The worst news of the night for the Conservatives came early on – with the defeat of Martin Callanan, hitherto leader of the Conservative Euro MPs and one of the three MEPs for the North East. Regular readers will be familiar with the monthly letter that he wrote for this site. The region is not fertile territory for the Conservatives and only returns a small number of MEPs. Yet Mr Callanan was elected in 1999, re-elected in 2004, and re-elected again in 2009.
At the Conservative Home conference on Saturday, Matthew Elliot spoke about how the messenger matters as well as the message. Mr Callanan’s good humoured and straight answers when interviewed following his defeat has shown what a good messenger he is for the Conservative Party in the country generally – and the north east in particular.
Mr Callanan should be given a peerage at the first opportunity. But not as a retirement bauble – he is only 52. He should be pressed to continue to have a prominent and active role in Conservative politics.
Commiserations also to Marina Yannakoudakis, a Conservative London MEP who lost her seat. Mrs Yannakoudakis was a Barnet councillor having earlier started a business with her Greek husband. In the European Parliament she worked fantastically hard against red tape and politically correct gimmicks such as quotas on company board – instead being a true champion of women entrepreneurs. She is well known among London Conservatives as a relentless campaigner and I hope she will be back.
Elsewhere most of the Conservative MEPs who departed have done so after retiring – Robert Sturdy, Sir Robert Atkins, James Elles, Giles Chichester and Malcolm Harbour. Generally their departure reflects a shift in the Conservative Group to a more Eurosceptic direction. David Campbell Bannerman was elected as a UKIP MEP in 2009 – after his defection to the Conservatives he was elected as a Conservative on Thursday.
Congratulations to Cllr Andrew Lewer who is a new Conservative MEP for the East Midlands. He is a former leader of Derbyshire County Council – the Conservatives gained control there in 2009 despite most of the pundits saying that such an outcome was quite impossible.