06 February 2020, The Tablet

Europe slows down on the Right


Europe slows down on the Right

Salvini’s demagogy ‘makes even committed conservatives reluctant to vote for him’
PA/Insidefoto/Sipa USA, Samantha Zucchi


Left-wing and social democratic parties are unable to win power; yet the shift to the nationalist Right across Europe seems to have stalled. Political parties and movements as we have known them since the war seem to be breaking up into ever smaller fragments

Is a surge in nationalist and anti-immigrant identity politics in Europe irresistible? The unexpectedly decisive defeat of the excitable, rosary-touting Matteo Salvini in a key regional election in Italy last month is just the latest of several signs that suggest there is nothing inevitable about the rise of Right-wing populism.

For the last decade, academics and journalists have been in thrall to the idea that a new nationalist, populist identity politics is about to conquer Europe. Figures like Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Nigel Farage have been winning in France, the Netherlands and the European Parliament. Writers bored with mediocre mainstream politicians have bigged up more exotic parties, such as Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the Austrian Freedom Party, founded by ex-SS officers and former Nazi officials. They point to nationalist clericalist parties in Poland and the Franco-nostalgia party Vox in Spain and namecheck Viktor Orbán, the proponent of “illiberal democracy” in Hungary. They remind us that Ukip won more votes than any other party in the UK in the 2014 and 2019 European Parliament elections. Matthew Goodwin, an academic prophet of a Right-wing take-over, boldly predicted that Ukip would win four to five seats in the 2015 general election; “National populism”, he told the Guardian’s readers in 2018, “is unstoppable”.

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £30 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login