'I'm working too hard', says MEP Roger Helmer after being snapped snoozing at the European Parliament
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 gaffe and even posted the image – taken at the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday – on his own Twitter account.
East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer pictured having a nap during a speech by Israeli President Shimon Peres in the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday.
Alongside the picture, Mr Helmer told his 3,815 followers: "This is what comes from working too hard!"
He later told the Derby Telegraph he thought the speech was "great" and that he joined in a standing ovation at the end.
Mr Helmer was ridiculed by rival MEPs and some 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 to whom he owed an apology was the Israeli president.
He said: "In my defence, I was in the office at 8am and I expect to leave at 10pm tonight – 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 doze 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?"
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