Next week in Strasbourg three Conservative MEPs will stand for the leadership of the delegation of Conservative MEPs. ConservativeHome asked each of them to briefly set out their stall…
Proportional representation (PR) and the Lisbon Treaty. We didn't want either of them but, now that they are in force, they have a huge impact on the role of MEPs.
Under the PR system voters vote for the party of their choosing and for its policies. They do not vote for individual candidates, nor do they vote for the individuals views. Responsibility for defining all the major decisions on Europe rests with the political parties and their leadership in London, not with MEPs in Brussels. It should be clear that the role of MEPs is to promote and represent the policies of the party in the committees, where the real work is done, and in the parliament of the European Union.
That always was an important and influential role but, now that the Lisbon Treaty is in force and consequently MEPs have full co decision powers, it has become more important and more influential still. Furthermore, now that the Conservative party is in coalition government in Westminster it is vitally important that all wings of the party work together in order to effectively achieve our goals.
In recent times the relationship between the party in the regions, the party in Westminster and the MEPs in Brussels has become too distant. We need to build a stronger relationship in order to get a better flow of ideas, to achieve greater scrutiny and accountability and to improve the exchange of information. My priority would be to rebuild and to reinforce those relationships.
Looking to the future, Europe faces great challenges and it is going to have to adapt its priorities and the manner in which it addresses them if it is to effectively deliver value to the 500 million European citizens. For that it will need new thinking, new vision and new leadership. The United Kingdom has been a strong force for beneficial change in Europe in the past. There has rarely been greater need for that change before now and I believe, with the coalition government in office in London, the Conservative party can, again, be a major source of inspiration and leadership but only if we work together.
Like most readers of ConservativeHome I was delighted to see David Cameron enter No.10 in May. With our Conservative Party back in Government it is a great opportunity to renegotiate Britain's role in, and contribution to, the European Union. Within the Conservative delegation of MEPs there is undoubtedly a range of opinion about Europe and the direction that Europe should take; the Leader has an important role in holding the delegation together and steering a united path.
I have always believed that Britain's interests are best served by being within the EU but I am now, more than ever, convinced that we need to take strong steps to stop the relentless slide towards political integration. The EU post Lisbon Treaty is in crisis, unable to agree a budget, unable to prop up the eurozone and with even dedicated federalists expressing horror at the cost of the new bloated External Action Service. This is the perfect time for a British Conservative common sense approach to find its voice.
If I am elected leader of the Conservative delegation next week I will ensure that we lend our solid, but not slavish, support to the Conservative led Government in Westminster.
- We must stick to our manifesto commitments and never again allow powers and competences to be transferred to Europe without a referendum.
- We must never join the Euro.
- We must continue the fight to not only freeze, but to reduce the budget of the EU. At a time when we are asking people to tighten belts at home, we cannot give away increasing amounts of taxpayers' hard earned cash.
- We must continue to fight against the ludicrous system whereby the entire Parliament, its staff and tonnes of documents are moved from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month at huge cost to the taxpayer.
As leader of the delegation, I would look to expand the ECR Group further to ensure that a strong, authentic Conservative voice is heard throughout the European Parliament.
Conservative MEPs all agree that we need a leader with fresh ideas, an independent mind and the character to lead our delegation with a renewed sense of purpose.
I believe I have the skills, vision and experience for this task. Before becoming an MEP I had a life outside politics. As an NHS consultant I was managing teams of 30 people, so this job is not too big for me.
I'm known among my colleagues for my honesty and openness. I reject secretive dealings and cliques. I'm my own man, incumbent to no faction. If I'm elected leader no-one will be dictating to me what to say or do.
In fact, asserting the independence and protecting the interests of MEPs is central to my approach to the leadership. Of course, we should never forget our unity of purpose. But for too long now Conservative MEPs have allowed themselves to be sidelined and taken for granted. I want us to be taken more seriously and I will strive to give our delegation a stronger voice within the party and the coalition government.
My main priority as leader would be to seek to enlarge the ECR Group. We need more MEPs from more countries to make the ECR a stronger platform for a Conservative agenda, otherwise it could easily fade into irrelevance. The process of enlarging the ECR needs to be led from Brussels. I support the growth in our transnational alliance of like-minded parties (AECR) and our foundation (New Direction), which have huge potential to support our new group. As leader I would hope to hope to contribute positively to the supervision and development of these bodies.
I will also fight for MEPs to have the same incumbency rights as MPs in the reselection process.
I'm a pragmatist and a loyalist, fully committed to Prime Minister David Cameron's Eurorealist vision. If I'm elected I'll lead from the centre, wholeheartedly supportive of our reformist agenda. I have always backed our party's policy of Britain engaging constructively as a leading member of the EU. Our delegation can become a much stronger, united and more cohesive political force under my leadership. I relish the opportunity to take the delegation in a new direction.