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European politics

Europe’s far right is weaker than we think

Vox supporters on election night last month. Denis Doyle/Getty

The British media are always talking up the spread of the far right in Europe, says Mary Dejevsky in The Independent. Before the Spanish election last month, pundits claimed the country could be about to embark on “a new flirtation with fascism”. In the event, the far-right Vox party lost more than a third of its seats. It’s long been the same in France, where practically every election for the past 30 years has come with dark warnings about the National Front (now the National Rally). This, despite the fact that when then party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen did finally reach the presidential run-off, in 2002, Jacques Chirac won “by an unprecedented margin”. And look at Italy, where Giorgia Meloni’s government has been “pragmatic” despite endless talk in the media about her party’s “neo-fascist roots”.

There’s “more than a hint of superiority” in all this – when Britain stood alone to defeat Nazism and fascism, “our continental cousins succumbed”. But it’s also down to the lack of a serious far-right party in the UK. British commentators don’t realise that Vox and the like all face the same problem: they only tend to get into power by sharing it with the mainstream right, making it “hard to meet the expectations they have raised”. What’s more, the fact that the far right did once prosper in Europe has more of a deterrent effect on today’s voters than outsiders think. We shouldn’t be complacent. But “we need to be more discriminating about when to cry ‘wolf’”.