Resignation Postponed: A Short Personal Statement

In October, I announced my intention to resign from the European parliament on Dec 31st.  I was asked by our Delegation Leader Martin Callanan to postpone that date to Jan 20th to cover some key votes in Strasbourg in January, which I agreed to do.  However I have not yet signed the Parliament’s formal deed of resignation.

I made it clear at the time that a key reason for my decision was my disillusionment with a wide range of Conservative policies – a view which has been strongly reinforced by David Cameron’s vocal backing for further fiscal integration in the EU.

I announced my resignation in the confident expectation (shared by just about everyone) that I would be replaced by the Next-in-Line on the 2009 Conservative East Midlands list, Rupert Matthews.  Since the introduction of the regional list system of voting, there have been nine mid-term vacancies for UK MEPs, and on every occasion the seat has gone to the next available name on the list.

It has now emerged, however, that the Party has reservations over the succession.  After the 2010 General Election, a large number of very good people, including Rupert, were taken off the Westminster candidate list.  Because he is not currently on that list, the Party has referred his case to the Candidates’ Committee, which will require him to undergo a Candidate Panel.

This is entirely wrong-headed.  The Candidates’ Committee exists to pre-qualify names for future elections.  It cannot retrospectively disqualify names from previous elections.

Rupert was on the list at the relevant time, 2008.  He was duly selected under Party rules, in a postal ballot by around three and a half thousand East Midlands Conservative Party members, as #2 on the list (subsequently moved to #3 under the positive discrimination process).  He was then confirmed as Next-in-Line in the national euro elections of 2009.  He has earned his place, he has a democratic mandate.  It is outrageous that the Party should be minded to set aside the result of a national election, and many East Midlands Conservatives are very angry indeed.

However the Party needs to issue a Certificate in respect of such an appointment, and believes it can withhold the Certificate in this case.  But the Party’s right to withhold the Certificate must be exercised fairly, proportionately and transparently.  The Certificate is intended to enable the Party to refuse someone who has (for example) been convicted of a serious offence, or who has left the Party.  But where no such impediment exists, withholding the Certificate would be arbitrary and perverse.

I have made it clear that I will not sign the formal resignation papers until the position is clarified and Rupert is confirmed.  I was happy to resign in favour of the Next-in-Line in the normal way, but I am not prepared to stand aside for some A-List Cameron protégée from St. John’s Wood.

However the Party says it will not call the panel and make the decision until I do resign.  So we have a Mexican stand-off.

I think that both I and Rupert (and our respective families) are entitled to some certainty and resolution on the issue.  Accordingly I have indicated to the Party Chairman that if the situation is not resolved within a few weeks, I shall withdraw my offer to resign.  I am quite prepared, if necessary, to stay in place for the remaining 2½ years of my mandate, until 2014.

I have always argued that when a Conservative MEP is out of sympathy with Party policy, and unable to defend it, he should resign to make way for another Conservative.  I believe that that is the decent and honourable thing to do, and I have sought to do it, but my intention has been frustrated by the Party’s reprehensible prevarication.

I have also made it clear to the Party Chairman that I believe that my obligations on this point have been fully and finally discharged by my offer, made in good faith, to resign.  Accordingly, if I am obliged to stay in place until 2014, I shall feel no further sense of obligation or responsibility to the Party.

This article first appeared on ConservativeHome

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12 Responses to Resignation Postponed: A Short Personal Statement

  1. Ian says:

    So you might defect to UKIP?

  2. This really shows the EU in the most appalling light doesn’t it.

    With our local Council and with the London parliament, we get to choose the man or woman who represents the party we choose. We actually see them. If we are presented with a person to whom we take a dislike, then, of course, we can do something about it.
    In Cambridgeshire, we went one step further and had an open Primary, so I feel that Steve Barclay is the person whom I personally picked. OK some of what he has voted for, I disagree with. But on the whole I trust him. He supports the Conservative line through thick and thin.

    What you are saying here is that in the EU we vote for a party and the party chooses the person. Yes, I know that is the arrangement. But, as a voter, knowing that the European parliament is little more than a debating chamber, I honestly do not feel that I am part of the process in any way. When I needed help over the Free School, I was so easily fobbed off it was not true!

    And certainly Baroness Warsi demanding a woman is absolutely undemocratic. What right has she to choose my representative?

  3. Peter Hulme Cross says:

    You are absolutely right to stand firm on this. What you have described is outrageous behaviour by the Conservative Party hierarchy. Unfortunately I am not surprised.

    If you do decide to stay in post, I hope you will do so as an Independent. That way you will have more freedom to say what you want and vote the way you want without having to ‘toe any Party line’.

  4. Sue says:

    A politician with honour…. you have my admiration Roger.

  5. Malcolm Edward says:

    As a conservative I am alarmed by this deselection of a democratically confirmed candidate by the conservative party.
    Thank you for standing firm against this attempted gerrymandering.
    Looking ahead, what confidence can we have in the range of candidates put forward by central office for future candidates lists.

  6. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    I can’t deny a certain selfish satisfaction, Roger. I enjoy your blogs, and I appreciate your ongoing David-and-Goliath struggle on the behalf of those of us whose concerns are far too plebian to merit consideration by the great and noble ones. So if you’re going to keep it up after all, GREAT!

  7. David C says:

    I hope you keep going too Roger under whatever label. But I hope you can find a way to stay a Conservative, as you will likely be a bigger pain to the powers that be in the party with that label rather than without

  8. Gail says:

    Principled to the end! Good on you.

  9. Pingback: Helmer’s Bad Heir Day « Civitas

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