Richard James Ashworth (born 17 September 1947 in Folkestone) is a Member of the European Parliament for South East England for the Conservative Party and is the leader of the Conservative MEPs. He is married with three daughters. Ashworth was educated at The King's School, Canterbury and studied agriculture and management at Seale-Hayne College in Devon.
He has been the chairman of a further education college (Plumpton in East Sussex) for a number of years as well as serving on several public bodies in the education sector. His interests include music, theatre, sport, aviation and country pursuits.
He is the Conservative Spokesman on budgets in the European Parliament.
He was a parliamentary candidate for North Devon in 1997, and for the South East region for the 1999 European Parliament elections.
Before being elected in 2004 he was a dairy farmer in East Sussex for over thirty years and during this time operated his own dairy business. He has also acted as chairman of United Milk Plc and of NFU Corporate.
He was a member of the Minister of Agriculture's food chain advisory committee.
On 6 June 2008, Ashworth was appointed Conservative Chief Whip in the European Parliament after his predecessor Den Dover was sacked following an expenses scandal. He was elected Deputy Leader of the Conservative Delegation to the European Parliament in November 2008 and Leader in 2012.
At the first stage of the Conservative party reselection procedure ahead of the 2014 European elections, he was not confirmed for going into the protected sitting members part of the ballot. This was seen as a coup by the right of the Conservative party against their MEP leader seen as being close to Cameron and a moderate on Europe.