MEP Roger Helmer caught "sleeping" during European Parliament proceedings
AS Israeli president Shimon Peres urges Europe to step up pressure on Iran, East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer sinks into his chair to enjoy a nap.
The 69-year-old laughed off the embarrassing gaff and even posted the image – taken at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday – on his own Twitter account.
Alongside the picture, Mr Helmer told his 3,815 followers: “This is what comes from working too hard!”
He told the Derby Telegraph that he thought the speech was “great” and that he joined in a standing ovation at the end.
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Mr Helmer was ridiculed by rival MEPs and some angry constituents back in the UK insisted he should quit.
“We’re not paying you to sleep. If you’re too old and can’t hack it, resign,” tweeted one constituent.
Speaking to the Derby Telegraph from Brussels, Mr Helmer insisted the only person he owed an apology to was the Israeli president.
He said: “In my defence, I was in the office at 8am and I expect to leave at 10pm – I will have worked a 14-hour day.
“I also blame the BBC for keeping me up late so I can join them reviewing the next morning’s papers.”
He added: “Shimon Peres received a warm welcome and I’m pleased to say I was awake to join in standing ovations both at the start and end of the speech.
“It was a 40 minute speech and I’m sad to say I did dose off a little bit towards the end. Being an elderly person, I make no apology other than to Mr Peres himself.”
Asked about what he thought of calls for him to resign, Mr Helmer said: “Perhaps the person who tweeted that should try working the hours that I do.
“People might not think MEPs work hard or do a good job, but apart from junior doctors we work longer hours than most.”
Liberal Democrat MEP Bill Newton Dunn said the image was being sent around parliament in Strasbourg and that Mr Helmer was the butt of jokes.
He said: “It’s being sent around parliament and is causing much amusement.
“The fact he is lying back with his hands joined together on his lap suggests the camera didn’t just catch him blinking.”
It is not the first time Mr Helmer has sparked controversy. In September, 2010, he angered Catholics when he drew a link between the Church and paedophiles.
And, in January 2011, he tweeted: “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to “turn” a consenting homosexual?”