| Bashir Khanbhai
London, May 12: The Tories are desperate for Asian faces but today they have one fewer following the sacking of Bashir Khanbhai, a Member of the European Parliament, for alleged fiddling of expenses.
Although Tory leader Michael Howard initially supported Khanbhai, who was seeking re-election as an MEP in the Euro elections on June 10, it became apparent the game was up for him when the British media started describing him as “Tanzania born”.
The accusation against him is that he claimed £7,000 in travel expenses from Heathrow to an address in Norfolk. Checks proved that the address was fictitious. Khanbhai returned the money but today he paid a much higher price.
A statement from the board of the Conservative Party announced Khanbhai had been removed from its list of candidates for the Eastern region in the June 10 polls.
The statement said: “In the light of new information about his travel allowance claims sent to the Conservative Party by Khanbhai on Monday, May 10, John Taylor, chairman of the board’s committee on candidates, will be referring a number of issues to the European Parliament authorities for further investigation.”
This is a serious embarrassment for Howard who gave his full backing to Khanbhai last week, saying he would remain third on a list of seven Conservative candidates for seats in the eastern region. In April, the Party Board’s Committee on Candidates recommended that Khanbhai should be removed from the approved list of candidates.
Khanbhai, however, appealed to the Full Committee on Candidates, which agreed with the original panel in concluding that Khanbhai should have shown “more diligence”. But it said that it felt that Khanbhai had made an “inadvertent error” which he regretted and that his name should remain on the list of candidates.
The Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard Howitt, who has been calling for the deselection of Khanbhai since the expenses row erupted, said: “Only four days ago Michael Howard launched the Conservative campaign in the east of England giving Khanbhai his full and unstinting support. Today’s decision shows what a huge misjudgment that was about a Conservative Party that has still not learnt the errors of the past.”
A Conservative Party spokesman said the Board, having considered the information Khanbhai provided on Monday, felt that there were “wide discrepancies” in his travel allowance claims and had taken a “wider executive decision to deselect him.”
Khanbhai, 58, married with one son, who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, qualified as a pharmacist before reading philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford’s Balliol College.
He had a varied career in commerce and unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for the Westminster Parliament, before being elected to the European Parliament in 1999.
Earlier this year it emerged that he had listed an address in Wroxham, Norfolk, on his website. Checks revealed that the address did not exist and that mail delivered to the address was posted through the letterbox of a nearby boat yard.