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Former Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth joins Change Party ahead of EU elections

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A former Kent Conservative MEP has joined the Change Party and could stand as a candidate in the EU election next month.

Richard Ashworth, 71, has been an MEP for 15 years in the South East region but for the last two has sat as an independent after being expelled for refusing to support Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.

He is the latest recruit to The Change Party, a group of former Labour and Conservative MPs which confirmed last week that it will contest the forthcoming EU election.

Richard Ashworth, MEP
Richard Ashworth, MEP

Brought up in Folkestone, Mr Ashworth was the Conservative chief whip in the European Parliament between 2008 and 2017.

Asked why he had joined the new party, he said: “My politics which are pragmatic, middle-ground politics align with theirs so it is a natural fit and I have applied to stand for them as a candidate.”

“The Conservatives have moved further to the right and Labour to the left, leaving the people who are in the middle ground somewhat politically homeless. I think there is an opportunity there.”

“What is obvious is that what was sold to people about Brexit is clearly as we know now not deliverable. It is very difficult for the Conservatives now to go back to the people and say “this is what Brexit looks like...is it what you intended?”

EU HQ (8924260)
EU HQ (8924260)

He has never hidden his enthusiasm for being in the EU and was suspended after refusing to back Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.

“The democratic process is seen as dysfunctional by a lot of people and I understand that...but there are a lot of good people at Westminster.”

“It is my view that we have to take it [Brexit] back to the people. Given the logjam we have now, it seems to me to be the only way to unpick it.”

“There are a lot of people in the middle ground who think the main parties have deserted them, who feel politically homeless and somewhat disillusioned - so, yes, there is an opportunity for people to join the middle ground party to send a message to the major parties to say ‘look, we don’t like the extreme politics that we have at the moment.’”

'There are a lot of people in the middle ground who think the main parties have deserted them'

He said Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was riding on a “surge of populism” brought about by the sense that the mainstream parties had failed to recognise their concerns.

“People do feel under threat, I do understand that - they feel let down by the financial crash; they feel threatened by global mass migration; by climate change; by security threats and the changing world order. They feel parties in the centre ground have not understood their problems. Faced with that, they are attracted to Farage.”

Candidates are expected to be announced next week.

Meanwhile, a county councillor from Faversham has made it on to the list of candidates selected by the Liberal Democrats to contest the EU poll.

Lawyer Antony Hook who represents Faversham said: “Liberal Democrats are determined to give a voice to the millions of people who demand better than Brexit Britain.”

The election will take place on May 23 - but if the government successfully negotiates a deal before then, the UK will not take part.

Read more: For the latest Brexit news click here

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