At a stroke, I have been robbed of a rich seam of comic post reporting Matthews' adventures in the European Parliament - they might even had made him Commissioner for Outer Space. Now that prospect has been swept away from me.
Regular readers will recall (new ones should start here) that Helmer had intended to resign at the start of this year, assuming that Matthews would take his place as the highest unelected candidate on the Conservative list at the last European elections.
But Tory HQ obviously had doubt about the cut of Matthews' jib. I have reason to believe that these related more to do with his consorting with golliwogs and Etheridges than his enthusiasm for ghosts and UFOs. So they made it clear that there was no guarantee that Matthews would take Helmer's place if he resigned, and Helmer decided not to resign as a result.
Helmer was clearly furious about this. In today's Daily Mail he talks of the "deliberate obstinacy and recalcitrance" of the party's chairman Baroness Warsi:
"She has brought this on herself. I couldn’t make her do the right thing, but I can make her regret doing the wrong thing."I have more time for Baroness Warsi than is fashionable in Liberal Democrat circles and it is easy to see that a male Conservative of Helmer's generation could have problems dealing with a party chairman who is a woman, from the working class, a Muslim and from a Pakistani background even before it got to having political differences.
My own view is that the situation shows how undesirable the list system is. If Helmer wants to resign the identity of his successor should be decided by the voters, not by the Conservative Party or Helmer himself.
Rupert Matthews, whether out of loyalty or prudence, has taken a very different line. Giles McNeill has the statement he issued today:
I am shocked and disappointed at Roger Helmer’s decision to betray his public promises to the people of the East Midlands and his private promises to his colleagues.
Since Roger announced that he was standing down as the MEP, many people in the East Midlands have spent a considerable amount of time and effort in preparing for Roger’s retirement, my taking his place in Brussels and the unavoidable upheavals that this would have entailed. I myself was looking forward very much to representing the people of the East Midlands and the Conservative Party in the European Parliament. It is unfortunate that all this time and effort has been rendered useless by Roger’s actions.
I wish to make it clear that I have no intention of following Roger to UKIP and that I will continue to serve the Conservative Party as loyally as I have in the 28 years since I joined the party. I will be working hard to ensure the return of Conservative candidates in the local elections in May and at the next European Election in 2014.But for the time being, there will be more desk space at Three Crowns Yard.