Opinion: Ukip’s not-so-respectable European allies

Recently, Nigel Farage rejected the overtures and offer of alliance from the French Far Right party, Front Nationale, led by Marine Le Pen, stating “Whatever Marine Le Penn is trying to do with Le Front National, anti-Semitism, is still deeply embedded in that party, and for that principle political reason, we are not going to work with them now, or at any point in the future”. The alliance also included the Dutch Freedom Party, led by blonde bombshell, Geert Wilders – famous for his anti-Islam tirades.

This attempt by Farage to place Ukip in the ‘respectable’ wing of European politics is all well and good; however, it is important to recognise who Ukip share a European platform with already in the European of Freedom and Democracy group (EFD), a Eurosceptic bloc consisting of 13 parties and one independent MEP from 13 EU member states. The EFD contains some parties with truly extreme ideas as well, perhaps surpassing the Front National and Freedom Party, and certainly does nothing to help Ukip’s respectability.

The EFD includes the Slovak National Party (SNS), which has gained notoriety for a number of attacks on Hungarians and the country’s Roma community. Furthermore it has been accused of glorifying the countries Second World War fascist regime and Nazism. In 2012, the head of the United Roma Party in Slovakia condemned billboards erected by the SNS which emblazoned ‘Let’s not put up with parasites!’ and ‘How much longer are we going to pay for the Roma?’. Former SNS leader Ján Slota has also attracted the wrath of the world’s media when he called Hungarians “the cancer of the Slovak nation” and argued that “without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation.”

The regionalist Italian Northern League, the EFD’s second largest party, has also been embroiled in controversy over racist comments. In August, Northern League Senate Vice-President Roberto Calderoli compared Italy’s first black Senator, Cecile Kyenge, to an Orang-utan. Calderoli has previous – in 2006 he was forced resign from the Cabinet after provoking the Muslim community, by revealing a T-shirt of the Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked protests from Muslims around the world. Even former leader and Government minister Umberto Bossi has been charged with extreme hostility towards immigrants, when he said in 2003 that immigrants arriving on boats should be halted by a canon which “blows everyone out of the water”.

The list of controversies could go on. The Finns Party of Finland (formerly known as the True Finns), of whom Nigel Farage has personally trumpeted the cause and whom he refers to as ‘friends’, have been caught up in some very high-profile cases of Islamphobia. The Danish People’s Party, likewise. The remainder comprises of other far right parties, nationalists, ultra-conservatives and parties who desire to leave the European Union and halt immigration.

The majority of the EFD make Ukip appear relatively temperate; however, I think it should be disconcerting to anyone who may be under the illusion that Ukip is a moderate or ‘common sense’ force in British/European politics to see who they share a platform with. It is clear that the only party in British politics which feels the need to openly state that former BNP members are barred from its membership is aware of the danger in being seen as extremist or far-right, and many of its European allies certainly do not help this cause.

* Paul Stocker is a PhD History Scholar at Teesside University, online blogger and Vice-Chair of Middlesbrough and East Cleveland Liberal Democrats

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19 Comments

  • http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/principal_principle.htm

    (sorry, whoever wrote that UKIP press release)

  • Only one ‘n’ in LePen, as I recall.

    Wilders: infamous rather than famous, surely?

  • Douglas 12th Dec ’13 – 11:54am
    Only one ‘n’ in LePen, as I recall.

    I wish there was only one eff in fascist.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Dec '13 - 1:05pm

    Now are we going to do a similar article on the Tories’ European allies (“nutters, antisemites and homophobes” as Nick Clegg once called them)?

  • When the SNS mentioned above was in coalition in Slovakia, they were in with prime minister Vladimir Meciar’s HZDS party, at a time when the president’s son was kidnapped and Robert Remias, the investigative journalist was assassinated. In 2002 the EU and NATO said that if Meciar won the election then Slovakia would not be welcome to join either organisation. HZDS currently has one member of the European parliament. Would the original poster be kind enough to tell us which group he sits in?

  • “revealing a T-shirt of the Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked protests from Muslims around the world”

    Standing up for free speech is a bad thing? I’m sure the gentleman concerned is of the far right, but this is hardly evidence of it.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Dec '13 - 1:56pm

    this argument was poor when it was deployed against the ECR:

    http://iaindale.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/labours-dodgy-european-allies.html?m=1

    and it is poor today.

  • Nice article, but… “The list of controversies could go on…” the Liberal Democrats are not exactly squeaky clean when it comes to controversy either.

    The great thing about democracies is that they on the whole represent the people which is why there are currently no fascist/nazi/communist/left/right/extreme governments in control of any country in the EU as on the whole everyone is really rather decent and moderate.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Dec '13 - 5:47pm

    @Edward:

    “the Liberal Democrats are not exactly squeaky clean when it comes to controversy either”

    and so? Does that mean we are not allowed to draw attention to controversies in other parties? If politics operated like that, then no criticism of one party by another would ever be allowed.

    “there are currently no fascist/nazi/communist/left/right/extreme governments in control of any country”

    but this is not about parties in national governments in the EU, it is about the fraternal links between parties across the EU, and thus whom their MEPs sit alongside in the European Parliament. It is entirely valid to criticise a party for the company its members keep in the European Parliament, particularly when campaigining for election to the EP. It is not much different from drawing attention to the extreme views of people inside a party.

  • Paul Stocker 12th Dec '13 - 6:34pm

    Richard – the MEP you mention is in the ALDE group with the Lib Dems. The difference is that the ALDE group is almost entirely made up of moderate, centre-right/left groups. The EFD is nearly all right-wing, nationalist or far-right with often extreme agendas which attack immigrants and ethnic minorities.

    Tristan – I am not sure the politician trying to fan the flames of already high tensions was the best way of dealing with the Danish cartoon incident! In my opinion, he was rightly kicked out of the Government for his irresponsibility.

    Edward – I agree that democracy is on the whole very good at keeping extremists out of power. Unfortunately some of these parties have been part of governing coalitions (e.g. Lega Nord) which has seen some incredibly illiberal policies implemented. I wish they were fringe groups, but not all are unfortunately.

  • Interesting piece on UKIP’s allies in EFD in the European Parliament, including Italy’s Northern League, “the EFD’s second largest party” as Paul Stocker rightly says. However, I wonder if the author is aware that the Northern League was previously allied to the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament as part of ELDR?

  • @Paul Stocker

    That’s true, but I just don’t agree with the idea that individual parties are responsible for who they sit with – particularly given the way funding depends on their finding at least someone to say they sit with.

    Anyway, HZDS has not made 5 percent in a national election since the Euros of 2009, so Kozlik is likely to be replaced in the group by someone from SaS, which is an actual liberal party and just missed out in 2009 (they had only been formed the previous year).

  • Yet more evidence, should it be needed, of why the UK would be better off outside the EU.

    We could then judge our government on their own merits and keep or remove them as we choose by a national vote.

    At them moment, there is no way of removing the EU which governs this country. What is so wrong with democracy that we seek to subvert it in giving our sovereignty to the EU?

    Democracy and the EU are not compatible. You can only have one or the other. I choose democracy, the alternative does not bear thinking about.

  • UKIP is an obnoxious and extremist party built on prejudice. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Dec '13 - 1:39pm

    @Phil Cox: Did you actually read the article, and understand what it is about? You can’t have done. It is nothing to do with whether the UK should be in or out of the EU. The fact It is about the allies in the European Parliament of one fo the parties contesting next year’s election to the European Parliament. Obviously the fact that the EU does have a democratically elected Parliament (which in some ways is more powerful than national parliaments) gives the lie to the assertion that “Democracy and the EU are not compatible.”

    @Richard S: I disagree, parties /should/ be held responsible for whom they sit with in the European Parliament, as this affects how their MEPs vote and is indicative of the political leanings of their members. The European election next year will (even though no-one is going to discuss it in these terms) be about whom we choose to shape EU law and policy. It is important to know who they are and the company they keep.

  • jedibeeftrix 13th Dec '13 - 4:39pm

    it might well be democratic, but is it representative?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Dec '13 - 12:17am

    UKIP are akin to the pre-1933 Nazis Party in Germany. Their message is not hidden for those who care to look, but unfortunately many people have only chosen to hear and see what they choose to.

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Dec '13 - 9:14am

    Why?

  • Simon Banks 14th Dec '13 - 9:44pm

    Marine Le Pen? Her father was a paratrooper, so I suppose it makes sense.

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