Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

The trouble with calling everyone ‘far right’

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There is a favourite Fleet Street story about the legendary Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. While editing the paper, he discovered that his horoscope writer was recycling copy. He decided to dispense with her services in a letter that opened: ‘As you will no doubt have foreseen…’

You do not have to hold claims to being a mystic to predict certain things. The results of last week’s EU elections were easily predictable, as was the response from much of the British media. As I uncannily prophesied in last week’s column, the BBC’s Europe editor, Katya Adler, went with: ‘The far right is on the march.’ Elsewhere, she offered the claim that people across the continent often say: ‘This feels like the Europe of the 1930s.’

I don’t know if the BBC’s Europe editor often visits Europe. But having swung through five European countries in the week before the EU elections, I did not hear the sound of jackboots anywhere.

In the week before the European elections, I did not hear the sound of jackboots anywhere

If they existed, you would hear them especially loudly on the streets of Paris, since the city has been made pretty much impossible to get around except on foot. Emmanuel Macron wanted the Olympics to take place in the centre of the city and he seems to be learning the hard way why most host cities stick the games away on the periphery. Apart from making Paris almost impassable, he has set up a terrific security risk. An ‘Islamist inspired’ attack on the games has already been foiled. Paris, even more than most European cities, is in a state of permanent high alert.

In any case, the success of the National Rally in the EU elections was not put down to any failings of President Macron, but rather to the infamous march of ‘the far right’. As a term I find this less and less satisfactory. The destruction of the mainstream parties of right and left in France is a fascinating example of what is happening across the continent and indeed the wider West. Every-where, mainstream centrist parties of government have spent recent years promising to lower immigration only to oversee a massive explosion of both legal and illegal migration. That the migrants will integrate was the promise of political leaders for a couple of generations. But the evidence people see with their own eyes suggests to many that their governments have not been truthful with them. So they seek alternative parties who they think may actually listen to their concerns.

My interpretation of why the French just voted the way they did is that the French do not like being blown up. The fact that the French security services seem to be having to constantly work overtime is not consoling to the French public. There was always going to be a political response to that. We are lucky that it has so far only come in the form of Jordan Bardella.

Still, in recent days the media have described all the following parties as being ‘far right’: Giorgia Meloni’s party in Italy, both Éric Zemmour’s Reconquête and the National Rally in France, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Vox in Spain, the governing party in Hungary, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord in Italy and (until an apology was offered by the BBC) the Reform party in this country.

There is also an increasing use of the weaselly term ‘hard right’. This now seems to be the preferred term used by journalists who are getting cold feet about describing every-body to the right of Extinction Rebellion as ‘far right’. ‘Hard right’ also seems to be what a party that used to be called ‘far right’ is called once it is in government.

The effect, of course, is a blunting one, because the term already seems to have lost all meaning. This – as I have said for years – may some day become a problem, because the various parties described as ‘far right’ across the continent include parties that are no such thing as well as parties that I would like to keep an eye on. One of the frustrations with the ‘far right on the march’ theme is that there are parties that there are serious questions about. There are people in the AfD who are definitely up to no good, and who have the capacity to destroy their whole party. The Freedom Party of Austria also has a certain whiff around some of its members.

Will this always be the case? Perhaps. Look in depth into any political movements on the continent and you will invariably find some link to the worst movements of the 1940s. Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the old National Front in France not only had dodgy pasts but a question hovering over them about whether they are in some ways harking back to the days of collaboration.

But what is the continent to do about this? And what is our view supposed to be? One of the many problems with throwing everybody into the ‘far right’ bracket is that it raises a question which I don’t know if anyone is brave enough to ask or answer. Essentially it is this: is Europe so toxic that it requires decades or even centuries before anything healthy can grow there? I suspect some people think the answer is ‘yes’. Others haven’t realised that this is the ultimate question. But it is.

My answer would be that the ground is still poisonous in parts. Deciding which parts are to be designated such and which are worth cultivating requires unbelievable care. But too many people are not up to that job, including people whose job it is meant to be.

Incidentally, on Monday night thousands of leftists protested and rioted in Paris in response to the European parliament election results. Members of the French left, including Manon Aubry of La France Insoumise, attended. Late in the evening the police had to disperse the protestors with stinger grenades. This was in fact the far left ‘on the march’. But you don’t have to be a mystic to predict that this is not a headline that made it into any of the newspapers.

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Douglas Murray
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Douglas Murray
Douglas Murray is associate editor of The Spectator and author of The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason, among other books.

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