By Martin Banks - 9th July 2009
You also remember that I have been committed to forming this new group for many years
Geoffrey van Orden
Two British Tories will go head-to-head next week for the leadership of the new "non-federalist" European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) in parliament.
The contest will feature Timothy Kirkhope, the group's interim leader, and Geoffrey van Orden, a former deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee.
Speaking to this website, van Orden said that having played an "instrumental" role in creating the group over the last 18 months, he felt he was the "right man" for the post.
He also took a swipe at party colleague Edward McMillan-Scott who recently questioned the suitability of some of the partners chosen by the Tories for the ECR.
McMillan-Scott said he would conduct his own investigations in order to establish the political backgrounds of some of its members.
Van Orden said, "A rigorous selection procedure was held and, yes, some potential partners were rejected because they were considered unsuitable.
"I do not share Edward's concerns on this point at all and, indeed, believe the new group has enormous potential."
With 55 members, the group is, with the Greens, the fourth biggest in parliament. It includes the 26-strong UK Tory delegation, along with members from Poland and the Czech Republic.
Van Orden added, "I want to be leader because I feel I can take the group forward, consolidate our position and deliver on our programme.
"You also remember that I have been committed to forming this new group for many years and helped draft its set of principles."
He also dismissed suggestions that the decision to opt out of the EPP group will distance the Tories from the mainstream of European politics, saying, "I do not want bad relations with the EPP but feel this new group is necessary."
He also said that, if Kirkhope was elected leader, it would be "impossible" for him to remain as leader of the UK Tory delegation.
Van Orden,who has a military background, has also been his party's defence spokesman in parliament.
The group will vote on the leadership issue in Strasbourg next Tuesday.