David Cameron, the new leader of the British Conservatives, has repeated his plans to cut the links between his party and the Christian-Democratic group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED). Cameron is, however, facing a revolt by a large number of his party’s 27 MEPs who do not want to leave the EPP-ED, the largest bloc in the European Parliament. They say this would entail that they end up in the group of the non-inscrits (NI), together with the extreme-right.
Yesterday, Straun Stevenson, Scotland’s senior Tory MEP, who paints himself as a Eurosceptic so as to ensure a high placement on the Tory list in Scotland, entered the crowded lists of the EPP debate. He issued an ultimatum, saying he would refuse to go along with his leader’s plans. “We would have to sit round the table on a weekly basis with these fascists and nutters that nobody else will sit with. I tell you now that I refuse to do that. I don’t care who’s ordering me to do that. I won’t come back and stand for election as a Conservative in Scotland when I’m sitting in a group with Le Pen. I’m sorry, but I’m just not prepared to do it,” Stevenson said in the Sunday Herald.
Stevenson, who is a Vice-president of the EPP-ED, comes up with what I might generously describe as the worst possible solution. He favours “forming a new party after the next European elections.”
Right, where to start? Setting up a group after the 2009 elections would mean that people could legitimately attack the Tories for being allied to the EPP, which you must recall supports the Constitution, Euro membership for all, a European Public Prosecutor, greater power for the European Court of Justice, etc. [pdf]
No matter how much the Tories state that they will leave after the election people won’t believe them. They have promised as much before. In the meantime over 2 million pounds of their money (ok, taxpayers money granted to the Tories) will have been handed over to the EPP to fight federalist campaigns.
Another idea, suggested by William Hague, the Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary, proposes to leave in a few months after doing the groundwork to set up a new group. However, leaving now and sitting as Non Inscrit would also give the Tories the opportunity to create a group, and at least other parties such as the Czech ODS and Poland’s Law and Justice might believe that they meant it this time. Stevenson knows very well that the NI is not a group. He knows that the NI don’t have group meetings in any meaningful way. He is being deliberately misleading in calling it a group.
In the Sunday Herald he goes on however, adding that it is important for Cameron to maintain strong relations with likeminded, centre-right parties across Europe, “and not divorce himself from them within hours of becoming leader of the Conservatives.”
Likeminded! In what way are these people likeminded to the vast majority of Tory members who would like to have no political truck with them? In many ways, economically at least the Tories have more in common with sections of the Liberal group in the Parliament than they do with the EPP. They could work closely with the German FPD, the Dutch VVD or the Flemish VLD more comfortably and with a liker mind than with the CDU, the CDA, the CD&V or other EPP members.
Stevenson burnishes his scep credentials with trenchant articles in the European Journal [pdf], but when push comes to shove the kilted wonder is as bad as the rest of them.