Next week, David Cameron will unveil the Conservative Party's new right-wing allies in the European Parliament. To the dismay of pro-European Tories, they include parties accused of being anti-women, racist, homophobic and in denial about climate change.
The Tory leader insists he will not be aligning his party's 25 MEPs with extremists. But he has angered Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, by walking out of the mainstream centre-right EPP group, the largest in the parliament, to form a new group of conservative Eurosceptics. It is expected to include the Belgian Lijst Dedecker party, some of whose politicians are former members of the far-right Vlaams Belang part, whose candidates backed a statement saying: "We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation", and used campaigning material featuring an ape with the words "I have not forgotten my roots ... have you?"
The Tories are also in talks with the Dutch Christian Union, which includes the SGP, a Calvinist party which believes the Bible means that women should not stand for parliament but have a "nurturing role" at home. Mr Cameron's party is also wooing the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS in March.
These relatively small parties, which have only six MEPs between them, are being courted by the Tories because, under the European Parliament's rules, an official group needs MEPs from at least seven of the EU's 27 member states.
The 25 Tories will be the biggest national team in the new group. Its other prominent members will be the Polish Law and Justice Party, which has 15 MEPs, and the Czech Civic Democrats, which has nine. The Polish party, headed by the controversial Kaczynski twins, is anti-gay, and banned gay-rights processions. In talks on EU voting power, it demanded that Poland's losses at the hands of Hitler be added to its current population so it would have more clout.
The Civic Democrats, one of whose leaders has dismissed climate change as a myth, backed the Lisbon Treaty, which the Tories oppose. Some potential allies also want to include far-right parties such as Italy's xenophobic Northern League, although the Tories will try to block this.
Labour will seize on the Tories' new friends in an attempt to undermine Mr Cameron's credentials as a moderniser. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday: "The British public should be warned: the Tory European group may contain nuts."
Glenys Wilmot, leader of Labour's MEPs, said the new Conservative group would enjoy little influence in the parliament. "The Tories will sit in splendid isolation with controversial allies a far cry from the mainstream parties David Cameron is leaving behind," she said.Reuse content