Transfixed as we are in this country with US politics, and to a lesser extent their British cousin, we are in danger of missing a big trend across much of Europe — the revival of conservative political fortunes. …
The label far right is problematic and doesn’t properly capture the range and newly mainstream quality of the emerging right-wing parties in Europe. Some of them are extreme, many are not. It’s better, I think, to call them national conservative parties. Labelling them far right is an effort to rule them out of the debate. That effort has now failed. …
Just lately, conservatives have been winning a lot of elections in Europe. Last month, Greece’s conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis won re-election. Minor parties further to the right won small vote shares.
Sweden, Finland, Netherlands:
In last year’s Swedish election the leftists were thrown out and conservative Ulf Kristersson became Prime Minister. His government depends on support from the Sweden Democrats. The Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in parliament, with 73 out of 349 members of parliament. Some of its founders were neo-Nazis and white supremacists. But, like other national conservative parties, it purged its ranks of such people and moderated its policies. Now its signature obsession is with much stricter immigration controls, especially of Muslim migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. It also opposes multiculturalism and wants government and society to promote Swedish national identity. Unlike some other national conservative parties, it supports gay marriage.
In Finland this year the Social Democratic Party-led government was ousted in favour of a conservative coalition that includes the Finns Party, which ran strongly against immigration from outside Europe and on harsh criticism of the EU.
In The Netherlands in provincial elections in March a newly formed farmers party won 20 per cent of the vote campaigning against climate change restrictions on farmers.
But the greatest triumph of the new national conservative parties came in Italy’s election last September. This catapaulted the charismatic and fascinating Giorgia Meloni to the prime ministership. She founded her party, the Brothers of Italy. Its antecedents had some fascist roots but she and the party condemn the abuses of fascism robustly and unequivocally….
She ran under the slogan “God, homeland and family”. Like most national conservatives, she is more than a bit Eurosceptic. …
Meloni takes a hard line against illegal immigration. Unlike some other European national conservatives, she is devotedly Atlanticist and pro-NATO. She was open to better relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia until Putin’s insane invasion of Ukraine. Since then she has become a fierce critic of Putin and supporter of Ukraine.
On social issues, Meloni is conservative but not taking any radically conservative actions. She is, like most national conservatives, strong on law and order, on anti-crime measures. She also links illegal immigration to crime. She is anti-abortion but is not trying to change Italy’s law on abortion. She accepts Italy’s provisions guaranteeing same-sex civil unions. But she won’t move to the formal institution of gay marriage. And, like all the European national conservatives, she doesn’t want gender fluidity and the like taught to schoolchildren.
She once provocatively declared: “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian, you won’t take it from me.” A decade ago she wrote: “I am a right-wing woman and I proudly support women’s issues. In recent years we have had to suffer contempt and racism from feminists.” Meloni is not everyone’s cup of tea, but to call her or her government far right is ridiculous.
The media always “forget” to mention that the US Democrats party was the party of slavery, and Lincoln was a Republican:
If every party is to be judged by the worst excesses of its past, or the past of its antecedents, few would pass muster. In truth it’s a standard applied only to right-wing parties, which the liberal establishment wants to keep out of the debate. …
The US Democratic Party supported slavery before and during the American civil war and violently opposed civil rights for African-Americans for many decades after the civil war.
The Australian Labor Party was led, until 1967, by Arthur Calwell, who passionately supported racial discrimination in immigration selection under the White Australia policy and famously cracked: “Two Wongs don’t make a white.” Indeed, a decade ago Labor was opposed to gay marriage. Yet in some cases this in itself can be enough to get a party labelled far right.
Poland, too, is at political war with the EU over a raft of issues, even as support for Ukraine has drawn Warsaw closer to Brussels. With Hungary, Poland is the marker of defiance of woke social policy and national submission to the EU.
Poland is refusing the insane effort of the EU to forcibly distribute irregular immigrants among the member countries. This policy can never work anyway because wherever immigrants are initially put, or notionally settled, they are free to travel to their preferred destination nations — mostly Britain, France and Germany because of their generous welfare provisions. But Poland is not a nation lacking in generosity. It has welcomed nearly seven million Ukrainians fleeing conflict and something like 1.5 million Ukrainians have stayed permanently in Poland. But Warsaw sees what uncontrolled Middle Eastern and North African immigration has done to France and Sweden in terms of crime and defiance of the police, and to a lesser extent to Germany and Britain, and it’s determined not to repeat that experience. Warsaw believes EU membership doesn’t require surrender of control over immigration from outside the EU. …
In France Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has displaced the traditional centre-right parties. She has substantially increased her vote at every presidential election and could well win the French presidency next time. She too is a Eurosceptic nationalist opposed to unregulated immigration that she, quite reasonably, ties to crime.
Changing the conversation:
One striking feature of the conservative revival in Europe is that in many cases the new national conservatives have displaced the traditional conservatives, as in France and Italy, or have become so strong that they must be included in coalition, as in Finland, or in parliamentary support arrangements, as in Sweden. …
The national conservatives, the new right parties, have changed the definition of what is centre-right and what it is acceptable to say. Meloni is not scared to talk of God. She is a deeply earthed Italian but her major intellectual influences are Roger Scruton, GK Chesterton and JRR Tolkien. …
The three big issues, in order:
Three issues have driven the resurgence of European conservatives.
The first is Middle East and North African immigration. It’s wrong to oversimplify this as blanket hostility to immigration altogether. Poland and Hungary have been happy to take large numbers of Ukrainians. Neither is it racial. Large Indian and Chinese minorities are not controversial. But, like John Howard and Tony Abbott, European conservatives believe their national governments have the right to determine who comes into their countries and that some people are more likely than others to settle constructively.
The second big issue does not get enough attention, and that is a growing revolt against the excessive costs and sheer unreality of so many EU climate change policies. No European government stands against the idea of reducing greenhouse emissions, but many are turning against all kinds of climate policy overreach. …
And the third issue driving the conservative resurgence is the sense that transnational wokeness in all its guises is an assault on the good traditions of European civilisation. Meloni, like many European conservatives, is not afraid to mention God and Christianity when talking about Italian, or even European, values. … The inspiration European conservatives take from Tolkien is fascinating. The Lord of the Rings is first of all a magnificent tale about good and evil. It’s a truly Western classic in that it cannot be properly appreciated without a knowledge of all its biblical motifs and references. But it’s also a tale of localism, of good people, friendly to all, but inspired to courage and sacrifice from love of their own societies and traditions.
Tides always turn, eventually.