Tory poll deals blow to Pöttering’s ambitions

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Series Details Vol.11, No.37, 20.10.05
Publication Date 20/10/2005
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By Martin Banks

Date: 20/10/05

The contest for the leadership of the UK's Conservative Party has thrown the standing of the political groups in the European Parliament into doubt.

The result is not due until 6 December but the contest has given heart to Eurosceptic Conservatives who want a realignment of the groups in Parliament. The outcome could affect the choice of the next president of the Parliament.

Tory MPs were voting today (20 October) in the second round of the contest, which will determine which two names should be put to a postal vote by party members.

But the elimination on Tuesday (18 October) of the Euro-friendly Kenneth Clarke means that the three MPs still left in the contest are all, to varying degrees, hostile to the European People's Party (EPP), with which the Conservatives are currently allied as part of the European Democrats' faction in the 267-strong EPP-ED group, the biggest in the Parliament.

David Cameron, who is now regarded as favourite to become leader, told a London press conference that he would take the Conservatives out of the EPP-ED group.

A Cameron spokesman said: "The fundamental difference which exists on the issue of Europe between the Conservative Party and the European People's Party means that it would be much more honest to withdraw."

Liam Fox, championed by the party's right wing, has also come out against EPP-ED membership.

Sources close to David Davis, the third candidate, said Davis would have "no problem" with a decision to withdraw from the EPP-ED.

Any split between the EPP and ED factions could have a knock-on effect for the ambitions of EPP-ED group leader Hans Gert Pöttering

to become Parliament's next president.

A deal struck with the Socialist group saw their candidate, Josep Borrell, assume the presidency for the first half of the Parliamentary term, on the understanding that Pöttering would take over from January 2007.

"There is a real chance that Pöttering would be unable to muster enough votes to confirm his presidency," said one MEP. "If that happens, don't be surprised if other candidates enter the field."

Pöttering this week refused to be drawn on the future of his group.

MEP Timothy Kirkhope, leader of the Tory delegation, said he expected the relationship with the EPP to continue.

"Traditionally, if there are any changes to be made in the alliances or political relationships of the British delegation in the Parliament they are decided by the leader of the party in London and the leader of the delegation in Brussels together," Kirkhope said.

But one of the members of his delegation, Martin Callanan, said that he and "about nine" other members of the Tory delegation had been in discussions with like-minded deputies of other nationalities about forming a new alliance. They included members of the ALDE, UEN and Independence and Democracy groups.

He said: "The idea is to form a new right-of-centre political group which is committed to free markets and Euroscepticism."

Article discusses the possible effects that the outcome of the leadership contest in the UK's Conservative Party could have on the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. David Cameron, who was at the time regarded as favourite to become leader, had told a London press conference that he would take the Conservatives out of the EPP-ED group. This move might have an effect on the election of the next President of the European Parliament.

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