Edward McMillan-Scott writes … an open letter to the Leader of the Conservatives in Europe

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgMr Syed Kamall MEP (London, Conservative)

Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament

Dear Syed,

As the former leader of the Conservative MEPs, I have followed with interest the current speculation over your potential future bedfellows in Europe. It appears likely that the number of Conservative MEPs will fall from 26 to around 15, your Czech allies will all but vanish, and the Polish Law and Justice Party will be the dominant force in the ECR group. To survive, there are informed reports that Tory MEPs with the backing of David Cameron are trawling the wilder shores of European politics for new allies.

So tell me, will it be the far-right Danish People’s Party, who once likened Muslim headscarves to the Nazi swastika? Or perhaps the Finns Party, who have described immigrants as “parasites on taxpayers’ money” and suggested ethnically Finnish women should have more babies? Surely your voters are entitled to know who amongst these newfound friends the Conservative Party will share a platform with in Europe.

As you know, when I was leader the Conservative MEPs were at the heart of European decision-making as part of the influential EPP group, alongside the likes of Angela Merkel’s CDU Party. Cameron’s decision to withdraw and form the new fringe ECR group, memorably described by the Economist as a “shoddy and shaming alliance,” was a severe blow to British influence in Europe which prompted me to join the Liberal Democrats.

I have not regretted that decision. Over the last five years the ECR group has failed to have any discernible impact on EU legislation, while Liberals have led the way in reforming the EU. As the third-largest group Liberals have played the role of kingmakers in the European Parliament, having been on the winning side of 87% of votes compared to just 56% for the ECR. Liberals are in government in 12 other EU countries, the Conservatives’ allies are in government in none, and while there are currently eight Liberal Commissioners the ECR have not one. You claim to be leading a party that wants to reform Europe, yet you long deprived yourself of the means to do so.

So my question to you isthis: will you sit again with whatever political alliance is formed after the election on Thursday, no matter how distasteful and isolated your newfound allies may be? Or will you do what’s right for Britain, and re-establish the Conservative’s presence in the mainstream centre-right by rejoining the EPP?

I look forward to your response.

Yours,

Edward McMillan-Scott MEP (Yorkshire & Humber, Liberal Democrat)

Vice-President of the European Parliament

* Edward McMillan-Scott was MEP for Yorkshire & Humber 1984 – 2014, Conservative then Liberal Democrat since 2010. He was Vice-President of the European Parliament for Democracy & Human Rights 2004 - 2014

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12 Comments

  • I thought you were taking enforced retirement next week Ted?

  • Charles Rothwell 20th May '14 - 5:27pm

    Pretty cheap remark if I may be permitted to say so, Raddiy.

    Edward Macmillan-Scott has been one of the most hard-working and dedicated MEPs from any Member State and from any party across the entire European Parliament and deserves every respect, no matter what people’s particular sympathies/antipathies may be. When I think of some of the current MEPs (and their truly atrocious voting record (while, of course, be most astute indeed in pocketing every penny of taxpayer’s money paid to them in the form of salaries, expenses etc) (and imagine some of the new intake from across Europe likely to be occupying seats from next week on)), it only makes me realise even more how very much is wrong with the model first set up in the 1950s and how total root and branch reform of the structures of the EU is needed. The European Parliament elections have become more or less a complete farce and are taken seriously by very few people indeed among the ordinary electorate, very many of whom tend instead to regard them solely as a means of sticking two fingers up at the established parties and giving expression to the bile, frustration and hatred of “them” they feel, as shown in its purest form by the election of two British BNP MEPs last time around. Who knows which worthy successors to Brons and Griffin may emerge this time around?

  • Helen Dudden 20th May '14 - 6:20pm

    I won’t be voting for Graham Watson MEP, decided that I no longer could support the Lib Dems after 21 years.

    I hope, we all don’t live to regret the result.

  • Of Lib Dem representatives I have contacted, Graham Watson has proved by far the most approachable and responsive. I have already sent in my vote, so I can have no fears of regret.

    As for federalism, of course the EU is a federalist organisation, that is how it works. The ministers from each member state discuss policies and strategies together in one branch of the legislature. What else might anyone want? Some kind of dictatorship where one dominant nation lords it over everyone else? Perhaps that is what the Conservatives are after: a privileged UN style veto over any decision that everyone else has agreed upon!

  • @Helen Dudden
    What has Graham Watson done as an MEP, or his colleagues in the European Parliament done, that you cannot now support him having supported the Lib Dems for the last 21 years. Who will you be voting for instead who more closely represents your views on how we should engage in Europe?

  • Paul Reynolds 21st May '14 - 2:42am

    The UK party political system may go into a state of flux not seen since the unionists split from the Liberals before WW1, or since the rise of ‘labour syndicate socialism’ which created the Labour party some years later.
    We are likely to see even more UKIP-Tory tie ups in future elections. A defeat in 2015 for Labour may divide the party. Will the Tories still be a comfortable home for competent and compassionate libertarians like Syed in years to come ? Paradoxically it may only the Liberal Democrats who remain intact, since, once the bluff and bluster is stripped away, the Libdems have the narrowest differences of opinion across the party. Watch this space.

  • Charles Rothwell 21st May '14 - 7:21am

    I agree with Paul and have long felt that, just as with the Corn Laws and Imperial Preference/Tariff Reform, the issue of Europe has the potential to shatter the two party system which dominated UK politics (with diminishing conviction) from 1945 – 2010. As Edward Macmillan-Scott shows in person, there are many liberal Conservatives who, I am sure, would really be much more at home with the Liberal Democrats rather than, yet again, going through the periodic upheavals and divisions which have rent the Tories at regular intervals since Mrs Thatcher made her Bruges speech (and which led one D. Cameron to urge his party not “to bang on about Europe” (some hope!))
    The saddest of the above posts, though, was from Helen Dudden. We shall all be very sorry to lose your support after 21 years and do very much hope you will reconsider at some stage. I had a similar negative feeling over the tuition fees debacle and really thought of changing to Labour or the Greens. It did not take me long at all to decide against Labour, both for historical (PFI, Iraq, economic incompetence, horrible target-obsessed managerialism introduced into the public sector under New Labour etc etc etc) and current reasons (ludicrous position of our local MP (Shadow Transport Secretary) being firmly in favour of HS2 while the Labour Council has voted against!) The Greens are very attractive in many ways but they just not have the structures, coherence and experience to make a real difference so, in the end, Clegg’s “IN” campaign won me back and I feel again (as I have felt since the late-1970s) that this party most closely reflects my own views and most closely deserves my support (not least when I note the kind of views and attitudes which are now flying around across Britain and much of Europe as a whole). It is (high) time pro-Europeans stood up for what they believe in and the same is also true of those who believe in an open, democratic, diverse and innovative society and do not want to turn the clock back to some supposed golden age which existed in a “Miss Marple” TV show and nowhere else!

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd May '14 - 8:58am

    @ Charles Rothwell,
    I cannot disagree with anything that you have written in your first post.

    If the people of this country ( or the very small percentage who will vote today) choose to vote for candidates who have no intention of working on their behalf, that is their prerogative. Whilst there will aways be people who are prepared to cut their nose to spite their face. Unfortunately it will be all of us who pick up the bill.

    I have to admit, that despite my best efforts, I still don’t really understand the EU, so for me it still a vote for a party that most closely reflects my values. How I would vote in a referendum? I still don’t know, I will have more time to think about the pros and cons of membership. By then there will have been a GE and the Eurosceptic parties will have been forced to put their cards on the table and not be able to masquerade as being all things to all people.

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