By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
Martin Callanan has announced that he's standing down as leader of Tory MEPs. This will precipitate a fascinating 14th March election to succeed him – of which more very soon.
Martin is stepping down because he was recently elected as the Chairman of the eight nation European Conservatives and Reformists group – this was the group established after David Cameron took the Conservative Party out of the EPP.
Martin's leadership of the MEPs has been relatively brief but it hasn't been insignificant. He has been outspoken on issues like the impoverishment of Greece by the dangerous at-all-cost efforts to keep the €uro together. He has also pointed out that the EU's climate change policies are very dangerous if they are unilateral. For a long time our delegation at the European Parliament seemed very remote from grassroot Tories. Not today. Martin has closed the gap and his regular diary pieces for ConHome (eg this one) have, I hope, helped increase understanding of what Tory MEPs are doing on Britain's behalf.
Commenting on his decision Martin Callanan said:
"It has been a privilege to serve as Leader of Conservative MEPs for the last 16 months. It has been a tumultuous time for the EU and a fascinating time to lead the delegation. I am proud of the successes that Conservative MEPs are achieving and the hard work that we put in to defend the national interest. I would love to stay on but my commitment as the newly-elected chairman of our wider European grouping requires my full-time dedication. It was an enormous privilege to have been elected leader of the ECR last December. Our new movement is well established in Brussels and Strasbourg and I now intend to devote all of my time towards expanding its numbers, raising its profile, and positioning it as the only serious political force in Europe that delivers a common sense approach. The Conservative Party can be very proud of the new political movement we helped to create. It is a force for change that, in the current climate, can only get stronger."