The European Parliament elections traditionally have a low level of interest in the UK, but David Cameron’s decision to form a new European grouping with far-right parties in Brussels may make next month’s elections a little more interesting.
The details are still being worked out, but it looks certain that Cameron will push ahead with a plan to take the Tories out of the European parliament’s centre-right grouping, the European People’s Party (EPP), and form a new eurosceptic party. The plan would unite the Tories with several far-right parties across Europe, one of which warns that homosexuality will cause the “downfall of civilisation.”
It’s a strange move considering that the Tories are not a far-right party but rather a centre-right one, and that some of the European parties they will be joining with more closely resemble philisophically the British National party (BNP) than themselves. It is even more strange considering the Tories are probably poised to take over the British government next year, and yet they are bolting from the EPP which is composed of the governments of Europe’s most important countries including the parties of Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to The Independent on Sunday, separation talks with the EPP have been completed and 20 MEPS from seven countries have signed on, giving the new grouping enough members to receive EU funding as a party. That grouping will include the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), the party of the infamous Kaczynski twins who until recently were president and prime minister of the country. That party has banned gay rights marches for being "sexually obscene” and a prominent member has warned that Barack Obama's victory would mean "the end of the civilisation of the white man". The grouping will also reportedly include a Latvian hardline nationalist party.
So what do all these parties have in common? Seemingly, only that they don’t think the EU should exist. The only problem is that Tory party is hardly of one mind on that subject. Cameron pledged to leave the EPP in his 2005 campaign for the Tory leadership, winning over the Conservative right wing and giving him the edge to defeat David Davis. So Cameron could be in hot water if he reneges on his promise. On the other hand many Tory MPs and MEPs are very worried about this decision to leave the EPP, fearing it will leave the Conservatives as an isolationist party outside the mainstream of Europe.
At the event launching the Conservative’s 4 June election campaign yesterday, Cameron was clearly trying to make the upcoming vote a referendum on Gordon Brown’s handling of the economic crisis. “With every Conservative vote, the message will be simple, 'Enough is enough - you're the past'," he sad at a community centre in north-east England, referring to Gordon Brown. "With every day that passes, this government is running our country into the ground. Borrowing eye-watering amounts of money, presiding over social decline, letting our politics descend into the quagmire.”
Labour would be wise to quickly educate voters about Cameron’s plans for the far-right European alliance, reminding them that though they may be dissatisfied with Labour, they may be cutting off their nose to spite their face by casting a vote that could indirectly create a new far-right block in Europe. However, considering the reticense of any British politician to talk about Europe (It was telling that Cameron’s speech today focused almost entirely on domestic issues in the local elections rather than the EP), I think it’s unlikely Labour will be able to get this message out clearly over the next month.