By Tim Montgomerie
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Yesterday I reported Roger Helmer MEP's regrettable decision to defect to UKIP.
Mr Helmer defected after he had announced his hope to retire and then after ConHQ had refused to appoint Rupert Matthews as his successor. Mr Matthews was ranked next in the East Midlands list of MEP candidates.
Rupert Matthews reacted yesterday afternoon and condemned Roger Helmer's decision as a betrayal:
"I am shocked and disappointed at Roger Helmer’s decision to betray his public promises to the people of the East Midlands and his private promises to his colleagues. Since Roger announced that he was standing down as the MEP, many people in the East Midlands have spent a considerable amount of time and effort in preparing for Roger’s retirement, my taking his place in Brussels and the unavoidable upheavals that this would have entailed. I myself was looking forward very much to representing the people of the East Midlands and the Conservative Party in the European Parliament. It is unfortunate that all this time and effort has been rendered useless by Roger’s actions. I wish to make it clear that I have no intention of following Roger to UKIP and that I will continue to serve the Conservative Party as loyally as I have in the 28 years since I joined the party. I will be working hard to ensure the return of Conservative candidates in the local elections in May and at the next European Election in 2014."
By Tim Montgomerie
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Roger Helmer MEP has announced that he is leaving the Conservative Party and joining the United Kingdom Independence Party. Helmer has been an MEP for the East Midlands region since 1999, having been re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009. He has made his concerns over Conservative policy very public in recent months, not least on the pages of ConHome. He made his announcement at UKIP’s Spring Conference in Skegness - the premier seaside resort in his East Midlands Region.
Commenting on his decision, Helmer says:
“The fact is that UKIP represents the values and convictions of East Midlands Conservatives much better than Cameron’s Tory Party does. I believe I can do a better job representing those views and interests as a member of UKIP than I could in the Tory Party. The European project is collapsing before our eyes, yet the three main parties remain wedded to the Brussels dream. UKIP is the only party which is ahead of the curve on this issue, and on other issues as well”.
He has written the following letter to colleagues in the Conservative Party.
I am writing to let you know that after a great deal of thought, and much heart-searching, I have decided to leave the Conservative Party, and to join the United Kingdom Independence Party.
After decades with the Conservative Party, this has been a tough decision to take. I well understand that many of my friends and colleagues in the Party will greet the news with dismay, and I greatly regret that.
By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier today Roger Helmer MEP tweeted that the Union Flag was flying upside down outside of the European Parliament. Here's the proof:
Mr Helmer has written to the President of the Parliament asking for the insult to be corrected:
"Arriving at the parliament this morning around 7:00 a.m., I noticed that in the line of national flags, the flag of my country, the Union jack, was flying upside down (as it was when I first arrived at the Strasbourg parliament in 1999). May I ask if this is merely an oversight, or a deliberate snub? May I also ask what action you propose to take to ensure that this does not happen again?"
By Matthew Barrett
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Roger Helmer, a Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands region has written to the Chairman of the East Midlands Conservatives, Stephen Mold, to announce his resignation from the European Parliament. Mr Helmer has been an MEP since 1999 and is known for his staunchly Eurosceptic views.
Mr Helmer's letter says:
"I am writing to you now to advise you that I shall be resigning my seat in the European parliament effective December 31st this year.
As with any major decision, this is driven by a number of factors. Some might say that it is high time I stood aside for a younger man. For myself, I think that twelve-and-a-half years banging my head against the same brick wall in Brussels is perhaps long enough. And I should certainly like to see more of my three fine grandsons.
But it would be disingenuous to deny that my decision is dictated in part by my increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party. I am finding it ever more difficult to defend the policies of the Coalition, not only on my key issues of Europe, and of climate and energy, but on a range of other matters besides.
I will have more to say about this in coming days.
At this point I must express my thanks to all those, too numerous to mention individually, who have helped and supported me up and down the Region since 1999 – to the Party supporters and activists, and indeed the voters, who have three times selected me, and elected me, at the head of the East Midlands MEP list, as well as to all those who supported the successful “Reinstate Roger” campaign when I had the Party Whip temporarily withdrawn.
But some names I must mention. Three previous regional Chairmen, Nigel Cutts, Dudley Bryant and most recently Linda Kirk, have been hugely supportive, even though I have not always made life easy for them. I am grateful to David Surtees, who has been present in one rôle or another throughout my political career, and to Simon Richards of The Freedom Association who has been a trusty comrade-in-arms for many years.
I am especially grateful to Chris Heaton-Harris, who for ten years in the European parliament was the best colleague I could have hoped to have – and to the other members of “the H-Block”. And I should thank all those former staffers who have passed through my office, especially Sally McNamara and Cat Bray (both now in political roles in Washington) and Lydia Smith, just starting work in Westminster with Mark Lancaster MP.
I should also thank my current staffers Joe Bono and Neelam Cartmell, and of course my current East Midlands colleague Emma McClarkin MEP, for their help and support.
It is my understanding that my place will be taken automatically by Rupert Matthews, who was next-in-line on the 2009 Conservative list. Rupert is a very sound man indeed, and well known in the region, and I have absolute confidence that he will serve the voters of the East Midlands with great skill and diligence. He has been a good friend and colleague both to me and to Chris Heaton-Harris for many years, and we have worked together on a number of projects. Most recently, Rupert has edited and published my latest book “Sceptic at Large”.
I will no doubt be asked about my plans for retirement, but so far I have no plan beyond taking a long and well-earned rest.
Again, thank you for your help and support, and I wish you, and the region, all the best for the future."
9.30am Update: Rupert Matthews, who, as Mr Helmer writes above, will take the vacant seat, comments:
"Roger Helmer will be a tough act to follow. I first met Roger when we were both campaigning in the 1999 European Elections - he as a candidate and I as a Conservative Party activist. I recall I was with a team of volunteers preparing to go out delivering leaflets when Roger appeared and with a few words enthused us all to go out on to the pavements. Since then Roger has done a fine job of representing the East Midlands out in Brussels and Strasbourg. I hope to continue Roger's superb work of responding to the needs of East Midlands residents, businesses and communities, and to representing their interests in Brussels. It will be an honour to follow Roger in the task of battling the ever increasing federalism of the EU by representing the people of the East Midlands and the Conservative Party in the European Parliament."
East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer has commented in light of another failed attempt to scrap the Working Time Directive opt-out. Talks took place between the Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers with the aim of hammering out a deal. But they collapsed on Tuesday morning and the issue now looks to have been put to bed until after the European elections.
Mr Helmer said:
"The result of this breakdown in negotiations is that the opt-out remains secure until the next time Labour MEPs have a chance to undermine it. Our right to choose our own working hours is safe for now.
Over three million people in the UK work more than 48 hours a week, and in these tough times it is more important than ever that people should have the free choice of how best to fend for their families. This outcome is good news not just for the East Midlands retai