Tory MEPs deliver defeat to their own candidate in ECR leadership poll - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Tory MEPs deliver defeat to their own candidate in ECR leadership poll

Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Jan Zahradil (left) and Timothy KirkhopeSometimes 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 last night.

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 blog, 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?

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3 Comment(s):
Anonymous Alex said...
'Is it really any wonder why the ECR struggle to get others to take them seriously?'

You mean because British Conservative MEPs voted for someone not of their own nationality? One would have thought you would welcome this evidence against their often alleged xenophobia.

Blogger Andrew said...
No, I'm simply not interested in issues / allegations of xenophobia - that should not be an issue in today's Europe - and so I am suggesting that here.

I made that remark on the basis of numerous other examples of such farce in the ECR group, and this example provides further proof of the Conservative's 'faux pas' in founding the group. Let us not forget that it was the Conservative leader, now Prime Minister, David Cameron who wanted his MEPs out of the EPP and to form their own grouping to "increase his influence", and in spite of this he is still unable to have one of his MEPs as head of the grouping and shake off the comments made by Nick Clegg, a former MEP himself, that they were sitting in partnership with "a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes".

Anonymous Alex said...
Fair enough on the point of xenophobia.

But a free election on the basis of merit can hardly be described as a 'farce'. If it is thought that the prospective leader can represent the interests of the group better than any other candidate, then surely the matter of from which nationality that individual comes is irrelevent. It would be rather closed-minded for British MEPs to assume that the best candidate is automatically one of their own. In my mind, it would also be entirely wrong to choose a Brit merely to perpetuate David Cameron's influence, which, in any case, would not be served by choosing a candidate other than the best.

As for the point of the alleged questionable views of the other ECR members, it hasn't been possible to shake them off because the media has persisted in repeating them despite their baselesness. I don't mean to rehash that debate but I would mention, for example, that the Chief Rabbi of Poland and others were of the view that it is despicable to invent smears of anti-Semitism for reasons of partisan advantage as occured in this case and I quite agree.

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