France’s Marine Le Pen accuses Ukip’s Farage of double standards
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has accused Nigel Farage of double standards over the British eurosceptic leader's refusal to ally with her National Front (FN) party in the European Parliament.
Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), ruled out an alliance with the FN last week, saying the French party was too tainted by anti-Semitism - a reference to the convictions for hate-speech and Holocaust denial of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the current leader's father.
Marine Le Pen has worked to rid the FN of that image and she said on Tuesday she was bemused by Farage's decision that any UKIP MPs elected to the European Parliament next month would ally instead with another anti-EU French group, Debout la Republique [Stand Up The Republic], led by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.
"I have tried very hard to understand what has pushed him [Farage] into these completely new statements, because, in the past, he was rather courteous towards us," Le Pen said.
"Dupont-Aignan, I would remind you, has just welcomed into his group Gilles Bourdouleix, whose one claim to fame is having said that Hitler did not kill enough gypsies," she added.
Bourdouleix is currently awaiting judgment after being prosecuted for a remark along those lines which he made in July last year.
Both Le Pen's and Farage's parties are riding high in the polls heading into the European election campaign.
Latest opinion polls put the FN neck and neck with the mainstream centre-right opposition, the Union for a Popular Movement of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, in the battle to emerge from the vote as the best-supported party in France.
The FN leader said Farage was not in a position to cast aspersions on others. "He is often reproached for the behaviour and comments of a certain number of his party members," she said in an interview with Britain's Sunday Times. "Slandering your neighbour to try to make yourself look whiter than white, it's not correct. He's doing it simply for electoral purposes."
The row with Le Pen came as Alan Sked, the founder of UKIP, gave an interview in which he described Farage as "alcoholic, dim and racist" and repeated claims, which Farage denies, that the UKIP leader once referred to black people as "niggers".
A UKIP spokesman told a British newspaper, the Daily Mail: "Dr Sked is free to hold whatever view he likes of our party and our leader, but his repeated claim that Nigel used the 'n-word' is untrue and has been vigorously denied before."
The rows cap a difficult few weeks for Farage, whose perceived success in two televised debates with Britain's deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats party, Nick Clegg, was followed almost immediately by controversy over his claiming of EU expenses.
Additional reporting by The Guardian