THE EUROSCEPTICS ARE marching and their ranks are swelling. The initial threat to the EU might seem manageable, if a little unnerving; but these European elections could foreshadow unpleasant times to come.
It looks likely that pulling in the same direction will prove a difficult proposition for the disparate groups of sceptics now sitting in the European parliament. Their very disdain for the institutions that they are joining could well obstruct their work in the first place (take a look at UKIP MEPs’ attendance record), while the right-wing parties are keen to disassociate from many of their peers – potential allies – in other countries.
Geert Wilders’ PVV in the Netherlands appears to have suffered this election in part due to greater association with France’s Front National. UKIP remain unwilling to align with FN themselves – but for how long? After the 2015 general election – however they fare there – UKIP might well feel more pragmatic, with greater freedom to manoeuvre once the election spotlight dims.
And it bears bottom-lining that the European parliament now has representatives of neo-Nazi parties such as Golden Dawn (Greece) – a real cause for alarm.
That is the threat. There are now a significant number of people in Brussells with unsavoury and alarming views. It is not so much what they do with their new offices as the toehold those offices represent. A platform is a platform and the fact that these people’s voices will now be amplified is of prime concern.
Certainly in the UK, voter apathy and disillusionment with Europe is compounded by the main parties’ failure to take European elections seriously enough. They are merely one piece in a bigger puzzle.
But we are a dangerously short distance from a scenario where all these same factors produce the same result in general elections – the reserve we like to tell ourselves is well enough fortified to withstand the woes of local council and European elections.
The comments made on Monday by Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, were a grim reminder that recovery could still be a long way off for the eurozone. These issues are not going to go away, these voices will not quieten down by themselves.
The mainstream needs to take five minutes away from its usual games and put together a comprehensive putdown of the growing political dangers both at home and in Europe. It is not enough to merely keep swatting them away, failing to deal with the root issues that drive them and refusing to take seriously the platforms they are building.
It sounds simple, it’s hardly a fresh point – but we’re still not doing it.
Words: Sean Gibson
Photo: European Parliament