In 2010 I noted with dismay the Conservative councillors represented on the EU Committee of the Regions continued to sit as part of the European Peoples Party. No longer.
They are now part of a new group in the Committee of the Regions which will champion an agenda of decentralising power closer to the local and regional people.
The European Conservatives and Reformists Group contains representatives of seven EU Member States (the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia and the UK). 27 Members have joined the group so far, including the Mayor of Prague.
The new ECR Group sees the extension of the ECR Alliance, which continues to grow with 54 MEPs from ten countries, two Prime Ministers in the European Council, and a successful think tank, New Direction.
Launching the group at the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists' headquarters in Brussels, ACER Secretary General Daniel Hannan said that it will encourage decisions to be made closer to those affected by them.
Daniel Hannan said:
"The European Conservatives and Reformists alliance is growing, and the new Group in the Committee of the Regions will deliver an agenda based on the assumption that individuals and communities should make decisions over their daily lives, not centralised elites."
Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, the acting Chairman of the new group, said:
"The new group will be a breath of fresh air in the Committee of the Regions and will strengthen its links with the European Parliament."
Martin Callanan MEP, Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, said:
"I am delighted that we continue to grow the ECR family. We are clearly established on the political map, and we will continue to go from strength to strength as our agenda strikes a chord with voters and taxpayers crying out for a change in direction of the EU."
The Conservative Party's position is for abolition of this Committee (though the delegates may see things differently). However th view is that if it exists then we should participate.
What really matters is the wider context. When the ECR was set up, the Euro-sophisticates said it would last no more than five years, that it was silly of David Cameron to have got himself on to such a hook etc etc. Nobody says that now. The ECR is the only group of MEPs that's growing, and is expected to put on members at the next election – unlike, say, the Liberals..
An ECR Group on the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities of the Council of Europe, and are in the process of setting one up under Bob Walter on the parliamentary assembly there. NATO, too. The CoR is a piece of a jigsaw.
At home and abroad the Conservative Party at all levels is giving the same consistent message that we need to recover our national independence.