UKIP is expected to do well in next year’s European elections. What is less appreciated is that voters are set to vote for anti-establishment parties in countries across the EU. Indeed, eurosceptics are likely to enter the European Parliament in record numbers.
They will, however, be a motley bunch – ranging from the exuberant ‘big tent’ populists of Italy’s Five Star Movement to the cerebral conservatives of Germany’s AfD. Unfortunately, they’ll also be joined (though not in the same parliamentary groupings) by extremists like Greece’s Golden Dawn.
According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph, the biggest shock of all may be delivered by the French National Front:
“There was no good macroeconomic reason for forcing France to squeeze fiscal policy so violently over the last two years, tipping the economy back in recession. The measures were shoved down France’s throat done because austerity for its own sake (without offsetting monetary stimulus) is EMU doctrine, and because France has allowed Germany to call the shots…
“It is now highly likely that the Front will sweep the European elections next May, a vote perfectly suited to their agenda.”
Victory in the European elections would provide a boost to the presidential hopes of the Front’s charismatic leader, Marine Le Pen:
“The Front National is now the most popular party in France with 24pc according to a new Ifop poll. Both the two great governing parties of the post-War era have fallen behind for the first time ever. The Gaullistes (UMP) are at 22pc, and the Socialists at 21pc.
“I am watching this with curiosity, since Marine Le Pen told me in June that her first order of business on setting foot in the Elysee Palace (if elected) would be to announce a referendum on membership of the European Union, with a ‘rendez-vous’ one year later…”
Come next May, we can expect to see a lot more of Le Pen on our screens – and, no doubt, British europhiles will use her image (and the name of her party) to associate British eurosceptics with the extreme right.
Yet the notion that the French National Front is a rightwing party of any sort is highly questionable. Rather, it is more accurate to describe it as a party of the nationalist left:
“As I wrote in June, the Front has been scoring highest in core Socialist cantons, clear evidence that it is breaking out of its Right-wing enclaves to become the mass movement of the white working class.
“Hence the new term in the French press ‘Left-Le-Penism’. She is outflanking the Socialists with attacks on banks and cross-border capitalism. The party recently recruited Anna Rosso-Roig, a candidate for the Communists in the 2012 elections.”
In many respects, Le Pen stands to the left of the British Labour Party and even the French Socialists:
“She fulminates against Washington and Nato, calling for France to retake its place as ‘non-aligned’ voice in a multipolar world, and lashing out at the Gaulliste UMP for selling its soul to Europe and the Anglo-Saxon order.”
In Britain, these and other dangerous ideas can only be found on the fringes of politics. In France, though, they are bundled-up with the only serious opposition to the unfolding disaster of the Eurozone.
As a result, there is a real danger that Marine Le Pen will win the first round of the next presidential election (her father, of course, was runner-up in 2002). The chances of her winning the second round may be small, but they are big enough to force the mainstream parties into increasingly extreme positions of their own.