Saturday

1st Oct 2016

Focus

New pro-EU party appears on British right

  • 4 Freedoms is bidding to become the only EPP affiliated UK party to win MEP seats in next week's Euro elections. (Photo: Paul Vallejo)

A new UK political party, the 4 Freedoms party, is hoping to win a seat in the European Parliament with a pro-EU stance.

Its name takes its inspiration from the EU's freedoms of movement for people, goods, services and capital.

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  • Dirk Hazell - a former chairman of the London Conservatives and 4 Freedoms' top candidate

Unlike the UK's major parties, 4 Freedoms is only running in one of the UK's 12 regional constituencies – the eight seats up for grabs in the London region.

There is an electoral rationale to focusing their attention solely on London, but also a political one.

With its multitude of nationalities and language, London is also one of, if not the most culturally diverse, constituencies across the entire EU. Moreover, as a business hub with the largest financial services sector in Europe, London is the UK's economic nerve-centre and would be the region most affected if the UK left the EU.

"The capital is the most likely to lose out from the UK leaving the EU," says NoelleAnne O'Sullivan, the party's number two candidate.

Londoners tend to be less eurosceptic than the rest of the UK and, with a pro-business and pro-EU stance, O'Sullivan thinks that the party could be knocking at an open door.

"We felt that there was positive feeling towards the EU that wasn't being represented," she says, adding that "the only pro-EU voice is the Liberal Democrats but they are facing implosion".

The pitch is straightforward – a pro-business but also pro-European party of the right. She also indicates that the party will be targeting most of its campaigning resources in the London boroughs where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are strong.

Although six of the party's eight candidates are British – the other two being Irish and French – all have an internationalist background in business or politics.

The top candidate, Dirk Hazell, is a businessman and former chairman of the London Conservatives, while Brendan Donnelly, the final candidate on the list, is a former Conservative MEP.

4 Freedoms is the first party to be affiliated to the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) since Cameron brought his MEPs out of the group in 2009. O'Sullivan says that the election campaign "is the start of a process to re-normalise the British centre right" and she makes the bold prediction that her party will "outlast" Nigel Farage's UK independence party (UKIP).

If 4 Freedoms fails to win any seats, it will almost certainly leave the UK as the only EU country without any members of the EPP, which is likely to be the bloc's largest political group.

The UK's Euro-election campaign has been, so far at least, almost exclusively about UKIP, which is currently slightly ahead of Labour in most opinion polls. David Cameron's Conservatives are third and the Liberal Democrats are fighting with the Greens for a distant fourth place.

Conventional wisdom suggests that 4 Freedoms will struggle to make an impression. Historically, no party has won parliamentary seats in UK elections without plenty of money and an army of activists.

They will need to take 10 percent of the vote to win one of London's eight seats. O'Sullivan is confident of the party's appeal.

"We are the natural home of 'One Nation' Tories," she says.

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