The head of the Conservative Party’s delegation in the European Parliament has stormed out of a BBC studio after refusing to debate one of his fellow Conservative MEPs on Brexit.
Ashley Fox MEP, who represents the South East and Gibraltar, was asked by BBC South West’s political correspondent Martyn Oates whether he could explain why he didn’t want to debate the European Union referendum question with a fellow Conservative.
“Well, no.” replied Mr Fox, before storming off set, saying “I’m not going to play this stupid game.”
As he walked away, Conservative press officer Robert Taylor told the production crew “That was a bit naughty, wasn’t it?”
The Conservative Party delegation in Brussels was once a bastion of Tory support for the EU, but in recent years a number of Eurosceptic members have taken up positions in the Parlaiment, including Emma McClarken, once a staffer to UK Independence Party MEP Roger Helmer, and her East Midlands colleague Andrew Lewer.
However, at least eleven of the current delegation are known to support their leader David Cameron in calling for Britain to remain within the EU. Mr Fox went so far as to praise Mr Cameron’s damp squib renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms as “successful.”
His refusal to amicably debate his colleagues on the issue is further evidence of the toll the referendum campaign is taking on the Conservative Party at large.
There have been a number of Tory on Tory attacks during the campaign so far, prompting conservative magazine The Spectator to predict: “in winning the referendum, Cameron could well lose his party.
“The Conservative leadership has long hoped that the party could be put back together after the referendum. The idea was that the consoling prospect of a decade in power if the party stayed united would overcome the bitterness of the EU debate. But the blue-on-blue attacks are now increasingly vicious, and will not easily be forgotten.”