“Shoot refugees” extremism from Conservatives in the European Parliament

In the European Parliament, MEPs form groups with colleagues from other member states who share their political outlook and aims.

For Liberals Democrats, ALDE is our long-standing pan-European party, which has existed practically since the Treaty of Rome was signed.  In 2009 the UK Conservatives left the similarly long-established European People’s Party to for a new ECR group.

From the outset there was concern about some of the extremists with whom the Tories were apparently prepared to work.

In 2014, ECR recruited a new German faction, Alterative fur Deutschland.  They are a hardline Eurosceptic party whom UKIP also courted.

One of AfD’s MEPs has said that refugees should be shot.  The Guardian reports:

Beatrix von Storch, recently wrote on Facebook that women and children attempting to enter Germany illegally should be stopped on the border with guns. She later clarified that she meant only women, not children. Her intervention was in support of the AfD party leader, Frauke Petry, who told a German newspaper that police must “if necessary” use firearms to stop people crossing the border.

The comments have been described as a “disgrace for Germany” by the finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, while German social democrats said they were reminded of communist East Germany, when people were shot for trying to escape the country.

At a private ECR meeting, one British Conservative MEP argued that AfD should be suspended, but group leaders want to give the German MEPs time to explain their views.

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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29 Comments

  • Alex Macfie 11th Feb '16 - 8:06am

    Why did we say nothing about the Tories’ European bedfellows in the European election campaign in 2014?!?!?!?!

  • @ Alex Macfie “Why did we say nothing about the Tories’ European bedfellows in the European election campaign in 2014?!?!?!?!”

    Because we were in coalition with them at Westminster……………

    …………. and that will blight our brand for the foreseeable future unless we can establish a more radical profile with the new leadership. It means tackling issues to do with economic inequality, poverty,the tyranny of unaccountable multinationals tax dodging….. and avoiding the comfort zone of many of the fringe issues which seem to preoccupy what many see as this fringe party.

    Tim’s bedside reading should include the collected speeches of Bernie Sanders.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Feb '16 - 9:48am

    @David Raw: But the European Parliament was a Coalition-free zone (as Chris Davies put it). MEPs were not bound by the Coalition agreement, as the European Parliament is a separate institution from the Parliament seated at Westminster. If that WAS the reason then it is utterly unforgiveable and shows all that was wrong with the way our party leadership handled the Coalition. We should have made it clear from the outset that the Coalition was a business arrangement and that we were, as a party, free to campaign against our Westminster coalition partners as aggressively as we had ever done before at other levels of administration, as well as in by-elections. Yes there was a lot of talk about “governing together, campaigning separately” in the rose garden, but there was not much following through from our side. The Tories had no qualms about putting the boot into us — look at the way they attacked us in the AV referendum. We should have been just as aggressive in campaigning against the Tories and making absolutely clear that there was no relationship with them outside the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster Palace.

  • As far as I can see, this matches with the LDVoice “shoot dissenters on Calais” comments policy on this site.

    Liberal, my ass!

  • @ Alex Macfie. Well, you’ve just demonstrated how naive and politically inept they were.

  • I agree with David Raw that, broadly speaking, the party needs to discover its radical progressive voice.

  • @David Raw: I’ve been saying such for a long time; in particular I have strongly criticised the party’s 2014 Euro election strategy, which was wrong from the very first principle.

  • jedibeeftrix 11th Feb '16 - 1:13pm

    “It is time for Conservative MEPs to sever their links with rightwing”

    And join who? The epp, an explicitly federalist grouping!

  • Agree We need to address why liberal democracy (small L and D) is failing to ensure ordinary people benefit from a properly managed late capitalism.

    I’m afraid that standing up for an unreformed EU (which is what is on offer) isn’t going to get us very far along that path.

    I’m working for the May elections but am not going to lift a finger in favour of Remain, no matter what our official line is.

  • @David

    I totally agree, they need to make sure ordinary people benefit from capitalism.

    The EU’s style of capitalism with its freedom of trade and freedom of movement has made the lives of people at the bottom worse, not better. The stay in side just ignore this or use scare tactics. My response is tell me how the EU plans make this work for those at the bottom or I have to vote to leave it.

    The EU don’t care about those at the bottom, they don’t even care about their own member states, look at how they treated Greece.

  • Peter Watson 11th Feb '16 - 11:18pm

    @David Raw ‘“Why did we say nothing about the Tories’ European bedfellows in the European election campaign in 2014?!?!?!?!” Because we were in coalition with them at Westminster……………’
    There’s a certain irony in Lib Dems condemning the Tories for the company they keep in the European Parliament while not coming to terms with the notion that large parts of the UK electorate took a similar view of the Lib Dems in Coalition.

  • @Peter Watson: The difference is that the Tories chose to join the ECR group out of perceived ideological similarity; they could leave any time and it would affect no-one except the MEPs in that group. The Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories to form a stable government, and there was never intended to be any implication that they were ideological bedfellows, or that the two parties were electoral “allies” (although the way the Lib Dem leadership acted, it is understandable why many voters would have been confused). Leaving would have required forming a new government. There is no governing coalition in the European Parliament: it doesn’t work like that. ECR (like ALDE) is an electoral alliance, in which voting for one party is an implied vote for any other party in the alliance (similar, in fact, to the SDP-Liberal Alliance).

  • Peter Watson 12th Feb '16 - 11:35am

    @Alex Macfie “there was never intended to be any implication that they were ideological bedfellows, or that the two parties were electoral “allies” (although the way the Lib Dem leadership acted, it is understandable why many voters would have been confused)”
    Deserves repeating as it eloquently sums up the party’s failure over the last 5.5 years.

  • @ Peter Watson. Agree, but thanks for gilding the lily.

  • While agreeing with Alex Peter and David in general about the implications of our leaders’ behaviour and actions in coalition, I think its impact is actually much more damaging for the party. People do not think they are confused about us: Many, possibly most, are absolutely convinced we are untrustworthy.

    Quite simply their view is that before we went into coalition we said we are one thing, but once in government we did the opposite. Overall, having been anti austerity, pro NHS, against Tuition Fees, pro liberty etc., we became just like David Cameron and George Osborne. Now, without blinking an eye or saying anything about the last five years, we are back to saying the same as we did before. We really do have a mountain to climb.

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb '16 - 1:13pm

    David ,Evans and Raw ,Alex ,Peter,Rsf7

    All true ,but we have a must in that we are in need of unity based on a fusion of social and economic Liberalism ,and a dose of social democracy too !We often do not agree, it is hardly surprising we or they , the ones from our party involved , did not or could not get agreement without often swallowing their foot or feet !

    I believe , instead of shutting up about recent events ie not mentioning the coalition , and pretending it did not happen ,and that Tim is Charles , God bless him ,and Nick is a devil, we should do something else.

    We should launch Liberal Democrats Reconnect, yes Fightback ,but we need a dialogue with each other and Britain.What we did as a party that was good , it must be explained.Where we went wrong as a party , it must be considered . In a friendly , honest way .And above all else , how this party is not the Liberal party of 1961 or 1973 ,1985 or whenever.It is the Liberal Democratic Party, or should be ,not the Lib Dems or any such short hand as the norm .Play to our strengths now and for the future .

    Some have to come to the realisation that this is not an old Left party .Nor is it a new Right one either !

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '16 - 1:13pm

    David Raw 11th Feb ’16 – 9:21am
    “Because we were in coalition with them at Westminster ……… and that will blight our brand for the foreseeable future unless we can establish a more radical profile with the new leadership. It means tackling issues to do with economic inequality, poverty, the tyranny of unaccountable multinationals, tax dodging….. and avoiding the comfort zone of many of the fringe issues … ”

    So much truth in this David. I fear our concussed party has forgotten that we are not just humanitarians and internationalists but that we have a leading national role to play as Britain’s party of social justice Liberal Democracy.

    I simply do not believe that all those new members (and possibly activists) who flocked to Labour are dyed in the wool JC socialists. Many will simply be progressive democratic radicals seeking to ‘tackle issues to do with economic inequality, poverty, the tyranny of unaccountable multinationals, tax dodging’ etc.

    I fear we are sleep walking into being written out of the national social justice and economic agenda.

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb '16 - 1:32pm

    Stephen

    I cannot know whether all the recent members of the Labour party are the sort of Jeremy Corbyn socialists you allude to.As an ex ,a very long time ago member of the Labour party, I am sure the much wider mainstream of that party , way beyond Blairites , I mean of the Kinnock , Hain , ilk,are now fell swoop ignored there at best , even they derided , at worst .Any reading of the Labour blogs and forums like ours here shows they are in no way similar to the Liberal Democrat reasonableness.This is something I have tried to explain , as has the excellent colleague , George Kendall , often too our own party members anamoured of Corbyn. Seamus Milne is an ex communist .Fine .So is John Reid .Seamus Milne was known to be an enthusiast for soviet communism !And Stalin ?! I know the difference .My father was Italian , there are varieties of left !

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb ’16 – 1:13pm…………..I believe , instead of shutting up about recent events ie not mentioning the coalition , and pretending it did not happen ,and that Tim is Charles , God bless him ,and Nick is a devil, we should do something else………..

    I believe the opposite. I don’t believe we should EVER willingly refer to 2010-15; the electorate have judged us and we should move on….Trying to tell voters that, what they believe, is not what happened just re-opens old wounds…..
    Every time someone starts a thread ‘explaining’ how the coalition was good, Clegg was a great leader and the loss of MPs, MEPs and councillors was the fault of disenchanted ex supporters we ‘slide down a snake’….
    Please, can we just draw a line under the coalition years, put it down to experience and MOVE ON!

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '16 - 2:04pm

    LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb ’16 – 1:32pm

    Of course there are many varieties of left – social justice Liberal Democracy is one of them – A non-Socialist variety of left.

    I was attempting to say that we have probably lost a great swathe of democratic liberal egalitarian radicals to Labour.

    Many of these people should have been ours but our ‘brand’ or, as I would rather say, the very essence of what it is to be a social justice Liberal Democrat, has been so muddied, watered down and blended with a centrist/consensus-accepting economic outlook that people no longer know what we stand for other than those issues such as humanitarianism, internationalism, gender equality and mental health that we virtually all completely agree on.

    In your previous post you stated “Some have to come to the realisation that this is not an old Left party”.

    What you are missing from your personal view of the mainstream values of the party and why many of us originally joined it, is that we did so exactly because it was not an old Left party!

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb '16 - 3:33pm

    expats

    I understand your point of view , but really we are not saying , nor am I anyway , Nick Clegg was A ok , yet nor is he a villain .I believe the public with one view do not exist . Many understand where we were coming from .There is nothing wrong with our sticking to those principles our government ministers did stick to , saying so is telling the truth .As was saying a lot of good was policy in coalition.And the reverse is true too,poor judgements indeed!

    Toxic is lies . The Liberal Democratic Party is not a brand .It is many things but that .

    Stephen

    Actually I do understand what you are saying , but , as someone of the Nick Clegg age group, to the left of him on economics and certain issues , I am aware that I am to the right or at least see things differently to some older ex Liberal party Liberal Democrats .I am struck by their apparent group think , anti elected mayors , vehement about police commisioners ,not keen on reform in public service unless to put the local council in charge .I know enough about the history of the party to say I have far more in common with the views of Jo Grimond than , say Tony Greaves does , though the latter any many sharing his expressions of criticism of modern tendencies in our party , would claim otherwise .I am not on the left .I am in the radical centre and moderate centre left .That is not where the Labour party of today is .

    If all of those who feel something at times bordering on extreme vilification and loathing of Nick Clegg would get over it or ask why it is so , is it personal , are they very left wing and might be happier in Corbyn s Labour party . Similarly , and as with the very left wing members , this is meant to be helpful ,economic Liberals so free market who are really what in the US are called libertarian , they that make Jeremy Brown seem like Lloyd George , they might be happier in Camerons tory party.

    I believe we should stay together , but not in a marriage of convenience , bitterness underneath, no real respect .I am respectful of people .Most are in this party.It needs to be the norm.

  • David Evans 12th Feb '16 - 3:46pm

    Lorenzo, I think a lot of what you say is excellent, and accords very much with my thoughts. Nick was not a bad man, but he was a very poor party leader.

    In government we did some good, and indeed some very good things. However, we got sucked into doing supporting the Tories doing too many bad things (bedroom tax, benefit cuts for the under 25s etc.); did quite a few illiberal things (Secret courts and DRIP); were fooled into supporting some downright stupid things (Tuition Fees and NHS Reform); and all in an attempt to prove we could in Nick Clegg’s words “do grown up government.”

    Unfortunately Nick (nor his closest advisors) didn’t understand just how devious and conniving the Conservatives could be. How they could get him to give and give big at the start, while they could refuse to give later (AV and HoL reform). So we kicked our supporters in the groin early (Tuition Fees and NHS Reform), while they kicked things that affected their supporters into the long grass (Banking Reform) or even just refused to stick to the agreement (AV to an extent and HoL reform in extremis).

    Hence towards the end we were left with next to nothing to show for what we had delivered (e.g. Conservative’s claiming credit for tax cuts or Norman Baker’s resignation letter), and the Conservatives could finish off with a pre-election bribe to the over 65s (4% Pensioner Bonds anyone), and a massive increase in allowable spending in the run up to an election (sadly Nick’s area of responsibility, Electoral reform).

    All in all Nick didn’t have a clue how to get our positive message over, how to manage the Conservatives to deliver their part of the coalition agreement, nor sadly the importance (to our voters) of telling the truth. These were mistakes of management and character, the two things you vote for a leader because you believe he/she has them, but you only find out for sure when it is too late.

    All in all a man with superb ability to deliver a great speech about Liberal Democracy that tugs the heart strings, but sadly clueless when it came to delivering Liberal Democracy itself in the red hot fire of coalition.

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb '16 - 3:52pm

    PS Stephen, when I say group think I do not mean older and or left wing Liberals in our party are part of some sort of a socialist mindset that does not know its own mind , far from it . I am referring to some , who , personally I often like a lot , but who seem to be so consistently of the same view amongst them ! I love it when there is a surprise amongst people a little left ward in direction, or vice versa. Like the different stances Tim and Norman and some others took on Syria .Good to celebrate a diversity of views .

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '16 - 3:56pm

    Antony Hook | Thu 11th February 2016 – 7:45 am

    Antony, apologies for wandering off the very important point you are making.

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb ’16 – 3:33pm….expats…..I understand your point of view…………………I believe the public with one view do not exist . Many understand where we were coming from……….There is nothing wrong with our sticking to those principles our government ministers did stick to , saying so is telling the truth .

    Sadly, I disagree. If that were so we would not be languishing at 6-8%…..If we start proclaiming the ‘good’ we just remind voters of the ‘bad’.
    As my mother used to say, when a wound was healing, “If you pick at it, it’ll never get better”….

  • LORENZO CHERIN 12th Feb '16 - 4:08pm

    David

    Thank you .I actually would not agree with some of what you say , in its detail , while understanding your thrust .

    I do not agree on the NHS, in the sense that I have never seen the reforms as all that bad.Unnecessary , going too far , too idealistic about GPs in charge and the big boys and girls in the private sector ,yes.However, I have been a radical proponent of reform since my youthful days in the Labour party and Fabian society .Back then I called it semi nationalising the private sector , but it s similar to what I believe Blair and Milburn and co would have welcomed,though I favour emphasis on not for profit provision more than big private company involvement .My old phrase was ,”if the Queen Mother gets it from the King Edward vII, we all should !”So , maybe a holistic integration of all provision, with wide choice and competition AND co operation.I was ahead of my time , my idea is still not implemented !

    I do agree on other things you say , but I believe Nick Clegg is far more than merely a good speech maker .Mistakes , but a good man and a Liberal.

  • David Evans 12th Feb '16 - 4:32pm

    Lorenzo, Yes you are right, Nick was indeed a good man and usually a good liberal. He didn’t get the Democrat bit quite as well as he should (the votes in conference about Secret Courts, for example), and that unwillingness to accept the fact that other Liberals could come to a better, more Liberal and Democratic conclusion than the conclusion his personal view of Liberal Democracy led him to was a real problem.

    He always was inspiring for the true believers when he spoke, usually had a good instinctive understanding of Liberal Democracy, and had a natural easy going way with most people. In one to one situations he would almost always come over as being on your side.

    However, ultimately we have to judge leaders in terms of where they have led us from and where they have led us to, and leaders of political parties have to do more than just inspire members. They have to plan for the future, connect with the wider public, make judgements and when in coalition (whether in Local Government or in Parliament) manage that relationship with opponents who ultimately want to see us fail. They have to manage things, and In that managerial role, I am sad to say, he failed and failed catastrophically.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 12th Feb '16 - 6:12pm

    Stephen,

    Not at all. It’s an interesting discussion.

    How Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats connect with the public is the big question.

    There may be lessons from how other parties have reconnected with voters after losing trust.

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