my election to the European Parliament in September 1999, I was offered
a Constituency postal address with the use of accommodation at a complex
of holiday cottages in Wroxham, Norfolk. I had stayed for six months at
one of the cottages when I was a prospective parliamentary candidate for
Norwich South, contesting the 1997 General Election for Westminster.
my address in Wroxham, there are 34 cottages – not 56 – arranged in
5 blocks with each of the blocks having numbers in the 10’s, 20’s,
30’s, 40’s, and 50’s respectively. The cottage numbered 56 is the
sixth cottage in block 5. There is no No.57 as there is no 29, 30, 44,
and others. The No.57 was allocated to me to ensure that my mail was
delivered to the office and not to any of the numbered cottages. For
five years, all my mail has been received without any difficulty at this
address. I have stayed in the cottages whenever convenient as well as in
Norwich at the house of the owner of the cottages. Although I am in the
constituency every weekend – in Norfolk or Suffolk – I have never
claimed that the Wroxham address is my “permanent home”. I have
always maintained that my family home is in Sevenoaks and my supporters
and constituents have known this. I have declared both my Wroxham and
the Sevenoaks addresses to the European Parliament.
daily publication (Eastern Daily Press) has publicly stated its backing
for Mr. Martin Bell as an independent candidate in the European
Election. They made allegations about my Wroxham constituency postal
accommodation address. They did not accept my explanation or verify with
the owner of the property the authenticity of my Wroxham address and why
I was allocated the number 57 at that address. National, regional press
and television regurgitated their story in the absence of any defence by
is the truth? Why did I not respond to the media?
constituency address is genuine and easy to verify. The owner wrote to
the Mail on Sunday and the Eastern Daily Press but neither published her
letter. The cottage complex is a well-known address in Wroxham. I have
registered both the Wroxham address and the Sevenoaks address with the
European Parliament as well as the Conservative Party’s Central
this, the Eastern Daily Press continued to portray the non-existence of
this address. Others in the media simply regurgitated this inaccurate
Central Office, including its media section, did not challenge the press
allegations and denied me my defence by preventing me from going to the
College of Quaestors of the European Parliament monitor expenses of
Members (MEPs) and I consulted the President of the College about my
situation. He confirmed to me that the College had not judged me to be
in breach of any rule of the Parliament and no reimbursement was
necessary as I travelled to and from my constituency address that I had
registered with the Parliament. My constituents and party supporters
know that I drive straight to the constituency – Norfolk or Suffolk
– every time I return from Brussels and Strasbourg and I spend every
weekend there serving my electors. It is inconceivable that anyone,
especially Conservative Central Office and Mr. Jonathan Evans MEP, the
Leader of the Conservative Delegation in Brussels, could doubt my
movements as my activities in the constituency are on record.
order to eliminate any possible misinterpretation of European Parliament
rules on travel and contrary to advice from the President of the College
of Quaestors, I voluntarily reimbursed the difference based on a
calculation from the Parliament’s payment forms for the journeys from
Wroxham. I did this at the earliest opportunity when I was in Brussels
(on 5th April, 2004) and well before there was any media
interest in this respect. I
received no guidance or help in this respect from Mr. Evans or
Conservative Central Office. It should be noted that MEPs, especially
from the continent, periodically and on an ad-hoc basis calculate their
travel expense payments and they either reimburse the Parliament or are
paid for under-payment. I have such a confirmation in writing from the
President of the Quaestors of the Parliament and this was one of their
letters submitted to the Candidates' Committee during my appeal. Therefore,
my reimbursement for possible over payment is not uncommon or indicative
of any misdeed.
was in Spain over the Easter weekend when I received a phone call from
Conservative Central Office that I should attend the Candidates'
Committee on 14th April, 2004. I was given no time to seek
legal advice or prepare my defence. I was not sent this notification in
writing or given a copy of the Party rules for deselection of
candidates. I left Spain on the 13th April and went to
Brussels. I left Brussels on the 14th April, 2004 and arrived
at Central Office unrepresented and unprepared. There were only three
members constituting this Committee of Candidates – clearly not a
quorum. They did not examine any documentary evidence from the Quaestors
of the Parliament or my parliamentary payment forms. Within 30 minutes,
they ruled that I should be deselected. I think this decision was mainly
based on the strength of a biased report composed by Mr. Jonathan Evans
MEP, the Leader of the Conservative Delegation in Brussels – a Report
that implied that I was dishonest in my use of the Wroxham constituency
address for claiming travel expenses. He wrote this Report even though
he knew the position of the President of the College of Quaestors who
advised him that they had not judged me to be in breach of any
Parliament rule. He ignored this advice. I wonder what his motive was in
writing such a Report that precipitated my deselection and that could
put the Party in disrepute.
a full quorum, this Committee of three deselected me and stated that
”however inadvertent, your acquiescence in accepting travel allowance
payments from an accommodation address in Norfolk has put you in a
position of receiving public money to which we believe you are not
entitled”. The Committee gave me 24 hours notice to decide whether I
would resign, in which case they would not issue a press release, or
appeal, in which case they would issue a press release to say that I had
been deselected. This was a kangaroo court and denial of natural
was speechless. I could not believe that the Conservative Party could
dispense such injustice as it claimed to be the world’s major
political party that stood for democracy, accountability, transparency
and fair play. It occurred to me that there were elements in the Party
who were out to destroy 15 years of my dedicated work in Conservative
politics because I was a conviction politician who had succeeded. It
seemed that such people could not accept my success coupled with my
ethnicity. Many senior Conservatives, including Westminster MPs, were
horrified that I was treated in this way.
received a further phone call on the 15th April, 2004
(Thursday) that the appeal would be at 10.30am on the 19th
April, 2004 (Monday). How could I, under short notice, find a solicitor
let alone a barrister to represent me? How could I secure documentary
evidence from the Parliament in such a short time? How could I secure in
writing the overwhelming support of the grass roots and senior
Conservatives who supported me for so many years and who elected me to
be third on their Region’s list for the Euro elections?
and friends rallied to my support. They found me a Norwich solicitor and
a London barrister to study the brief over the weekend. I met these
legal advisors for the first time at 08.30am on the day of the appeal.
Unknown to me, a senior Westminster MP and an influential President of a
Conservative Association had submitted to Central Office written
statements in my support. The Secretary of the Committee was unwilling
to present the MP’s submission to the Committee and had omitted to
present a copy of a letter from the owner of the Wroxham property
addressed directly to Mr. Michael Howard. My barrister had to insist
that both these documents were submitted to all members of the
Committee. Whilst the MP’s letter was finally circulated, the letter
to Mr. Howard had to be read out by my barrister as it was NOT
the outset, it was clear that the Committee had been led to presume that
“dishonesty” in claiming travel expenses from Norfolk would be
sufficient ground for my deselection. My barrister challenged this and
insisted that an “inadvertent error” implied no dishonesty and no
charge had been made against me that met any of the 12 criteria for
deselection according to the Party rules. The barrister declared that if
“dishonesty” was to be a new charge then he would need time to
prepare defence and the proceedings must be adjourned.
this appeal, all relevant documentary evidence was submitted, including
the Parliament’s payment forms, indicating the difference in the
amounts for travel from Wroxham and Sevenoaks. A senior Conservative
from Eastern Region personally appeared before the Committee to confirm
the overwhelming and widespread support and respect I have among
Conservative Party members in Eastern Region, especially in Norfolk and
the 20th April, 2004, Conservative Central Office phoned my
office in Brussels and stated that the Candidates' Committee had, in the
light of the evidence presented, reversed the earlier decision and
instructed the Conservative Party Central Office to re-instate me in 3rd
position on the Eastern Region List.
decision was reported in the Eastern Daily Press and other papers.
there were some elements in the Conservative Delegation in Brussels,
Conservative Central Office and on the Conservative Party Board who were
disappointed with my successful appeal. Unknown to me, they are alleged
to have continued to feed the media with inaccurate and potentially
libellous information. Extraordinarily and for no justified reasons, I
was advised by Central Office NOT to go to the media to defend myself.
Furthermore, they did not challenge the biased and damaging media
reports to support me. I was simply abandoned by the Party, my
delegation leader in Brussels and Central Office. Neither the Chairman
nor the Vice Chairman of the Eastern Region Conservatives were offered
assistance by the Party to guide or help me against the onslaught from
the media, led by the Eastern Daily Press. It is clear now that these
elements against me in the Party were seeking a way to oust me despite
my successful appeal.
Michael Howard said the following as reported in East Anglia Daily Times
8th May, 2004:-
is very straightforward. Allegations were made about his expenses. Those
allegations have been thoroughly investigated by an independent body
which we set up for the specific purpose of considering allegations of
this kind. When they are made, it is important they are investigated.
It is also important they are investigated fairly and that justice is
done and seen to be done, I don’t decide these things, it would be
absurd if I did.
process has taken place, there was an investigation and at the end of
that investigation the conclusion was reached that what had happened was
an inadvertent error. As far as I am concerned, that’s it. Bashir
Khanbhai is entitled to a fair and just hearing as anybody else. If
any fresh allegations are made, that’s a different thing”. Mr.
Howard declared the matter closed.
the 9th May and 11th May there was an unacceptable
and sustained coverage in the Norfolk media led by the Eastern Daily
Press. It has also been alleged that Central Office and other elements
in the Conservative Party were determined to reverse Mr. Howard’s
endorsement of my candidacy and they were feeding the media with ill
founded allegations to unnerve the Conservative support for me in
Norfolk and Suffolk.
Central Office did not submit any new allegations or evidence to me (9th
May to 2.25pm on 12th May).
They telephoned me at 2.25pm on Wednesday 12th May to say
that the Party would not be submitting my nomination papers for the
election – a de facto deselection. The Central Office official said
that they would issue their Press release at 3.00pm giving me no time to
defend myself let alone seek legal advice. They timed it to ensure that I would have no time to stand as an
independent conservative candidate in the European Election because a
victory for me could seriously damage the reputation of the Party. On
the same day at 5.00pm, I received an email from the Secretary General
of the European Parliament confirming that the parliament had, to that
time, not received any complaint about my travel expenses between the
Wroxham constituency address and the European Parliament. So
much for Mr. Michael Howard’s “due process” that ensures that
“justice is done and seen to be done”. So much for his public
backing of my candidacy only 4 days before!
did NOT breach any rule of the Party in these three days (9-12th
May, 2004). How can
the Conservative Party Leader back me publicly on the basis of my
successful appeal and allow the Party Board to overrule his Party’s
“independent body” that had “thoroughly investigated” the matter
and exonerated me? Is the Party so weak and lacking in confidence that
three days of biased and baseless media reports in a regional paper
(Norfolk) can allow the Party Board to reverse the decision of the Party
Leader? Why did the Party not consult the grass roots that actually
elected me in the first place?
maintain that I am not in breach of any Parliament rule in my use of the
I have said so all along and know that many other MEPs, including
Conservative MEPs, connect flights to Strasbourg from their
accommodation in the London area although they have registered their
constituency addresses far beyond London.
reported in The Observer on 16th May, 2004, a prominent and
senior Westminster Conservative MP, alleged recently to have over
claimed about £100,000, was asked to pay this back and remains a Member
of Parliament. As reported on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, a
fellow Conservative MEP from Scotland was questioned about his expenses
but it seems that no further action has been taken in his case.
Mr. Howard’s public backing, the Conservative Party Board has unfairly
and unjustly deprived me of an opportunity to serve my Conservative
supporters and constituents who continue to send me their letters,
emails and phone calls confirming their confidence in me.
Eastern Daily Press reported that Mrs. May Reader, the Chairman of
Waveney Conservative Association, had written to the Party Board for my
deselection. I have an email from a senior member of that Association
disputing her view and confirming that she did not have the support of
many members of the Association. The Eastern Daily Press reported that
the Norfolk County Councillors, led by Mrs. Alison King, had written to
the Party Board for my deselection. Once again, such a letter was
written despite fierce opposition from many councillors and without
inviting me to represent my case. What authority and electoral mandate
do these people have in asking for my deselection? Why did these people
not give me a chance to present them the facts that won me my appeal?
Were they protecting their own electoral interests? If so, how will the
electorate judge them for their action?
was selected by the grass roots at the hustings by and for Conservative
supporters for the whole of Eastern Region – six counties (Herts,
Beds, Cambs, Essex and Suffolk as well as Norfolk) – why should the
personal view of one Association Chairman from Waveney and some Norfolk
County Councillors influence the Conservative Party Board to deselect
me? Where does the Party Board draw such authority to overrule the
decision of its own “independent body” that ruled on evidence
- not allegations - that I should be re-instated on the Party
grass roots and the public in general, especially in Norfolk and
Suffolk, will want to know the true intention of those involved,
especially Conservative Central Office and the Party Board for this
unwarranted, unjust and unfair deselection.
Why was I treated differently?
It has been alleged that there has been “skulduggery” and “racism” that have led to my deselection.
am a conviction politician with an excellent record of work in the
Parliament and in the constituency.
I have, it is said, not been shy to voice criticism, when necessary, of
Conservative Central Office and Mr. Evans’s leadership of the
Conservative Delegation in Brussels. If this
is the price I have paid for honesty, then the electors will have
confirmation that spin – not straight talk - is indeed what many
politicians prefer to ensure their survival.
decision of the Conservative Party Board has, without any justification
whatsoever, stained my reputation and record of performance.
Their decision undermines Mr. Howard’s leadership and the reputation
of the Conservative Party. Furthermore, many people, including ethnic
British citizens, might infer from this decision that there are some
Conservative activists high in office in the Conservative Party who
cannot accept successful politicians if they are ethnic, even if it
means reversing the decision of “due process” and the Leader of the
Party. If this is likely to be an inference that gains currency in
Britain then the prospects for ethnic participation in Conservative
politics will have been dealt a severe blow!
have done no wrong. I shall do everything I can to clear my name and
restore the confidence of so many whom I have had the pleasure and
honour to meet and serve.
wish to thank my Conservative supporters and constituents for their
enormous support and regret that I have been denied the opportunity and
privilege to continue to serve them.
of letters/emails received:-
Email from a senior Conservative in Eastern Region:-
am so very sorry to hear that the Board has axed you from the list on
June 10th. I am not surprised that this has happened because I was aware
of the skullduggery that went on at the hustings last year.
believe that somebody has been waiting for this moment and an
investigation should ensue, but when it could involve a member of the
Board, I am less than convinced you will be given fair chance.
will never forget the way in which “a senior Conservative Councillor
and Board Member” sat in front of me at the hustings and was
encouraging delegates not to vote for you because you were not a team
player. He then said he wanted to see Jonathan Morgan rise up the list
instead. There was a least another witness to this fact.
is no surprise that as your candidacy arises again, this Councillor is
now on the Board and Mr. Morgan moves up the list to a possible gainable
fourth MEP placement depending on the collapse of the Labour vote.
would not surprise me if there were some introverted racism involved
too. If you want my assistance, you know where you can contact me. I
wish you well in your
endeavour Bashir. You are the victim of a hatchet job.
Email from a Waveney Conservative Association member:
the deplorable outburst by May Reader in the press I felt that I must
contact you to say that she is in no way speaking for all the party in
Waveney I and a considerable number of members of the party in Waveney
hold you in the highest regard both personally and for what you have
achieved in the European parliament. You are what I describe as a common
conservative and that is in no way disrespectful, you are one of us, the
rank and file who are the future of the party, some one who has a normal
life and has been out in the commercial world a practical person and not
Email from a North Norfolk High School, Norfolk:
just wanted to thank you personally for your visit to the High School.
Everyone that met you was extremely impressed with your interest in our
school and your commitment to children in the third world who are denied
have been a Labour supporter for all my life but I was thoroughly
impressed with your humanitarianism when you joined us. One of my
Year 11 girls came back to me after the lesson that you took part in and
said that you had such an impact on her that it almost made her cry.
have all been so sorry to hear about the misfortune that has happened to
you since you were with us. I, for one, would have considered
voting Tory in June if you were still our candidate, and that would have
been for the first time in 26 years of voting.
hope you achieve success in all that you decide to do.
Email from a constituent in Norfolk:
have sent an e-mail to Howard saying I am disgusted in his action to
de-select you. Best of luck in the future I hope you continue with the
investigations into the waste of money in the EU
RELEASE FROM BASHIR KHANBHAI MEP
RESPONSE TO THE PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY TODAY AT
the 19th April, 2004, the full Committee of Candidates of the
Conservative Party considered all the documentation, including the
correspondence from the College of Quaestors of the European Parliament
and the Parliament’s documentary evidence relating to Mr. Khanbhai’s
travel expenses, and concluded that there was no more than an
inadvertent error which did not warrant removal of Mr. Khanbhai’s name
from the Party’s Approved List of Candidates for the European
Elections on 10th June, 2004.
Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, expressly stated his
support for Mr. Khanbhai (7 & 8th May) and confirmed that
he would be retained as a candidate in third position on the Eastern
interest, almost exclusively in Norfolk, has been such that attention
has been re-focussed on these issues and as a result, despite the
absence of any new evidence - all
the evidence that the Party has now is the same as the evidence before
the Committee of Candidates - the Conservative Party Board today
peremptorily informed Mr. Khanbhai that it will not be lodging his
nomination papers for which the deadline is tomorrow at 4pm.
having been assured by Mr Michael Howard that the matter was closed, Mr.
Khanbhai was informed today at 2.25pm by Mr. Phillips, the Secretary of
the Conservative Party Board that the Party would issue its press
release at 3.00pm. Mr. Khanbhai had no sensible opportunity to respond
before the Party issued its press release.
President of the College of Quaestors of the European Parliament and the
Secretary General of the European Parliament have today both confirmed
that there has been no complaint
to either of them about Mr. Khanbhai’s travel expenses between his
Wroxham constituency address and the European Parliament. He
continues to maintain his innocence, as he has throughout. Until now he
has not been permitted to
make any statements to the press.
thanks his Conservative supporters and constituents for their enormous
support and regrets that he has been denied the opportunity by the Party
to continue to serve them as he has done over the last five years.
Khanbhai, 12th May, 2004
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