The Tories are getting themselves in a nice mess about the selection of the MEPs for the 2009 European elections – Conservative HQ is refusing to release the numbers of votes the sitting MEPs received from the party members, and Conservative Home is getting all worked up about it (background, campaign). Lib Dem voice also chips in, sounding smug.
Essentially there are 2 problems here. Firstly the Tory MEPs are generally more pro-EU than the average of Tory party members. Many of them have been in the European Parliament a long time and have decent reputations in Brussels, behaving responsibly and working with colleagues from other centre-right parties in the EPP-ED group in the European Parliament. It’s an almost impossible job for these MEPs to communicate the work they do in the EP to Tory party members and doing so cuts against the dominant sour approach to the EU from the party leadership in London – looking like you are engaging is per se wrong.
Secondly the Tories – like Labour – are up against the problems posed by the European Parliament election system in the UK. The system of regional closed lists creates all the wrong incentives – Tory MEPs have to schmooze with Tory party members, rather that actually letting the electorate decide whether they want a eurosceptic Tory or a euro-favourable Tory. So while I can understand why Conservative Home is crowing about the selection issue now, they really ought to be in favour of open lists instead, so all hues of Tory opinion could be represented.
[UPDATE – 02.06.08]
Tory MEP Giles Chichester (leader of the Tory delegation in the EP actually) is being investigated for having allegedly channeled Â£445000 into his family firm.