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James Elles: Why I want to lead the Conservative MEPs

Picture_2_3 James Elles has been an MEP since 1984 and is next week standing to be leader (chairman) of the group of Conservative MEPs.

I am standing for Chairman in this election as the candidate pledged to help strengthen the reputation and respect of our UK Delegation, in the eyes of both our electorate and the Conservative Party at home.

We have been through some difficult times in recent months. We must put these behind us and look forward to the future with optimism, adopting a pro-active strategy for influence, rather than fall back on tired old solutions. We must develop a clear vision as to how best we can contribute our ideas, abilities and experience to help shape Party policy on Europe and the big domestic challenges ahead. How can this be done?

As we approach the European elections next year, we must show the electorate that the Delegation reflects the various strands of opinion within the Party, working together for the common good for those they represent. It should therefore be led by someone who wants an open approach, communicating with and listening to all members of the Delegation.  The hallmark of our conduct must be one of transparency and forthrightness.

I believe that I have a strong contribution to make to develop this vision. Since my election in June 1984, I have not only a continuous record of being active in the Thames Valley both within the Party, with first class relationships with MPs, as well as with business and civic organisations there.

I have also gained unparalleled experience and excellent contacts worldwide in founding and running successful ideas networks, such as the Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN) and the European Ideas Network (EIN). Their operations have both been helped by my being a co-founder of the European Internet Foundation (EIF). They are all examples of how to build bridges across a wide variety of different communities and to do creative thinking in the internet era, with real results to prove their validity.

In considering how best we communicate our new ideas, reflecting our values of the free market and a responsible society, we must look at all means by which this new thinking can be strongly expressed, in whatever framework it can be the most effective.

Like other candidates, I have signed a declaration fully supporting the agreement by David Cameron and Mirek Topolanek that, following the elections in 2009, we should ‘...establish a new parliamentary group, which other like-minded parties will be invited to join’.

With the experience, knowledge and contacts I can bring to this process, I would like to help contribute to new thinking in Centre Right politics. Only such an approach will guarantee our influence in Brussels and London, giving the necessary access to important target groups among our electorate. I will propose new ways of working together to develop ideas, both in the UK as well as on the continent, working with existing networks such as those established by Malcolm Harbour and Syed Kamall. 

In so doing, I would like to build on the leadership of both Giles Chichester and Philip Bushill-Matthews in bringing the various strands of the delegation together and removing the internal tensions that have been allowed to develop in previous years. We must all be encouraged to play roles for which we are responsible to the best of our ability, enabling those with knowledge and experience to play their full part.

We must ensure pragmatic politics in all our areas of engagement, whether in matters of policy or party relations. I am convinced that, with all of us contributing in our different ways to tasks at hand, we can and will re-emerge proud of our role and our ability to exercise the strong influence we all want.

Editor's note: Timothy Kirkhope, the other candidate for chairman of the delegation of Tory MEPs, has also been invited to set out his stall for Platform and we will publish a piece by him if and when he contributes something.


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