By Matthew Barrett
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Following the resignation of Martin Callanan a fortnight ago, the new leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs has been announced as Richard Ashworth.
Ashworth was elected today by fellow Tory MEPs to lead the Party's delegation in the European Parliament. Ashworth beat Syed Kamall in the third round of voting – the second round was a 13-13 tie between the two. Had Roger Helmer not defected earlier this month, he would have cast the deciding vote for Kamall, and therefore Sayeeda Warsi's obstructionism over Helmer's rightful successor, Rupert Matthews, has essentially cost the party a firmly Eurosceptic Muslim leader in the European Parliament.
Ashworth has represented the South East England region since the 2004 elections and is the Conservative spokesman on the European Parliament Budget committee and has been involved in negotiating the EU's next Multi-Annual Financial Framework to set spending parameters from 2013 to 2020. Ashworth also sits on the Policy Challenges and Agriculture committees. He was deputy leader of the Conservative delegation from November 2008 to November 2010 and before that, chief whip from January to November 2007. Prior to entering the European Parliament, Ashworth owned his own business processing and retailing dairy products.
Ashworth commented on his election:
"It is a great honour to be chosen by my colleagues to lead them. These are challenging times – but I intend to continue the work of making Conservative principles heard in Europe as the voice of economic good sense and a driving force for competition and growth. We will work for better value for taxpayers' money in Europe – for greater efficiency, less waste and less red tape holding back enterprise and prosperity. For a flexible Europe that benefits Britain instead of dictating to it."