Ben Fox reports from Brussels on the defection of David Campbell Bannerman from the Tories to UKIP and the possible de-whipping of sexist climate denier Roger Helmer.
Yesterday was been just another ordinary day for the Tory MEP group – a delegation which prides itself on making its Westminster back-benchers look professional. They proudly announced the defection of UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman, who was UKIP’s deputy leader from 2006-10 before being defeated by Nigel Farage for the party leadership last year.
Campbell Bannerman was a Tory adviser during the Major government, but quit the Tories in 2004 over what he described as the party’s “two-faced position on Europe”.
His defection statement explained:
“I have been pleased with the robust stance taken by David Cameron and Conservative MEPs over the EU budget negotiations, and I believe that it is Conservative MEPs who are working hard to defend Britain’s interests.”
However, Campbell Bannerman still believes Britain should leave the EU.
The Tories must have thought that the defection would deflect attention from Roger Helmer’s increasingly parlous status within the Tory party.
As Left Foot Forward reported yesterday, Helmer – who makes it a habit of insulting as many people as he possibly can – dug himself an elephant-sized hole in a bizarre and outrageously ignorant blog post in which he suggested that not only were some rapes less serious than others but that in what he described as a “date rape” situation, “the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility”.
Helmer also called for the return of hanging in the same post, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Since the press picked up the scandal on Monday evening, pressure has mounted on Helmer, both in the UK and in Brussels, to resign or be expelled from the Tory delegation and the right-wing ECR group. So far, Conservative Party spokesmen have merely distanced themselves from Helmer, saying that his views on rape do not represent those of his party or of his delegation. But it seems likely that Helmer will either jump or be pushed.
Abigail Finnegan, chief executive of the charity Safety Net, which works with victims of sexual and domestic abuse, was just one of many who said Mr Helmer’s views rendered him unfit to represent constituents.
“If a woman says no then that means no.”
“[A woman is] entitled to say no at any point and that has to be respected, no matter what she may have been wearing. There’s a myth in society that some women may set themselves up for rape.
“NSPCC figures suggest that one in six of Mr Helmer’s constituents will have suffered rape or sexual abuse, so how can he represent them with views such as this? He should resign.”
Helmer was expelled from the Tory delegation in 2005 only to have the party whip restored in 2006. It is becoming difficult to see how he will survive his latest outrage.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.