The UK Independence Party (Ukip) claims it has rejected the offer of an electoral pact from the far-Right British National Party (BNP).
Former tennis player Christopher "Buster" Mottram made the approach on behalf of BNP chairman Nick Griffin, a Ukip spokesman said yesterday. Mr Mottram had been a member of Ukip – which calls for British withdrawal from the EU – but has now been expelled, the party spokesman added.
He had apparently suggested that in elections to the European Parliament next June the BNP would not stand against Ukip in the South in return for a "free run" in the North. In a related development three members of Ukip's national executive – one described by the party as "ex-officio" – were sacked yesterday.
Mr Mottram's offer came during a Ukip meeting in Westminster, which the party claimed the BNP had "gatecrashed". Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: "There are no circumstances, no possible situations, in which we would even consider doing any type of deal with the BNP whatsoever. I'm simply amazed that the BNP thought we would even consider such a thing, given that we are a non-racist, non-sectarian party."
BNP spokesman Simon Darby confirmed that his party had made an approach to Ukip.
"It was with a view to ending this ridiculous situation of splitting the anti-Euro federalist vote and it hasn't paid off, frankly," he said. "We are aware there are people very highly placed in Ukip who are very sympathetic to the logic that the vote could be split – that was where we were coming from. Someone has to take a lead on this if we are not to continue to be propelled into this federalist monster."
London Labour Euro-MP Claude Moraes said the approach to Ukip suggested some "common extreme ground" between the two parties, even if it was rebuffed.
"It is of great concern that these talks could have taken place under any circumstances," he said. "They tend to reveal some common extreme ground, even though Ukip publicly distanced themselves from the BNP."
Mr Moraes added: "This should be a wake-up call not only for our core Labour support but for anyone who is tempted to vote for Ukip in the next European elections."