The results of the question posed in December’s ConservativeHome survey are as follows (Party members’ answers only):
How should sitting MEPs who wish to be reselected, be ranked for the next European Parliamentary Elections?
Option 1: 78%
They should face a vote in which all Tory members in their European Parliamentary regions can participate.
Option 2: 16%
A potentially divisive vote of all members should be avoided and the decision should be passed to the regional officers of the Conservative Party.
Option 3: 6%
We framed this question with Francis Maude’s open response to ConservativeHome in mind, in which he asked how a "divisive and acrimonious" selection process could be avoided (you may want to read over the multitude of comments on that thread again).
As Conservative MEPs went back to their offices yesterday, ConservativeHome asked them for their thoughts on how we should select/ re-select candidates for the next European Parliamentary elections, bearing in mind the above results.
Chris Heaton-Harris, who was Chief Whip during the last round of selections, has set out the debate on today’s YourPlatform.
Jonathan Evans’ response has been published in the Seats and Candidates section as it raises an important related issue. We will then publish a pdf file aggregating all of the responses. A few MEPs are still on holiday so couldn’t share their opinion in time, and John Bowis is ill – we wish him a speedy recovery!
Click continue to see how the others responded…
Richard Ashworth (South East MEP):
Philip Bushill-Matthews (West Midlands MEP):
"There are good arguments in favour of – and against – various different options for re-selection. Such arguments are not best portrayed by the somewhat slanted wording of your questionnaire, and its limiting to two nominated options (Well, you did ask for my view!).
I understand that the matter is currently under review by the Party Board, having taken appropriate consultations throughout the party. I await its conclusions with interest."
Martin Callanan (North East MEP):
"This result in the ConservativeHome survey doesn’t surprise me at all. The best way to avoid division and rancour in the re–selection process is surely to involve as many members as possible. To remove the franchise from the membership as a whole, when everyone had the opportunity to participate in the two previous list selections, would, in my view, go down badly with the broader Conservative family.
It would be wrong for me, as someone who will be processed by the system, to comment in detail on what that system should be. However, many members clearly feel very strongly about European issues and would be very aggrieved if they were given no say in the selection of their MEP candidates. It seems to me to be an obvious principle that the more people are involved in the process, the less opportunity there will be for complaints from those unhappy with the outcome."
Nirj Deva (South East MEP):
"I support the principle that we are a democratic party and that party members must have a say. Allowing all members, from the couple who give a few hours each month to deliver leaflets and knock on doors to Association Chairmen, an equal chance to make their voices heard by having the final choice in how candidates for the European Parliament are ranked is a vital lesson in accountability. I would strongly oppose measures designed to deny the rank-and-file membership their rightful say".
Den Dover (North West MEP):
"The whole re-selection process for MEPs is being discussed exhaustively at present since the process is planned to take place this coming Autumn. No decisions have yet been made. Labour and LibDems allow a postal vote of all their members but this relies on a one paragraph CV of each candidate, which seems inadequate and costly.
Thought is being given to the Regional Selection Committee (Chairman of each constituency or substitute, plus all Area and Regional Officers) interviewing MEPs wishing to stand again, giving them a vote of confidence (or not) and then deciding on ranking of all candidates – including interviewing all short-listed candidates. The selection processes for the 1999 and 2004 European Elections involved hustings meetings open to all Conservative Party members. Only those attending these hustings were entitled to vote.
My view is that the Party should decide by careful consideration and appropriate democratic means what the detailed arrangements for the selection of our Party lists for the June 2009 European Elections should be. A great deal of time and effort has already been spent on getting this right and it is important that we get the best candidates and involve the Party at large in these discussions, as is being done."
"I would like the reselection process to be as open and democratic as possible although I do have some concerns about the cost to the Party of a postal vote. Hustings may be the best way forward."
Dr Charles Tannock (London MEP):
I also believe that the system penalises those MEPs most active in the Parliament as opposed to those who do little in the Parliament but spend their whole time courting the Constituencies. Obviously our job is a balance between work in the Parliament which is what we are elected to do primarily in order to defend our national and party interests in the legislation and committee work we are tasked with doing as elected representatives as well as constituency work.
These are my personal views and do not reflect any official view of the Bureau of the Conservative MEPs to which I was reelected this year."
Geoffrey Van Orden (Eastern MEP):
"I favour selection by Option 1. I believe that all Conservative Party members should have the opportunity to hear and question their MEPs and therefore to attend a hustings and vote. Of course, it is even better if Party members are already aware of where their MEPs stand on the major issues and how consistent their views are. I try to assist this through speeches in the Parliament and articles and letters in national and local journals.
I also produce eDispatch, a regular bulletin sent out by email to several thousand subscribers. For the record, I think the current system for electing MEPs is abysmal. It was introduced by Mr Blair in 1999 and replaced the FPTP single member constituencies with a Party List PR system. The effect is that an MEP typically has a ‘constituency’ of upwards of 5 million people in over 50 Westminster constituencies and shares the representation with an assortment of other MEPs.
No wonder many people do not understand the system or know who their MEP is. At least the Conservative Party has given its members the opportunity to select their candidates. If you live in one of the six counties of the East of England (I prefer not to use the term ‘Region’) and would like to receive eDispatch, please just contact me on gvanorden[AT]europarl.eu.int"