MEPs were treated to a bizarre lesson in alternative history in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
Riled by warnings about the rise of ‘right-wing extremism’ in Europe, Syed Kamall, the UK Conservative who leads the ECR group of MEPs, claimed that Nazism was ‘a strain of socialism’, directing the remark towards Udo Bullman, the German leader of the Socialist and Democrat group.
The row, which brought to mind Silvio Berlusconi’s comparison of Martin Schulz to a concentration camp ‘Kommandant’ back in 2003, provoked outrage and demands for an immediately apology from all sides of the chamber, except from a nodding Nigel Farage.
Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt and Bullman himself, pointed out that thousands of German social democrats had been arrested and killed by Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Coming during a debate on Brexit, following last week’s inconclusive EU summit in Brussels, the diplomatic row came at a bad time for the UK.
“Has the Conservative party finally been eaten by UKIP,” was the caustic reaction of European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans.
Kamall eventually offered a qualified apology to Bullmann, who retorted that “Mr Kamall doesn’t know what he is talking about”. An unedifying end to an unedifying scene.