Tory back bencher Suella Fernandes has recently become better known as the current chair of the European Research Group. But what is the ERG, and who are its members? Ms Fernandes was loath to come clean on the membership question, but thanks to the people at Open Democracy, we know that many anti-EU Tories have used their expenses to channel money to it. But the rules say it cannot be a party. So what is it?
Do not underestimate the danger posed by this MP
One thing that must be immediately understood about the ERG is that its title is in the same vein as the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Renewable Energy Foundation and the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance - it is a title that pretends to be doing something it is not. The ERG is not concerned with research about Europe. Its members want nothing to do with Europe. They just want out, with no discussion - or research.
Nothing like having a disgraced former Defence Secretary on board ...
In other words, the ERG is a repository of hardline Europhobia. It also gives every appearance of being the home of those who have a more Atlanticist view, those whose belief is that the UK should ally more closely with the USA. So it is no surprise to see the likes of Liam Fox being mentioned in the same breath as the ERG, or indeed Murdoch’s placeman in the Commons, Michael “Oiky” Gove.
... and a Murdoch placeman who'll cosy up to Rupe's pals
Who else may be in what Tory pro-EU MP Anna Soubry has described as “A party within a party” (which would make channelling expense money to it improper)? Open Democracy mentions Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid, Chris Grayling and Jacob Rees Mogg. But a letter circulated by Michael Tomlinson, Tory MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, is yet more revealing, giving a long list of signatories and names of officers.
As well as Tomlinson, the ERG’s officers appear to include Craig MacKinlay, the under-fire MP for South Thanet, Ms Fernandes, Rees Mogg, John Penrose and David Nuttall. Those named in the letter include Andrew Bridgen, Bill Cash, Douglas Carswell (no longer an MP), Philip Davies, Michael Fabricant, Philip Hollobone, Tim Loughton, Owen Paterson, Dominic Raab, John Redwood, and Iain Duncan Cough.
One name has not thus far been mentioned, but he is listed as an officer of ERG and is also at the top of the list of signatories: Steve Baker, who represents Wycombe. Baker has previously been chair of the ERG. He is widely regarded as the enforcer standing behind David Davis. Baker is like Khrushchev at Stalingrad, ready to have soldier Davis shot if he even thinks about backing down from confrontation with the EU negotiators.
Look who's top of the Golden Dolphin pops
Steve Baker is not only a major figure in the ERG, but a dangerous man whose power base should not be underestimated. His anti-EU and pro-USA stance secured him one of the few Golden Dolphin awards from the now moribund Young Britons’ Foundation of Tory bullying infamy. The citation talks of him “being proud to stand as a a libertarian and a Christian when the prevailing winds might favour a weaker, less principled course”.
And now he, along with a motley convocation of Tory MPs, are overseeing the transfer of expense money - make that Taxpayers’ money - into a group which fully intends to hold Theresa May to delivering an “at any cost” Brexit - on pain of being removed as leader.
There can be no more declining to come clean on the ERG. It’s our money they’re spending, and our country they’re hell-bent on screwing over. Time to come clean.