French far-right leader Marine Le Pen blames Ukip's Nigel Farage of ‘political dirty tricks’ as she fails to form bloc in EU Parliament
France's Front National fell short in their attempts to recruit hard-right, Eurosceptic MEPs from the seven nationalities they needed to form a political group in Strasbourg
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Tuesday 24 June 2014
The leader of the French far right, Marine Le Pen, has accused Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), of “political dirty tricks” and “media stunts” after she failed to form an official group in the European Parliament.
Ms Le Pen’s Front National and its hard-right allies from four other EU countries lost about €22m (£17.6m) in public subsidies when they fell short of the seven nationalities they needed to form a political group in Strasbourg.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Ms Le Pen blamed Mr Farage and her own father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, for the failure.
Ukip and the FN had been competing to recruit the broadly respectable hard-right, Eurosceptic MEPs from other countries in an attempt to create an official seven-nation group before the deadline on Monday night. Mr Farage succeeded in creating his group last week when he signed up the maverick Italian politician Beppe Grillo and a renegade member of Ms Le Pen’s party, Joelle Bergeron.
Ms Le Pen fell short, she claimed, because she had refused to link up with extremists, including a small Polish party whose leader denies Adolf Hitler’s role in the Holocaust.
“We wanted a solid and lasting alliance, not media stunts,” Ms Le Pen said. “Nigel Farage has formed a group with an unstable woman elected on an FN platform and an unpredictable Beppe Grillo.” She described Ukip’s recruitment of Ms Bergeron as a “political dirty trick”. She added: “I will tell Mr Farage that illicitly acquired goods never benefit you in the end.”
Ms Le Pen and her 23 FN colleagues will now have to sit as independents, with less funding and less access to important committees and speaking time.
Asked whether she blamed her failure on recent anti-Semitic comments by her father, she replied: “Anything which… makes noise is unhelpful when you are in the midst of a negotiation.”
The new European Parliament holds its first session next week.
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