Giles McNeill writes:
Anyone who knows Roger Helmer, knows that Roger was always firmly on the right-wing of the Conservative Party. Roger’s view was clear on the European Union: Britian would be better off out.
When Roger was the guest speaker at the Nettleham & District Conservatives Annual Branch Dinner in 2008 he was preparing for re-election as a Conservative candidate in elections in 2009. We talked together for some time, even getting into the intricacies of the D'Hont Method used for the Election of European Parliamentarians from Britain and associated territories - which I found absolutely fascinating, and imagine would render most people bored senseless. Roger has a degree in Mathematics and so the number crunching may have appealed on an intellectual level if not as a satisfactory way of election individuals.
The saga of Roger’s resignation, which has led to his defection to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), began last year when he indicated he wanted to resign to give his successor a chance to be run-in before the European Parliamentary Election scheduled for 2014. As Roger writes, in an open letter to Conservative Party Members:
|Giles McNeill (Left) with Roger Helmer |
(Right), October 2008
“I have always argued that a parliamentarian who finds himself no longer able to support the Party should stand aside in favour of another Conservative, and I have roundly criticised former colleagues who failed to do so, like Bill Newton Dunn and Edward McMillan Scott. But in this case, as you will be aware, I sought in good faith to do the honourable thing, and to resign in favour of the next-in-line Conservative, Rupert Matthews. Indeed in October I announced my intention to resign at the end of 2011. But that plan was frustrated by the deliberate obstinacy and recalcitrance of the Party Chairman.
“I wrote to Baroness Warsi in early January saying that I would not resign without a clear undertaking on the succession issue. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received. In these circumstances I believe that I have fulfilled my obligation to the Party, so far as I am able, and I therefore withdraw my offer to resign. I had made it clear to Baroness Warsi that I would not allow the stand-off to continue indefinitely, so I will now plan to serve out my current term until 2014.
“By seeking to do what I took to be the decent thing, and offering to stand aside in favour of another Conservative, I hope at least that I shall retain the respect of Party members in the region. They have selected and reselected me three times over the years, and I know that for the most part their views are closer to my own than to those of the Party leadership.”
There are those who will place the blame for this ‘man-overboard’ situation at the feet of Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party Chairman. Roger is not alone, and it seems many believe it is her stubborn refusal to confirm that Rupert Matthews would be Roger’s successor that has caused this failure to keep Roger in the Conservative family. Conservatives across the East Midlands are, rightly or wrongly, angered by the perceived obstructions from the Chairman’s Office, and some are frankly in a rebellious mood – Baroness Warsi is very unpopular with the grass-roots of the party. Baroness Warsi and Prime Minister David Cameron may be happy to see Roger go. His views on gay marriage and climate change are hardly Cameroon, as Tim Mongomerie notes on ConservativeHome.
Roger is right to believe that an independent, sovereign Britain is in our nation’s best interest. His mistake today is to believe that UKIP is an organisation that can deliver that vision. The Conservative Party is a broad church and we should mourn the loss of one of any member of the congregation.
In conclusion; Baroness Warsi must be vigilant not to let any similar situations develop - and strive to keep the Conservative Party United; and the Party must sufficiently subtle to tolerate a wide range of views. To paraphase Oscar Wilde: To lose one MEP to UKIP, Sayeeda, may be regarded as a misfortune; but to lose two (or more) would surely be seen as carelessness.