MEPs unite against Le Pen

Politicians across Europe are planning to unite to stop French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen becoming the “father” of the European Parliament.

Mr Le Pen is expected to be the oldest member of the parliament if re-elected in June, meaning he would chair sessions until a new president is elected

But Socialist and Green party members have proposed a rule change to block him taking up the role.

At an EU meeting on Wednesday, he repeated his belief that Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers were “a detail of Second World War history”, a claim for which he was convicted in a Munich court in 1999 and subsequently fined $50,000 .

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, also called for Mr Le Pen to be stripped of the honour.

“It would be a shame if Le Pen were allowed to become the doyen of the new European Parliament and would send a bad signal to Europe and the world,” he said.

“There is still ample time for the parliament to change its statutes, for political parties to ask respectable elder statesman to stand in the election, and ultimately for French voters to reject revisionism and Holocaust denial by choosing a respectable party and denying Le Pen a return to Strasbourg.”

Mr Le Pen was also fined more than one million French francs for making the same gas chamber claims in 1987, and has a number of previous convictions for racism or inciting racial hatred.

    Last updated: 4:39pm, March 26 2009