Politico (http://www.politico.eu) - 4 May 2017
By Ryan Heath and Annabelle Dickson
British Conservative MEPs are trying to jump the Brussels ship early — and some look set to succeed.
MEPs Vicky Ford and Andrew Lewer are likely to swap the airy modern Brussels parliament for the dusty corridors in Westminster as Tory "safe seat" contenders (in Chelmsford and Northampton South respectively). Ian Duncan will stand in Perth and North Perthshire but even with a Tory tartan march it will be tough to steal it from the Scottish National Party.
They are the lucky few. Unlike many of their MEP peers from others EU countries, being in the European Parliament can hurt rather than help Brits wanting to run for election at home.
In Poland, a sitting MEP, Andrzej Duda, became president in 2015. Martin Schulz swapped the European Parliament presidency to become the German Socialists' candidate for chancellor. The French MEP bench includes several ex-ministers.
In the United Kingdom, MEPs have to leapfrog unelected ministerial advisers and battle with party headquarters to get a hearing.
Others seeking a Westminster refuge include European Conservatives and Reformists party group leader Syed Kamall; high-profile Brexiteer Daniel Hannan; and Sajjad Karim. POLITICO understands all have so far been sidelined.
David Campbell-Bannerman — who returned to the Conservatives from UKIP in 2011 — told POLITICO he was blocked by Tory HQ in three safe seats where local associations wanted him on the shortlist and he now wants a review into the "remote unelected cabal" at the center of the Conservative Party.
Rob Semple, chairman of the National Conservative Convention, said: "Given the shortened timeframe we have worked hard to ensure that [local Tory] associations and their members are given a choice of candidates where possible."
This unseemly scramble was set in motion by Theresa May's calling of a snap election, which ruined the plans of many British MEPs to stick it out in Brussels until Brexit in 2019.
As well as looming unemployment post-Brexit, this year's election is particularly attractive because proposed changes to the U.K. electoral system, due to be finalized in 2018, could reduce the number of seats in the House of Commons from 650 to 600. If MEPs don't get a seat this year, they will be forced to compete against Conservative MPs whose seats have been abolished.
Tories are also tempted by the party's 20-point lead over Labour in the polls, which should make even marginal seats easier to take.
It's not surprising that many calculate that they are better to try to get in this time round that wait until 2022 when the Conservatives will have been in power for 12 years and Brexit headwinds may have turned the electoral tide.
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