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European elections impact

Let’s face it: we didn’t really care too much about European Parliament elections when we were part of the EU, let alone now. But the one that’s just happened over the course of last week is different, and we should take note.

Just as we in the UK are about to move Left and most likely elect a Labour government, the rest of the western world is moving Right, both in Europe and most probably later this year in the US with Trump consistently leading the polls there, despite his legal woes. We are out of sync.

And in most of those western countries, it is not just a little shuffle to the Right, more a gallop to the harder end of the Centre Right. (Note, we did not write ‘far Right’. This is the now almost meaninglessly elastic term the liberal Left dominated media use to describe anything seemingly to the right of Blair these days. Most of these Centre Right parties (excluding Orban’s Fidesz party) are espousing nothing more controversial than traditional Tory fare which most Tory governments from Macmillan to Major would have agreed with. To describe them as ‘far Right’ is to stretch the term to utter meaninglessness). The harder end of the Centre Right is now in power in Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. It is part of governing coalitions in Sweden and Finland and will be in the Netherlands shortly. It’s leading polls in Belgium and Austria too and challenging in France and Germany.

And what is the catalyst for this? Why is this move happening at the same time in so many countries from North America to Central Europe? Immigration. It is that simple.

In a very good article in The Sunday Times, Mathew Syed, a very thoughtful commentator from the Left, described the issue very clearly. We can moan and rage about the harder Right political parties all we want. We can villainise them, we can mock them, we can sneer at why voters shouldn’t take them seriously, we can do all of that. But we actually need to confront the harsh reality of why they are doing so well. And it’s because successive governments, from centre Left and centre Right, in every country in the West have just lied about immigration. Some examples:

Blair in 1997: “…ensure firm control… properly enforced”. The reality: an increase of 633,000 immigrants between 1998-2001.

Blair in 2005: “…only skilled workers will be allowed to settle long term…an end to chain migration”. The reality: net migration reached over a quarter of a million.

Cameron/May in 2010, 2015 and 2017: “we will cut immigration to the tens of thousands”. The reality: immigration rose to an average of 300,000 a year over the period, totalling over 1.4 million for 2022-23.

As Syed notes: “…if you look at a graph of inflows over the past thousand years, let alone the past hundred, this represents a spike of an unprecedented kind, something that will echo decades — perhaps centuries — into the future. Again, whether or not you think this inflow is overall a good or bad thing, you can’t deny that it has altered the complexion of the UK in ways both subtle and profound”.

And what has accompanied this: trust in politics has plummeted to lows that are, again, unprecedented. And this has happened in almost every country across the western world. The EU is right now tearing itself apart because of immigration, and still the liberal centrist parties don’t want to hear it and stick their heads in the sand.

The European election just gone caused the Belgian government to collapse and a national election in France. We really need to wake up and deal with the issue that voters are clearly angry about.

So back to the UK General Election. How are our political parties dealing with this issue? The Tories are putting all their bets on the mythical Rwanda scheme that won’t happen, Labour doesn’t have a realistic policy just vacuous soundbites and the Lib Dems don’t even want to discuss it. What about the economy? All three main parties are pretending that no taxes will rise, no cuts will be needed, the economy will be fine.

Trust in politics is so low because the Western political class have taken political lying to a new level. And voters are fed up with it. Thus populists who tackle with gusto the awkward issues that professional politicians don’t want to even discuss, are winning seats and elections.

It’s really not that complicated.

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