only. LBC is not available on Freeserve digital TV; there is also a twitter feed, and you can watch it on http://www.lbc.co.uk/