By Mark Wallace
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As if any further proof of grassroots dissatisfaction were needed, I've just been told by two sources that Richard Ashworth MEP - the Leader of the Conservative MEP Group in the European Parliament - and Marta Andreasen MEP - who recently defected from UKIP - have been deselected as candidates for the South East of England in next year's Euro elections.
This is significant not only because it suggests party members are becoming more willing than ever to flex their muscles on what they feel to be substandard representatives, but also because of the people who did the flexing. The regional electoral college is not the full membership of the party, it is their elected representatives - regional and constituency officials, representatives of bodies like the Conservative Women's Organisation and others who can hardly be described as disruptive elements, extremists or, whisper it, "swivel-eyed loons".
So not only will the Conservative MEPs be looking for a new Leader rather soon, the party leadership is in receipt of a rather unequivocal message. If even the reputedly tame electoral college is sacking sitting MEPs and rejecting defectors whom the leadership chose to let into the Conservative fold, they have serious problems.
Further to the above, an examination of the bizarre selection rules shows that today's vote - the most severe rebuke the electoral college can give to sitting MEPs - means Ashworth and Andreasen will now go into the general postal ballot of the membership.
As we have covered on ConHome before, the selection process is heavily biased in favour of sitting MEPs. Today's vote means that while Daniel Hannan and Nirj Deva have been reselected as MEPs, and thus have special privileges which put them at the top of the regional list, Andreasen and Ashworth lose those privileges.
Now it is down to the Conservative Party members in the South East to decide where on the list they should be ranked. Towards the top might offer them some chance of being returned as MEPs, anything outside the top two or three at a push would mean almost zero chance of re-election and as the shortlist will contain more names than there are seats, they may be dumped from the list altogether.
Assuming, of course, that after today's humiliation they decide to continue in the process at all.
By Mark Wallace
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Following Scotland's selections last week, the North West and London have now carried out the first stage of selecting candidates for next year's European elections.
Readers may need a reminder of the slightly obscure process: first the regional electoral college choose the shortlist. If sitting MEPs are reapproved at this stage then they automatically go to the top of the list.
After that, the party members in the region rank the remaining candidates in order by postal vote.
These are therefore the unranked shortlists, and are presented in alphabetical order by surname.
The process of selection (or re-selection in many cases) of candidates for the 2014 European Parliament elections has begun. Most constituencies are still going through the first stage, of selecting which candidates will make the list, before going to a full postal ballot of party members to choose the order in which they will be ranked.
Scotland has got in early, though, despite using the more traditional system of numerous hustings around the country. The list is all-new, as the sitting Conservative MEP, Struan Stevenson, intends to step down at the elections.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Yesterday the Tory list for the next European Parliamentary Elections in 2014 was opened. Please get in touch with the Conservative Party's Candidates Department if you think you'd make a good MEP. There should be a good number of vacancies...
Four MEPs have already announced that they will be retiring:
It is very possible that there may be other retirements. Speculation focuses upon Timothy Kirkhope, Malcolm Harbour, James Elles and Geoffrey Van Orden.
This could mean that there will be nine vacancies in the Tory MEP delegation. There are currently 26 Tory MEPs.
It is far from clear that the party will be able to match the top-of-the-poll 27.7% vote share that it won at the last elections in 2009 but the road to the Brussels parliament might be less jammed than the road to the Westminster parliament for Tory candidates. If the boundaries for the House of Commons are changed then there will be fifty fewer MPs and opportunities for people to become candidates in winnable seats will be very limited.
Conservative HQ has yet to decide on how MEP candidates will be selected and ranked. Five years ago the process was shockingly manipulated. Many incumbent MEPs were re-adopted even though they held Europhile views. Hustings were banned in order to minimise the opportunity for Eurosceptic candidates to promote themselves and be selected. Women were ranked higher on MEP lists even if they won fewer votes from members. Turnout figures for the election were suppressed.
If the party doesn't choose candidates this time that are in tune with party and mainstream national opinion on issues like Europe and prisoners' voting rights we will face an uphill struggle against UKIP.
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