Two anti-immigration politicians with criminal convictions for inciting ethnic tension were admitted on Wednesday night to David Cameron’s eurosceptic alliance in the European parliament.
The situation is the result of an unexpected move that defied the reservations of some in Downing Street in which Tory MEPs overwhelmingly voted to join forces with the Danish People’s party and True Finns. The two parties are former allies of Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party.
The decision helps take the European Conservatives and Reformists group [ECR], established by Mr Cameron in 2009, to 55 seats, making it the fourth biggest group. A planned vote on also admitting the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland was postponed after Mr Cameron warned that this would sour relations with Berlin.
Morten Messerschmidt, a senior DPP figure and a rising star in Danish politics, was convicted in 2002 for publishing material that appeared to link a multiethnic society to rape, violence and forced marriages. Jussi Halla-aho, a newly elected True Finn MEP, was convicted in 2012 of stirring ethnic tensions after writing a blog on freedom of speech that claimed Islam “reveres paedophilia”.
Mats Persson of the Open Europe think-tank said: “This will raise the eyebrows of many in Europe who thought the Danish People’s party in particular wouldn’t pass the Tory party’s blush test.”
“The good news for the Tories is that they’re on course to become the third largest party in the European Parliament,” he added. “The risk however is that they drive reform-minded liberal parties straight into the arms of the big federalist block in the EP.”
The DPP rocked the Danish political establishment by emerging as the biggest party in the European elections, with four seats. Both the Danes and the True Finns see the move to the ECR as bringing the credibility and respectability that could help them become coalition partners in future governments.