Tory rifts over the Prime Minister’s hopes of clawing back rights from Brussels have been laid bare after a Tory MEP launched a vicious broadside against a Eurosceptic colleague.
Senior Tory MEP James Elles, writing on his blog on Wednesday, took issue with “nauseating” comments from his parliamentary colleague Dan Hannan in which he warned that the “idea that we can renegotiate with the EU is pure fantasy”. Elles went on to call for Hannan to be sacked for his dissent.
“There is the substantive question to debate about the evolving nature of the European Union, the Eurozone and its relationship with the outside world. But the fact that Dan Hannan uses the platform of a major daily (see Daily Mail 8 May), saying that ‘the idea that we can renegotiate with the EU is pure fantasy – and voters will never fall for it’ is no less than nauseating,” he wrote.
“Here is someone running for reelection for the European Parliament next year, who is also Secretary General of the Alliance of European and Conservative Parties, well ensconced in the electoral system. He should be sacked immediately in this role, otherwise it shows that anyone in the Conservative Party can contradict the leader of the Party with impunity and get away with it.”
Elles, who is the longest-serving Conservative MEP, said he would be standing down at the next European election.
A senior Tory MEP told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Dan has actually been very robust in his defence of the Prime Minister and his policy. In the Telegraph, he even rebuked Eurosceptics for not knowing they’ve won the argument.
“Dan has also been very hard working, dedicated and well informed as AECR Secretary General; there is absolutely no call in AECR or amongst Conservatives for him to go. This is just a cheap, desperate shot at a time when Dan is facing reselection.”
In response to Elles’ comments, LibDem MEP Chris Davies said that “the extent of mutual loathing within the Conservative parliamentary ranks now revealed is extraordinary.
“It’s the family from Hell whose members must be scared to close their eyes in case they are murdered in their beds.
“Point-scoring aside, this is bad news for Britain. Every government in the past 50 years has recognised that full engagement with our European partners is essential to protect the country’s interests and ensure that we have maximum influence. If Conservative lunatics who don’t recognise this have taken over the asylum then we may all end up in the mad house.”
Other parties have shied away from commenting, with a UKIP spokesperson saying: “We like Dan and we don’t really want to wade into internal politics of the Tories. This scrap is between them and has nothing to do with us, so we will refrain from passing comment!”
However, UKIP MEP Roger Helmer,who is a friend of Dan Hannan, said: “It says a lot about James Elles that he is nauseated when Dan Hannan represents the views of his party members and his constituents.
“I think more people are likely to be nauseated by James Elles’ decades long commitment to the European dream, in defiance of public opinion.”
LondonlovesBusiness.com tried to contact Dan Hannan for comment but he was unavailable. The MEP later tweeted about Elles that “I’m rather fond of the old boy, and it can’t have been easy for him to watch the displacement of the Heathite party he joined”.
James Elles? I’m rather fond of the old boy, and it can’t have been easy for him to watch the displacement of the Heathite party he joined.
— Daniel Hannan (@DanHannanMEP) May 16, 2013
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