Martin Callanan voted new Tory leader in Europe amidst further turmoil within ECR group - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Martin Callanan voted new Tory leader in Europe amidst further turmoil within ECR group

Friday, 26 November 2010
Martin Callanan MEPBritish Conservative MEP Martin Callanan was this week elected as the new leader of the party in the European Parliament and immediately came under pressure to reaffirm the party’s commitment to the sidelined European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) grouping after its controversial Polish leader Michał Kaminski quit his native 'far-right' party saying it is "becoming too extreme".

Mr Callanan, 49, pictured left, was elected in the annual leadership ballot in Strasbourg and replaces the outgoing leader Timothy Kirkhope who announced last month he would not seek re-election.

First elected to Brussels in June 1999, Mr Callanan represents the North East constituency and became the first ever Tory MEP for the region normally regarded as a traditional Labour stronghold. He is now in his 11th year of service having been re-elected again in 2004 and 2009.

A current member of Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee (ENVI), he said he was “delighted and honoured” to have won and thanked Mr Kirkhope for his work in what he described as a “challenging and exciting time for Conservative MEPs”.

The EU currently stands at a crossroads, winded by the financial crisis and increasingly removed from the people it claims to represent,” he continued. “Conservative MEPs stand at the forefront in defending Britain's interests in the EU. We will continue to do so.

But within hours of his election he faced questions about the future of his party’s involvement in the troubled ECR grouping once labelled by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as “a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes”. The group’s controversial leader Kaminski and two MEP colleagues this week resigned from the Law and Justice party in Poland following a disagreement over policy in a move that has fuelled speculation of a split within the ECR and damaged its credibility.

But Mr Callanan rubbished the rumours, and told that “there are, clearly, divisions in the Law and Justice party but it is still an internal matter. Contrary to what has been reported in the last few days, we are committed totally to the ECR.” He revealed that he had spoken to the Prime Minister David Cameron about this and “he too said he was perfectly happy with the ECR and the way the group is progressing”.

Meanwhile, the South West's MEPs all got new jobs:
Ashley Fox was appointed to the Party's Bureau, Julie Girling was appointed new Chief Whip for the delegation and Giles Chichester was elected as deputy leader of the group.

It marks a return to frontline role in the group for Mr Chichester following his resignation in June 2008 after confessing he broke European Parliament rules by channelling some of his allowances through a family company. Back then his position was seen as untenable partly because he had been given the job of a ‘sleazebuster’ by Mr Cameron to ensure the integrity of Tory MEP expenses.

Fellow Tory MEP Emma McClarkin also joined Bureau while Syed Kamall was elected unopposed as Treasurer in what has been viewed as a “lurch to the right” by the Conservatives in Brussels.

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