It is, or so legend has it, the easiest gig in politics. Members of the European Parliament have heard all the jibes about Brussels gravy trains, gold-plated pensions and expense-account lifestyles. And all, at least as far as critics are concerned, for doing far from an honest day’s work.

There is a problem with the legend. It is not true. It is not MEPs who are lazy: it is the Commentariat.

Other politicians, journalists, the chattering classes, especially in the UK, all ignored the work being done by the European Parliament. The result? Nobody reported on Brussels and Strasbourg. So far too many people mistakenly thought this news black hole meant there was nothing worth reporting.

In reality, the 750 or so MEPs do an astonishingly important job in keeping the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, and its multi-billion-pound budget in check.

Critics of the EU like to talk about unelected bureaucrats running the show? Well, like the governments of Britain and other member states, the Commission, in fact, have to get elected by parliamentarians. True, the president of the Commission is nominated by the EU Council, the body that represents those (elected)_governments of member states. But MEPs get the final say. And they can throw out the entire commission.

MEPs have to approve EU laws Parliament is in charge of finessing the rule book of the single common market, to which Britain and all the other countries have signed up to ensure trade is free and fair. This involves incredibly complex areas of law on issues like the environment or fishing. These are things that count. And they affect almost all of us.

Parliamentary debate in the EU is far from always firey. But this is not the yaboo of domestic politics. There are few points to be made by being aggressive. With 28 nations and scores of parties, MEPs need to learn to legislate by making unlikely friends. Consensus can be hard work.

Some MEPs really do live up to the stereotype. UKIP’s 11, for example, at one point attended fewer than a third of votes debates and committees, being branded the laziest in Brussels. Nigel Farage famously said he did not want to “go native”, to engage with the whole process. “I think I’m entitled at lunchtime to a pint,” he said.