Freddy Gray Freddy Gray

The European elections and the ascent of the right

National Rally leader Marine Le Pen (L) addresses militants as party president Jordan Bardella watches on (Getty)

Can the ‘far right’ still really be called the ‘far right’ if it becomes the mainstream? That’s a question for political scientists to ponder as tonight’s European elections results come tumbling in.

The right is winning in France, with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally will win twice as many votes as president Macron’s Renaissance. Macron has already responded to the humiliation by calling for fresh national assembly elections to be held on 30 June and 7 July.

The EU may well have to adapt to the worldview of Marine Le Pen

In Germany, the AfD, despite a number of scandals, took 16 per cent of the vote, making them the second most popular party, ahead of chancellor’s Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. More than a million people who had voted for the governing coalition have just cast their ballots for AfD, according to one pollster.

By contrast, the German Greens, who usually perform strongly, won just 12 per cent of the vote. The centre-right Christian Democratic bloc of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen still came top with 30 per cent (her EPP centre-right group will be easily the largest in the European Parliament), but only after tacking right on immigration and softening its green policies.

The European Parliament elections are often dismissed as little more than an opinion poll – since the Parliament’s powers are limited and it is the EU Commission which makes the decisions that most affect people’s lives. But the general political direction of the continent is clear: parties that stand strongly against immigration, that embrace anti-globalist rhetoric and reject green ideology are doing well. The Greens are in retreat.

The once-unacceptable right is now in power in Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. It is part of governing coalitions in Sweden (where it is in retreat) and Finland and will be in the Netherlands shortly. It’s leading polls in Belgium and Austria too. After tonight’s European results, which gave Flemish nationalists a victory, the Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo announced his resignation.

Britain doesn’t vote in the European elections, obviously, because we voted to leave. But our own general election on 4 July looks almost certain to make us an outlier – if Labour comes to power, Britain will move left as the continent goes in the other direction.

But it’s worth remembering that Keir Starmer has had to shift his party away from the left in order to make it acceptable to the masses. And the Conservative Party is being destroyed in no small part for its failure, despite lots of noise about boats and Rwanda, to bring legal and illegal immigration under control. If Reform take over the Conservatives in the polls – which could be about to happen – the anti-establishment right will have triumphed in Britain too.

‘Right is good,’ said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, as he voted this week. ‘To go right is always good. Go right!’ In November, America might do exactly that.

The year 2016 will always be remembered for Trump and Brexit. But 2024 could go down as the year when the new right consolidated its power.

Watch more analysis from Andrew Neil and Freddy Gray on Spectator TV: