Read Nick Cohen in today’s Observer on the Tories’ alliances in the European Parliament:
Cameron has pulled out of the European Parliament’s moderate centre-right grouping, a fact that should be more notorious. It includes the followers of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. If he had just said that their support for a more centralised Europe made co-operation impossible, his decision would not have been so bad. Instead, he went off with a ragbag of east European politicians, who can bring nothing but disgrace to him and his country.
In recent years, Conservative writers and thinktanks have lambasted the left’s alliances with Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood. They asked with justifiable relish what had happened to progressives’ opposition to racism, misogyny, homophobia and censorship. Yet now that their own leader is allowing his MEPs to be led by a man who shares many of the prejudices of Islamist reactionaries, their once-angry voices have fallen into a shameful silence. Opposition to Europe on the British right now performs the same function as anti-Americanism on the British left. As long as a potential ally is against Brussels, nothing else matters.
Cameron’s alliances cut him off from Merkel and Sarkozy who ought to be the Conservative party’s natural allies. Merkel in particular will not tolerate shiftiness about anti-semitism. I cannot imagine Obama being over-impressed either. When he wants to speak to a European leader, will he call Merkel, who can connect him to the Europe which values democracy and human rights, or Cameron, who can connect him to the Europe which abhors gay elephants and has difficulties with Jews?
We must not let the Tories believe that alliances with the worst that the rest of Europe has to offer will go unnoticed. You can’t remake yourself as a fluffy non-bigoted party at home while snuggling up to nutters and loons abroad.