Latest ECR farce: Tory MEPs vote against their own leadership candidate


As regular readers will know, Left Foot Forward has been tracking the progress of the Conservative’s ECR group in the European Parliament which has lurched from farce to farce since it was created in July 2009. Last night the ECR elected its new leader to replace the controversial Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, who had been forced out after leaving his Law and Justice party (PiS) to set up a new party called Poland Comes First, although he still remains a member of the ECR.

Roger-Helmer-Daniel-HannanThe 55 ECR MEPs were presented a choice between three candidates:

Tim Kirkhope, a moderately eurosceptic UK Conservative, who had led his delegation three times;

• Polish academic Ryszard Legutko, whose views on homosexuals make Kaminski (whose references to ‘faggots‘ caused uproar) look like a gay-rights campaigner; and

• Czech MEP Jan Zahradil, whose only claim to fame was his strong support for the widely discredited documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle”.

A fairly easy choice you might think for a group that is smaller than the Green group of MEPs and struggles to be taken seriously in the Parliament, especially considering that 25 of the group’s MEPs are Tory. Think again. Zahradil defeated Kirkhope by 33 votes to 18 – meaning a large proportion of the Tory delegation voted against their own officially-endorsed party candidate.

Who says loyalty is dead in British politics?

Left Foot Forward can reveal that, surprise, surprise, two of the Tory MEPs to vote for Zahradil were the darlings of the Tory far-right and climate change denial gang – Roger Helmer and Dan Hannan.

Helmer, who briefly had the Conservative whip removed in the last legislature under Kirkhope’s leadership, hailed a “great result”. Meanwhile, Hannan described Zahradil as “a first-rate man, a proper Eurosceptic, a free-marketeer and an Atlanticist” adding that he had “been trying to persuade him to take on this job for the better part of a decade”. Given that the ECR has existed for just over 18 months it’s difficult to see how Hannan can claim this.

Hannan immediately argued on his Telegraph blog that the fact that Zahradil “won the support of a majority of British Conservative MEPs” shows that Tory MEPs were “evidently less xenophobic than some of (our) Labour colleagues”. Aside from being disingenuous nonsense, it shows that Hannan evidently doesn’t have much contact with his fellow Tory MEPs.

The truth is that last night the Tory MEPs voted themselves and their political group further into irrelevance. Although Zahradil has promised that the Polish MEPs will be given a Vice-Presidency of Parliament, a promise which he cannot guarantee, there is talk about the Polish delegation and some Conservatives seeking to re-join the EPP (although the EPP are adamant they will not take back the Tories).

So it may well be that by voting against their own man the Tory eurosceptics have sunk the final nail into the ECR’s coffin.

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  • http://www.rogerhelmer.com Roger Helmer MEP

    This is a remarkably xenophobic post for a socialist web-site. You seem to assume that all British MEPs should vote for a British candidate. Do you all hate foreigners? I didn’t feel any obligation to vote for another Brit. I did feel an obligation to choose the better candidate, and my best estimate is that around half the British delegation did the same. By the way, Zahradil has a Masters Degree in Environmental studies, so he has some idea what he’s talking about on climate.

  • http://www.stevetierney.org/blog Steve Tierney

    Thank you, Left Foot, for this interesting article. Good decision by the ECR members, in my opinion, and I thank Left Foot Forwards for bringing their wisdom to light.

  • http://www.stephenwigmore.blogspot.com Stephen W

    This article is a bizarre and pathetic partisan hack job. A combination of bizarre insinuations and outright nonsense.

    1. The idea that Tory MEP’s should by definition vote for a Tory is ridiculous, nationalist, xenophobic rubbish. Euro-parties are precisely meant to operate as such. ECR MEP’s should vote for the best person to lead the ECR, not the person carrying their passport. Same for the EPP, the Socialists, Liberals, Greens etc.

    2. References to the Tory far-right are sad, emotive attempts to smear. Gutter-press conduct.

    3.” Aside from being disingenuous nonsense, it shows that Hannan evidently doesn’t have much contact with his fellow Tory MEPs.”
    It’s almost impossible to even tell what this means. Are you claiming Tory MEP’s did not vote for him? Are you claiming to secretly know that tory MEP’s are xenophobes through your personal mind-reading abilities? From this article it would seem he is entirely right. You seem driven by partisan, political considerations to make cheap, xenophobic comments.

    4. The ECR may be largely irrelevant in the EU parliament but they represent the vast numbers of EUsceptic europeans who are generally unrepresented and sidelined by the undemocratic nature of the EU. If you cared about democracy at all you would not be nearly as sneering.

  • http://www.stephenwigmore.blogspot.com Stephen W

    Also filing this article under ‘racist extremism’ is just an embarrassment. Throwing around cheap accusations of racism is about the lowest tactic in the book. Especially for an article knee deep in its own xenophobic assumptions.

    Of course, I forget though, being eurosceptic of course means that you are really also racist, as Ben Fox has discovered through his magic 6th sense as used on Tory MEP’s above.

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  • http://www.hannan.co.uk Daniel Hannan

    Brilliant spoof, guys: congratulations. I especially liked the “racist extremism” tag: a touch of authentic Spart dementedness.

    How could I have been pressing the job on Jan for the better part of a decade? Because that’s how long I was working to establish a conservative group, outside the EPP.

  • http://www.journalofjournalism.blogspot.com/ Ross

    A laughably stupid post. Embarrassing.

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  • BenM

    Oh look, this post has attracted a cohort of embarrassing eurosceptic dimwits.

    They doth protest too much.

  • Nikhil Shah

    The ECR and the green grouping both have 55 MEPs, so you might want to correct that error.

  • Ben

    I am trying to work out whether you are upset by the candidate selected or whether it was the fact that some small semblance of democracy was allowed this close to the EU. What if other people hear about it and want to elect their leaders?

  • Ben

    @ BenM

    Perhaps you could enlighten us as to what is wrong with wanting your own elected Government to make decisions for your country. It’s ironic (but not in a funny way) that we are seeing people across the Arab world fighting for self-determination while we gradually lose it in the UK…

  • 12345

    Roger Helmer accuses the writer of “hating foreigners” but it seems that he and his fellow H-Blockers hated their fellow Briton Tim Kirkhope so much that they were willing to do a deal to ensure defeat for him. NOT exactly the British Conservative Delegation’s Finest Hour…..

  • Matthew Davis

    Of course Ed Milliband was supported unanamously by his Shadow Cabinet.

  • Matthew Davis

    If all of the Conservative MEPs had voted for Kirkhope you’d accuse them of unthinking blind loyalty.

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  • BenM

    @Ben

    My suggestion to europhobes is to grow up and get into the 21st century.

    No nation state is immune from the ebbs and flows of international decision making.

    A sensible appreciation of the EU would see it as a useful tool for furthering the UK’s national interest at a time of rising superpowers like China and India.

    Europhobes just back the decline of the UK as a player in the world – the only possible outcome of any daft decision to leave the EU (which thankfully is not backed by a sensible UK electorate).

    Which is why europhobes are dangerous for the UK’s future prosperity.

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