Plus ca change: Tories split on Europe

TORY Euro MP Robert Sturdy has told eight of his colleagues to stop putting pressure on party leader David Cameron after they insisted MEPs abandon their traditional alliance in the European Parliament and link with parties from Eastern Europe.

By Graham Dines

TORY Euro MP Robert Sturdy has told eight of his colleagues to stop putting pressure on party leader David Cameron after they insisted MEPs abandon their traditional alliance in the European Parliament and link with parties from Eastern Europe.

Mr Sturdy, who has been an MEP since 1989, accuses some of the more right wing Tories of having a death wish. “The Conservative Party, for first time in over a decade, is on the ascendancy with a great chance of forming the next government.

“I cannot understand why some of my fellow MEPs want to endanger all this by making public declarations on abandoning the centre right EDD group in Brussels which makes it look as if the party is split.”


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Mr Sturdy, who holds the international development brief for the EPP, says the Tories will become marginalised in Europe if they walk away from their traditional allies. Eight MEPs, including fellow East of England Tory Geoffrey Van Orden, have urged Mr Cameron to order Conservatives to quit the EPP, which is a federalist, pro EU Constitution alliance of centre right parties across Europe.

DUFF ON THE BALL

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FULL marks to East of England Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff, who is in the vanguard of a cross-party campaign to end the European Parliament's ridiculous monthly trek from Brussels to Strasbourg, which costs 200 million euros a year.

“The obligation on the European Parliament to sit in Strasbourg 12 times a year is enshrined in the EU Treaties,” says Mr Duff, who is spokesman for constitutional; affairs for the Alliance of Liberals Democrats for Europe. “Only a unanimous decision of the heads of government, followed by national ratification, can give Parliament discretion as to where it should meet. “

You can sign up to the campaign via web site www.oneseat.eu , which aims to gather one million signatures on a petition addressed to EU leaders.

While millions of euros a year are frittered away in Strasbourg, there's one EU funded project which will bring benefit to all of us when it's completed in the next decade.

Work is under way on the Lyon to Turin high speed rail link, carving its way through the Alps to provide direct rail and freight services between London and Naples at a cost of 11 billion euros to EU, French and Italian taxpayers. It will enable 50 million tonnes of goods and seven million passengers a year to be transported on the French-Italian chord.

Although the cost of a return train ticket from London to Naples is likely to put off all but the most dedicated rail travellers, the ability to take heavy goods off the roads from the UK to Italy will be a boost for the green agendas of the major political parties at home and overseas.

The same can't be said for the idiotic practice of shifting Parliament sessions once a month to Strasbourg. There's a huge cost to the environment, never mind taxpayers, of uprooting and transporting 732 Euro MPs, their staffs, and a battalion of functionaries, EU commissioners and staff, plus official spokesman and the Brussels-based media corps to the state of the art Strasbourg complex.

UKIP MUST BROADEN APPEAL

ALTHOUGH the UK Independence Party found fame for its virulent anti European Union stance, its claim to be more than a single issue group is being damaged by a failure to find volunteers to stand in council seats.

Aiming to make a major impact in next year's elections to England's shire districts, UKIP has issued an urgent call to arms to people prepared to allow their names to go forward, if only as a nominal candidate.

Tom Wise, one of the party's East of England Euro MPs, says: “Why is it that we can find folk who are willing to stand for election to Westminster but not those who are prepared to serve on local councils?

“We will never lose our `one issue' tag if we do not get involved at every level of governance.

“Next year, there are more than 1,000 seats to contest in the region. We cannot be seen to duck that challenge and we must start planning now.”

Euro MP Jeffrey Titford adds: “We haven't made the big breakthrough in local politics yet. Bit I am convinced that with hard work, we will get there and that it will lead to what we all want - UKIP MPs at Westminster.”

The party is even prepared to approve paper candidates who do no work to get themselves elected but gain publicity for the party simply by standing. And if they become accidental councillors - the advice is get stuck in. “Being able to bring down to earth some of the more insufferable old timers, who think the council is their own personal fiefdom, is great fun.”

Aspiring candidates should contact UKIP's regional organiser Charlie Cole at 237 Main Road, Broomfield, Chelmsford, CM1 7AS, phone number 01245 440042 or email ccole@ukip.org.

The “damage” UKIP can do to other parties was well demonstrated in Southend-on-Sea in May. Fighting against the council's ambitions for a super casino, candidate Tino Callaghan polled 496 votes and although he didn't win, it was enough to ensure defeat for the Tory leader of the authority by 125 votes.

One of the towns UKIP has in its sights next year is Woodbridge in Suffolk Coastal district where two action days have been held in the past month. It currently has three Tory councillors and one Lib Dem - a breakthrough here really would cause a major stir.

LORD PHILLIPS'S WORK RECOGNISED

LIBERAL Democrat life peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury - Chancellor of the University of Essex and a solicitor by profession - is one of five members of the upper house to be shortlisted as Peer of the Year.

He has been nominated for what the citation says is his “effective work on the identity cards Bill” and forcing a number of Government defeats in the Lords.

Other nominees for the RSPCA-sponsored award are South African human rights lawyer Lord Joffe (a crossbencher), shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Kingsland (Conservative), Home Office minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Labour), and Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman (Labour).

Voting takes place during the next few weeks and the winner announced at an awards diner, hosted by Sky Television, on July 19.

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