The British Conservatives in the European Parliament have finalised the nomination of their candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament: a former Liberal Democrat, now Tory MEP who has mocked and insulted eurosceptics.
Sajjad Karim, a Lancashire-born Muslim of Pakistani descent, has previously denigrated eurosceptics by repeatedly calling them “anti-EU Taliban.”
When criticised for using the term against members of his own party last year, he was unrepentant, saying: “I have not used that term lightly, that’s exactly what they are. You are no longer allowed to hold a view unless it’s the same view as them.”
At the time, Mark Wallace, executive editor of Conservative Home, wrote: “Quite why someone who so dislikes a sizeable chunk of the Conservative membership should seek to represent them is a mystery.”
Yet Karim, a former LibDem MEP who defected in 2007, is now the candidate of the Tories’ European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, and seems equally to dislike a sizeable chunk of the eurosceptic membership of the ECR.
While eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties saw their support surge in the elections, Karim this week has written to the main groups in the parliament seeking their backing and claiming that the image of the EU in the world had been tainted by the recent European elections with the rise of extremist parties: “I ask the group leaders: is it not now time to reinstate our values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity?”
Yet some of the parties on whom Karim and the Tories now depend in the ECR group include the Danish People’s Party (DPP) which is anti-immigration, anti-EU and anti-multiculturalism.
In the last parliament, the Conservatives refused to consider an alliance with the Danish party because “because of their unacceptable views in a number of areas.” Until lured away last month by the Tories in the ECR, the DPP sat with UKIP.
The Tories will also now sit with another former UKIP ally, the eurosceptic Finns Party which has described immigrants as “parasites on taxpayers’ money” and suggested ethnically Finnish women should have more babies. They Finns have called immigrants “asylum tourists.”
Expecting these parties to support a candidate as president of the European Parliament who is pushing “tolerance, acceptance and diversity”–code words in Brussels for multiculturalism and high immigration – looks like hubris on the part of the Conservatives.
The ECR group, which was dominated by the British Conservatives in the last party, has only survived the poor Tory result in the elections last month by persuading several Continental eurosceptic groups to abandon UKIP and join them.
If a national party does not belong to a group of at least 25 MEPs from at least seven countries, it is denied millions in funding for political activities and is unable to sit on committees or have increased speaking time in parliamentary debates. Were the Tories to drive away the small eurosceptic parties who now keep alive the ECR, the party would be left as unattached MEPs with no committee seats and no funding.
The ECR group was formed in 2009 when David Cameron told his MEPs they must pull out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group, with which they traditionally sat, because the EPP was too much in favour of more national powers being shifted to Brussels. This was seen by some Conservative MEPs as a sop to the eurosceptic wing of the party.
The EPP is the group which has nominated the EU-zealot Jean-Claude Juncker to be made president of the European Commission, a nomination which David Cameron is resisting.