The mainstream media likes to lump together under the label “far right” all European political parties opposed to the European Union and to pro-immigration policies. Because I see big differences among these parties, I have always rejected this approach.
The question is now one of more than academic and rhetorical significance. The so-called far right parties will have substantial representation in the newly-elected European parliament. If these various parties find enough in common to unite, they could play quite a significant role.
To this end, Marine Le Pen, head of France’s Front National Party, has been wooing leaders of “far right” parties throughout Europe. The results have been mixed.
Nigel Farage of Great Britian’s UKip Party has refused to work with the Front National. He reiterated his stand today, stating that a deal with Le Pen’s party “isn’t going to happen.” Farage added, “We’ve got to find a group of people that we think are part of our political family with views that are consistent with classical liberal democracy.” (emphasis added). The Front National manifestly is not such “a group of people.”
Le Pen’s outreach program was far more successful when it came to Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party in Holland. Wilders agreed last year to ally his party in the Euro-elections with the Front National and with Austria’s extremist anti-EU party.
The alliance struck me as unnatural. For example, Wilders is a friend of Israel; the Front National has a long history of anti-semitism.
Lucas Hartong, the most senior member of the European parliament from Wilders’ party, also found the alliance unnatural. He refused to campaign in the EU elections and warned that Wilders’ alliance with the Front National and the Austrian extremist bunch would prove to be an electoral disaster.
Exit polling indicated that Hartong was right. It showed Wilders’ party finishing fourth in the elections. Now it appears that the party came in third (or maybe tied for second) and will take 4 of 26 seats. Still disappointing, but not disastrous.
Wilders’ party suffered when Jean Le Pen, father of the Front National and of Marine, decided to speak out on election eve. The aging racist opined that the Ebola virus will solve Europe’s problem with immigration from Africa.
The remark received more attention in Holland than it did in France, where Marine’s party finished first. It demonstrated the soundness of Farage’s decision not to align his party with the Front National (imagine how Le Pen’s remarks would have played in England) and the rashness of Wilders’ decision to the contrary.
In fairness to Wilders, he must surely feel a desperation that Farage has no reason to sense. Wilders has been in the trenches for years, and under a death threat from al Qaeda and other Islamists for more than a decade. He’s had some electoral successes, but must believe that traditional Europe is losing ground to the EU juggernaut and to Sharia law.
Thus, when it comes to Marine Le Pen, who is not as extreme as her father, Wilders understandably will tend to err on the side of seeing her as sufficiently different to justify an alliance. Farage, a fresh and rising figure with every reason to be cautious lest his movement be nipped in the bud, will not err on that side.
But just where in today’s continental Europe Farage thinks he will find a sufficiently large “group of people that [hold views]. . .consistent with classical liberal democracy” is unclear.