The UK Tories have today announced the formation of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECRG) in the European Parliament. The group will have 55 MEPs – 25 UK Tories, and Jim Nicholson from Northern Ireland, 15 Poles from PiS, 9 Czechs from ODS, and then 1 MEP from each of 5 more countries – Derk Jan Eppink from Lijst Dedecker in Belgium, Hannu Takkula from Keskusta in Finland (despite the party being in the ELDR), Lajos Bokros of Hungarian Democratic Forum (although the party is supposedly a member of the EPP), Roberts Zile of the Latvian National Independence Movement and Peter van Dalen of the Dutch Christian Union.
Apart from the questionable alliance with ODS and PiS, the further choices are really rather bizarre. Lijst Dedecker is very unpleasant in Belgium, the only party that is willing to ally with Vlaams Belang. The new group also divides the Finnish Centre Party (Keskusta) in the EP, with Takkula moving to the ECRG and 2 other MEPs staying in ALDE. Christian Union from the Netherlands is also very far from the sort of ideology that David Cameron espouses at home. I suppose it’s a relief that Dansk Folkeparti is not in the group.
The question is whether this unlikely alliance of right wing odd-bods, nationalists and religious freaks holds together… time will tell.
According to Iain I’ll-never-bend-the-facts-to-suit-my-purposes Dale the Tory alliance “virtually all the members of the new group are down the line, mainstream politicians” – depends if you define right wing anti-gay rights and climate change politicians as mainstream! As for the idea that the PES has some odd folks in the group – yes, that’s true. But they are not *all* odd or unpleasant. Bogdan Golik that Dale cites is not even a member of the EP after the elections (he’s not on the results list), although that of course didn’t stop Dale citing him.
The Times has a good article on Latvia’s nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party. Tory leader in the EPP Kirkhope justifies their inclusion because they are a ‘mainstream’ party in Latvia. So if you’re nasty and mainstream that’s OK, but just plain nasty (Dansk Folkeparti or Lega Nord) is not acceptable?
Just been informed of this Youtube video about Cameron and his mates. Maybe it lacks some nuance, but you get the idea.
Oh yes. The Hungarain Democratic Forum is a small Hungarian EPP party that run on a ‘normalcy’ ticket against its more popular and populist EPP rival, Fidesz. There two main candidates were a maverick former finance minister and a Habsburg archduke, a very odd combination for an originally patriotic and republican Hungarian party. (Hungary has fought a war of independence against the Habsburgs). Now that they are bound together with these bunch it is widely believed that they will remove their top candidate and let the Mr Habsburg join the group. Apparently it was Mr Bokros, the top candidate who won the party the only seat. However, he will be badly needed in the forthcoming national elections, too, and it may be very inconvenient for him to sit together with the Kaczynski-party. The official statement of the party is not denial, but that the question is not on the agenda at this point. Here is the story of the Hungarian right-wing candidates: http://central.blogactiv.eu/2009/03/09/ep-elections-in-hungary-the-conservative-epp-candidates/
Please explain more! An archduke…? And will that happen now, or you think it will happen in future?
I think as long as the Tories want this group to persist it will be there, for the zealots and witchhunters from Central and Eastern Europe it will be flattering to form a group with one of the oldest parliamentary parties of the world. Politically this is so similar to McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for being his running mate. I wish it cost the Tories votes, but I guess it might even help them. I only hope that the Hungairan Democratic Fourm will be punished by its voters, at is campaigned for years with a very centrist message and ‘normalcy’. But they also look down on this group: they will call back their vote-winning Lajos Bokros and send the Habsburg archduke instead to Strasbourg.
Trooper – you’re right. The new rules stipulate 25 MEPs from 7 countries, up from I think 20 MEPs from 5 countries before. So the Tories can lose 1 of the people and still respect the rules.
I disagree with James – I don’t think this is going to collapse soon.
Weren’t the rules changed specifically to make it more difficult to form parties in the EP? If so, the new grouping has been put together to satisfy those new rules.
They need to have group members from 7 member states (for at least one year). As things stand, they have three member parties and then a load of ‘one-man bands’ (not to mention the Finnish member splitting his own party). Surely these singletons will exert proportionately more influence – on jobs, speaking time etc – than they should, as they will always be able to hint at the implicit threat to walk away, leaving the group in the lurch. Of course for that lot, being in a group with the likely next government of a big member state has its value back home, but each will have their price.