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Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth faces being slung out after failing to secure enough votes

Richard Ashworth MEP
Richard Ashworth MEP

The Kent MEP who leads the Conservative group in the European Parliament could be slung out of a job after failing to be automatically re-selected by his party.

Richard Ashworth, who comes from Folkestone and lives in west Kent, is facing a battle to carry on as a Conservative MEP after he failed to secure enough votes to guarantee him one of the top spots on the candidates' list.

Mr Ashworth indicated he intended to carry on to the next stage of the selection process, which will involve a ballot of party members to decide if he should get one of the remaining spots.

Under complex selection rules, the best he can hope for is to be placed third on the Conservative candidates list for next year's elections.

"The process isn't finished yet and I fight on," he said. He said he could not tell if his pro-European views had been a factor in his deselection but felt "that did not come into it".

"You would have to ask the people who voted. As far as I am concerned, I am standing in support of the broad cross section of the Conservative party and support the Prime Minister's policies and will continue to do so but the [selection] process is not yet complete."

Mr Ashworth, who leads the 26-strong Conservative group in the European Parliament, became an MEP in 2004.

Although he is regarded as being a Europhile, he has argued the EU needs radical reform.

He said he would support the UK staying in the EU if there was a renegotiation. "My position is clear - Europe is not working and badly needs reform."

His deselection has stunned some. Andrew Kennedy, a Kent election agent for the Conservatives, said: "I feel very sorry for Richard. We are on totally opposite sides of the European debate, but he was a decent, dedicated and hard working MEP and was unstinting in his support for the three associations I work for."

Just last week, he told the KM Group there were more important issues for the government to tackle than when an "in-out" referendum on Europe should be held.

The top two places in the candidates list were taken by the high-profile
Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan and Nirj Deva.

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