I do not expect an immediate answer to this letter – I realise you have a very busy week ahead of you – but sometime after Bournemouth Conference it would be good to hear that members will retain full rights to rank the party’s candidates for the next European Parliamentary elections.
My understanding is that sitting MEPs do not have to be tested in the preliminary rounds of the selection process and have an automatic right to go through to the final selection meeting at which party members vote on their position on the regional list. This current position is, I believe, fair and should be retained in some similar form.
I am concerned to learn again, however, that some MEPs – on the more integrationist wing of the party – are campaigning to have their incumbency further protected. They fear that the party’s more Eurosceptic members will want to replace them with candidates more in tune with the party’s stance on, for example, the euro and constitution. These MEPs want their existing ranking on the list to be retained unless it is overturned. And they do not want this decision to be taken by grassroots members but by regional officers.
I would like reassurance that grassroots members will still have the right to rank sitting MEPs against new final round applicants. There may be some need to change the method of selection but the aim should be to widen the franchise and not to narrow it. For example, the current method of ranking the MEPs at a meeting of grassroots activists could be replaced by a postal ballot of all grassroots members. This ballot could take place after a public hustings and could be enriched by internet-based cross-examination of the candidates.
I look forward to your reply and wish you a very successful week in Bournemouth.
PS I’d like to take this public opportunity to thank you for providing ConservativeHome and other bloggers with a stand at Bournemouth. During your chairmanship the party has become the most willing to embrace the new media and I’m sure that will benefit the party in the years to come."