Last week, as not so widely reported on in British mainstream media, the German party at the forefront of euroscepticism, Alternative für Deutschland, applied to join the ECR, the group within the European Parliament founded by the UK's Conservative Party after the 2009 European elections.
This is the same Conservative Party whose main representative in the House of Commons said three weeks ago that "we don't do pacts and deals".
While pacts and deals have to be made in the European Parliament to form groups that encompass parties with similar views across Europe, UKIP are not in the same European grouping as the Conservatives (see table below) and given that their views have been described by Conservative ministers as "racist", "über-nationalist", and "xenophobic", it seems as if a UK parliamentary coalition will be largely off the cards in 2015.
It is lucky for the Conservatives, then, that so few people on this side of the Channel know so little about Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and their likely connection to the Conservative Party, with whom AfD's leader, Bernd Lucke, claims they "have a lot in common in political terms".
Yet while the BBC would have you believe that they are "not...unacceptably extreme", there seems to be a different sentiment in Germany, with overbearing hints of UKIP. Among other things, they:
- have been accused of running a campaign that was "rechte, rassistische, nationalistische, antisemitische und islamfeindliche" (right-wing, racist, nationalist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic)
- had to place special rules on not allowing right-wing extremists, such as the German People's Union, to enter the party
- get into violent scrapes with everyone from anarchists to antifascists to moderate Greens
- appeal to males in more affluent areas - "wäre es nach den Männern gegangen, wäre die „Alternative für Deutschland" im Bundestag vertreten" (were it down to men, Alternative für Deutschland would be represented in the Bundestag)
- are trying at length to emphasise their more 'diverse' candidates, i.e. non-Christians, LGBT people, and women...
- ...and yet are having a debate over 'where the party stands' on Islam
If AfD are to enter the Conservatives' European Parliamentary group, it could mathematically be without the consent of the Conservatives themselves, thanks to the votes of their allies. However, this would have to be an overwhelmingly large agreement between all the parties within the ECR, and is extremely unlikely: the other, smaller parties will probably not want to frustrate the Conservatives, and some of their MEPs have already said that they will be voting AfD into the alliance (click here, here, and here).
So, should AfD begin to be affiliated with the Conservatives, this would be a perplexing hypocrisy - condemning UKIP on one side, but bowing to the party's furthest right wing on the other. It would also almost certainly draw away a few Conservative votes, if anyone noticed.
Alternatively, one could view it as a continuation of a trend. According to the Guardian, the Tories' original alliance contained those with anti-gay, pro-Nazi, and curiously anti-German viewpoints. Yet nobody batted an eyelid.
What these Conservative alliances really show, then, is not the increasing likelihood of any UK parliamentary coalition with UKIP, but the unawareness - or even ignorance or apathy - of British voters towards European politics.
There may well have been a political earthquake, and while it was a shocking one, it seems far away and most people are continuing to go about their daily business. It just so happens that Britain often happens to be the site of the butterfly, thoughtlessly flapping its wings.