The Conservatives suffered an embarrassing political row during the opening of the European Parliament yesterday after they were forced to expel one of their longest-serving MEPs following divisions over the party's new right-wing group.
Edward McMillan-Scott had the whip removed from him after he stood against Michal Kaminski, a member of Poland’s Law and Justice Party (Pis), in an election for vice-presidents of the Parliament.
He had been ordered to abandon his opposition to Kaminski, whose party are the Tories’ largest ally in the new Eurosceptic bloc, by Timothy Kirkhope, the then Conservative group leader.
Kaminski subsequently lost the election, leaving the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) as the only one without a vice-president.
But in a further twist, Kaminski has now been elected as the new leader of the group after Kirkhope stood down over the debacle.
Commenting on Kaminski's election, Tory MEP Nirj Deva said the group had prevailed over McMillan-Scott.
"After a roller coaster day things have ended well. We have a group leader who is dedicated to our common vision and the whole group owes Timothy Kirkhope a great deal for putting his own interests aside and ensuring the group survived Edward Macmillan-Scott's disloyalty," he told the Conservative Home blog.
McMillan-Scott, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, reportedly decided to stand against Kaminski following concerns over the presence of “extremist groups” in the new bloc.
Poland’s Pis, led by twin brothers Jarosław and Lech Kaczyński, has 15 MEPs in the new group. The party has been criticised by many as homophobic after it banned a series of gay marches and called for homosexuals to be barred from teaching.
Jarosław Kaczyński once stated: "The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it".
In a statement on McMillan-Scott's suspension, a Conservative spokesman said: “Edward McMillan-Scott had his whip suspended when he indicated he was putting in his nomination for vice-president of the European Parliament, which was not in accordance with the decision of the delegation to support another person.
“He was offered the opportunity to withdraw his name to avoid harming the reputation of the Conservative Party. Despite discussions and attempts to achieve this end, he went ahead and confirmed his nomination when voting commenced. At that point, as he had received prior warning of the consequences, the Conservative whip was withdrawn.”
Cameron's decision to leave the centre-right European People's Party (EPP)has alienated many key allies, including Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. The current EPP leader Joseph Daul said that McMillan-Scott could return to the group provided "he abides by the rules".
If McMillan-Scott leaves the ECR group it will slip from being the joint fourth largest, tied with the European Greens, to the fifth.