A West Midlands MEP has become leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament - but only for 12 months.
Philip Bushill-Matthews (Con West Midlands) is to replace Giles Chichester, who resigned this month after admitting paying £400,000 from expenses to a family firm, in what he called a “whoops a daisy” error.
But Mr Bushill-Matthews has already announced plans to retire as an MEP next June, which elections are due.
It means that Conservatives in Brussels are set to have three leaders within the space of a year.
His appointment could also cause headaches for Tory leader David Cameron, who has promised the Conservative group in the European Parliament will quit the European People’s Party, a coalition of centre-right parties.
Mr Bushill-Matthews has warned that this would damage the party’s influence in the European Parliament and warned Mr Cameron not to impose “diktat from the top”.
The MEP, who was first elected in 1999, is also known for a campaign to improve the image of MEPs and wrote a book called The Gravy Train, to explain what they do. The title was a reference to some of the myths about MEPs he said he hoped to dispel.
He said: “This coming week, we shall formally be launching a DVD called ‘MEPs: Making a Difference’ which I personally commissioned late last year on behalf of our delegation.
“It gives some idea of the range of work in which MEPs are involved, which will probably surprise many people.
“The national press only seem interested in selectively promoting the ‘gravy train’ image of the European Parliament, because they claim that is what their readers expect.
“The reality is very different. I see my main role as leader to redress that balance, and project the positive message of the work we do.”
He said he would campaign for the EU to scrap the Lisbon Treaty after it was rejected by Irish voters in a referendum last week.
“The conclusion is clear. The Lisbon Treaty needed to be ratified by all 27 EU Member States to become valid. The Irish vote has made this outcome impossible.
“Gordon Brown should therefore halt the ratification process in the UK without dithering and without delay.”
Mr Chichester resigned after it was revealed a firm of which he is a paid director had received £445,000 since 1996 “in connection with secretarial and assistant services for the European Parliament, constituency and committee work”.
Conservatives have been hit by a number of sleaze claims in recent weeks. Den Dover, the party’s Chief Whip in the European Parliament, resigned after it was disclosed that he paid up to £100,000 a year in EU allowances into a company, MP Holdings, run by his wife and daughter at the family home in Hertfordshire.