During the current election campaign I can’t keep up my customary blog rate, but I have to share with you my experience this afternoon at a hustings event organised in Oakham by the NFU. All seven candidates who turned up (there are thirteen registered parties in the euro-election in the East Midlands) were invited to make a five-minute opening statement. I went first, and talked about what I thought the farmers wanted to hear — agricultural issues.
But both the Labour candidate David Morgan, and the Lib-Dem Bill Turncoat Dunn, chose to use a fair part of their allotted time to attack the Conservatives, and both focussed on our plan to leave the EPP group, which they said would leave us “isolated and marginalised” in Europe. Outrageously, Bill suggested we might sit in the parliament with Jean-Mari Le Penn. He described David Cameron’s EPP decision as “deeply stupid”.
Demanding a right to reply, I said how disappointed I was that they chose to try to score cheap political points instead of addressing NFU issues. I added that Bill himself, nine years ago, took exactly the same “deeply stupid decision” to leave the EPP. And he took it for exactly the same reason that we are taking it: because he profoundly disagreed with his colleagues on the most fundamental question the parliament faces — the future shape and direction of the EU itself.
Far from being isolated and marginalised, we expect to be in a group not dissimilar in size to Bill’s Liberal group, and we expect to do something really important and influential: to constitute the first real opposition party in the European parliament. I concluded by saying that I was proud of that decision. And I am.