Eurosceptic fury over Baroness Warsi’s ‘manipulation’ of MEP candidate list

By Kirsty Walker
Last updated at 2:19 AM on 24th January 2012

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is believed to be trying to parachute a woman into the seat vacated by Roger Helmer

David Cameron has been dragged into a row over the selection of his party’s European MPs.

An MEP who is standing down, Roger Helmer, wants his replacement to be Rupert Matthews, a fellow Eurosceptic.

However, party chairman Sayeeda Warsi is said to be trying to block the move so she can parachute an approved A-list candidate – preferably a woman – into the seat.

Tory officials allegedly have doubts about Mr Matthews after it emerged that golliwogs featured on the cover of a book published by a company of which he is a director.

The father of two has also published books on ghosts, UFOs and aliens and teaches a course on the paranormal.

Mr Helmer said last year he was quitting, but is now refusing to do so unless the party makes Mr Matthews his successor.

More than 20 Tory MPs have written to the Prime Minister asking for him to guarantee that Mr Matthews gets the job. One of them, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: ‘Sayeeda Warsi may feel like she can just line someone up, but this is going to make a lot of people very angry.’

In EU elections, parties are awarded seats based on their regional share of the vote and the Tories won two East Midlands spots in the 2009 poll. Mr Helmer and Emma McClarkin were given the seats as the top two on the party’s area list. Mr Matthews was third and missed out.

However, if Mr Helmer stands down, the returning officer would ask Mr Matthews to become an MEP as the next in line Tory on the list.

Party chiefs would have to approve his candidacy, however, and sources say they cannot do so because he has dropped off the list of candidates.

A senior source denied Baroness Warsi was trying to manipulate the East Midlands list.

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