This week’s EPP announcement has produced deep despondency amongst the Conservative Party’s Eurosceptic MEPs. They feel betrayed by David Cameron and William Hague but ConservativeHome understands that it is unlikely that they will form a new group outside of the EPP. Some members of the Polish Law and Justice Party would certainly welcome such a new group. The L&JP feels more humilated than betrayed. Yesterday’s Warsaw newspapers carried stories about the way the party of Margaret Thatcher had snubbed the Polish governing party in favour of a deal with the Czechs. The Poles were not even invited to Thursday’s signing and will not quickly trust the Tories again. As late as Tuesday afternoon they were being called by a member of the shadow cabinet to check that they still wanted to form a new grouping with British Conservatives and other Eurosceptics.
Spirits in the Europhile camp of MEPs are very high, however. They feel they have three years to find ways of ensuring that the new Tory-ODS group – when it is launched – will stay within the EPP or in some close form of association. That is not their only ambition, however. Those MEPs who have strongly supported EPP membership are worried that they will face a backlash from Eurosceptic party activists at selection hustings. Although a number of controversial MEPs like Caroline Jackson will be retiring at the 2009 elections a number want to stay on. They would like the husting events – where activists decide whether they should be readopted – to be replaced by a system whereby association chairmen or CCHQ make the decisions.
The Labour Party model is apparently the mechanism favoured by the Europhiles. Labour uses regional officers to decide where sitting MEPs will be ranked on the party list. Regional officers are seen as more malleable and less ideological than party activists. A more centralised system would also give CCHQ the ability to ensure more diverse candidates represent the party in the European Parliament.
ConservativeHome – in the spirit of the 2005 campaign to keep the members’ vote in leadership elections – strongly opposes any erosion of internal party democracy. A postal ballot of all party members in a region may be a better way of ensuring that MEPs are reselected by a more representative sample of the membership but any ‘officer-isation’ or centralisation of decision-making would be unacceptable.
PS On 6th April ConservativeHome reported the formation of an internet-based Campaign for Real Conservative Candidates. I have not been able to contact the campaign in the last 24 hours about the developments outlined in this post.