By Mark Wallace
Follow Mark on Twitter
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.
Richard Ashworth is the leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs.
If you want to know about the attitude to taxpayers of some here in the European Parliament, look at the headline its press office chose to place yesterday on a release about the EU budget. A majority of MEPs had just demanded an eye-watering 6.8% increase in next year's EU budget, backed up with an increase in excess of five per cent in the seven-year budget to 2020.
The headline was provocation itself: "'Put your money where your mouth is', MEPs tell member states". My first reaction was to ask: "What money?" But my second was to shake my head in dismay at the underlying presumption that the only rightful place for taxpayers' money is funding more Europe.
In Britain we are facing the hardest of budgeting decisions. Police officers and nurses are losing their jobs, even servicemen and women face redundancy as we do what we must to sort out Labour's mess. Spending has to be trimmed back for one simple reason - we cannot afford it. As our parents' generation knew - you can't live beyond your means. Good housekeeping, Margaret Thatcher called it.
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
The leader of the Conservative Party's MEPs, Richard Ashworth, has strongly condemned the European Commission's plan to demand £8billion from national governments to plug shortfalls in its budget this year.
The Commission's shortfall arises because it has started new long-term budget negotiations, causing governments to submit receipts for future years, and thus draining the Commission of funds for current spending commitments, like student exchange programmes. The Commission will also lose funds from the non-repayment of funds for major programmes in Greece and Spain.
Mr Ashworth, who is also the European Conservatives and Reformists group's spokesman on budgets, led the group to vote in favour of a budgetary freeze for 2013 and a new focus of European money so that jobs and growth programmes are prioritised. Mr Ashworth was able to convince other members of the budget committee to vote to end EU subsidies for tobacco production, and to reduce funding for campaigns to promote the euro by €500,000.
These decisions will now be voted upon by the full European Parliament, followed by negotiations with national governments. Mr Ashworth said:
"Rather than saying how much money is available in the EU budget, the commission waits for governments to submit receipts and then it realises it has a shortfall. EU budgeting seems to be more of an art than a science and it is a totally unacceptable way to manage taxpayer money. Every year, national governments are rightly asking the EU to squeeze more value out of its budget. Unless we have a complete change in the way the EU and some governments think towards this money, we are going to see this state of affairs continue. MEPs have voted for an inflation-busting increase that those who pay the EU's bills are unable and unwilling to pay. Instead of splurging money at projects in an uncontrolled manner, we need much better discipline to produce a better managed and more efficient European budget. We need a better EU budget, not more EU spending at a time of austerity. We need to end this Oliver Twist mentality and adopt a smarter, more controlled approach that gives bang for every buck."
I was honoured and very proud to be elected by my fellow Conservative MEPs to be their leader.
I was also amazed how many people - even before I had settled behind my desk to get on with the job in hand - had decided what kind of a leader I was going to be and exactly what I was going to do.
Of course this is always the way when someone new takes the helm. Those who think they know best will chart exactly where he is heading. For them the script is written.
©2013 Conservative Home, All rights reserved