Sometimes you do have to feel sorry for Timothy Kirkhope
; when Michał Kaminksi, the controversial Polish leader of the ECR grouping in the European Parliament, announced he was standing down because his party back home was becoming ‘too extreme’
, Mr Kirkhope really must have thought himself the odds-on favourite to win the leadership race.
Kirkhope had already lost out previously to Kaminksi in July 2009 after David Cameron removed his MEPs from the majority EPP centre-right grouping to form a group of their own. Mr Kirkhope then served as head of the British delegation for five years in two spells, and since he is a British Conservative MEP, and they represent 25 of the group’s 54 members (Edit 10/03: now 55 members
), he looked a shoe-in favourite.
But alas it was not to be; Jan Zahradil
, a Czech MEP from the Civic Democrats (ODS), was instead announced the new leader of the European Conservative and Reformists group via the grouping’s Twitter account
What is furthermore remarkable about this result is that Zahradil defeated Kirkhope by 33 votes to 18 meaning a large proportion of the Conservative delegation actually voted against their own officially-endorsed party candidate.
This, naturally, has been seized upon by the British contingent of Labour MEPs
who have quickly dubbed this as "yet another European embarrassment for the Prime Minister
", and it is difficult not to find oneself agreeing.
So who exactly is Jan Zahradil? Well apart from being close to Czech President Vaclav Klaus, and a firm denier of climate change, he’s not exactly a household name. Thankfully however, one British MEP who voted against his British colleague, the MEP for the South East Daniel Hannan
, has provided us with a quick heads-up, and said he was the "sort of chap
" liked even by his political opponents.Writing on his Daily Telegraph blo
g, Mr Hannan said: "Jay-Z is a fine politician and a fine man: a free-marketeer, a eurosceptic, a libertarian, a flinty Czech patriot who is also a committed Anglophile and Atlanticist.
” He also described him as a “serious rock aficionado
” and “will happily chat for hours about Led Zeppelin or Lynyrd Skynyrd
”. [NB: I thought Jay-Z was a rapper and married to Beyoncé?]
Mr Zahradil will lead the ECR until the end of this year, when political groups in the European Parliament will hold mid-term elections for internal posts. This will give the British Tories, and Kirkhope, another stab at securing the leadership – that is if he isn’t already demoralised enough.
Is it really any wonder why the ECR struggle to get others to take them seriously?