There is a point when the political covenant between the governed and the governors in the liberal democracies of Europe breaks down. It has now come over the tangled and emotionally fraught issue of migration.
Pretty much everybody in Europe is happy with the idea of some migration, and it would be nice to help those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves persecuted in their country of origin.
As the former souvereignist French MEP, Paul-Marie Couteaux put it to me back in 2005 or so. “When you have a house, you do not nail all the windows shut, you leave a window open. Without some movement of air, it gets stuffy and is unhealthy for the occupants”. However he continued, “You do not leave all your windows and doors open, or the weather will destroy your house in no time”.
The problem is that, ever since Chancellor Merkel signaled open borders in 2015 it is no longer a case of a window open on the first floor. Today the doors are off their hinges, and there is no glass in any of the windows.
The first people who noticed the chill and the rain, as with everything, are the poor and the dispossessed of Europe. For it is they that see and experience the worst of mass inward migration. It is their communities that are changed without their permission or consent. They kick back as best they can, firstly through voting for what are termed extremist parties. They are deemed racists, they are denounced as bigots, euro-rednecks and worse.
But their votes are ignored. Good people, responsible people, people who do not walk in their shoes, people who have moral goodness coursing through their veins, respond by erecting ‘cordon sanitaires’ around their votes.
The European Parliament did just this towards the Independence and Democracy group in 2019. They threaten to have their political parties banned. The message is clear. They try to scapegoat countries like Hungary and Poland for policies rejecting mass immigration.
Things like Brexit happen. Across Europe we see the advance of the Finns party in Finland, the continued rise of the AfD in Germany, in Italy the government of Meloni – her deputy PM Salvini, being a victim of the EP’s cordon only 4 years ago – the populists becoming the second party in Sweden, the farmer’s movement in the Netherlands.
Still, good people denounce them. In the UK they do so in regard to setting up a programme of migrant return to Rwanda; in name only of course – political lawfare has destroyed the proposal – with Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, leading the charge against it in the EU.
And yet, and yet. Europe has chosen to do a deal with Tunisia, where reports of migrants being abused by the authorities are now causing shockwaves in Brussels. Its previous deal with Libya was denounced by the UN. Its investigators reported that, “trafficking, enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling of vulnerable migrants generated significant revenue for individuals, groups and State institutions, and incentivized the continuation of violations”.
But the Lampedusa crisis has changed everything, the European Right are now the new moderates. In 1553 Barbary pirates enslaved the island’s entire population, two centuries later it had one inhabitant.
The people of Italy and the island itself have a long, and fearful, memory. As from last month there are more African migrants there than there are native inhabitants. Europe has to respond, but how, while retaining a sense of moral superiority?
While Meloni was saying, “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!” in June last year she moved to the centre to curry favour with Brussels.
However she is now forced to suggest a military blockade of the Mediterranean as her move to the European centre has seen her own polling collapse.
What those who believe that the EU provides a counterweight to the lower class ghastliness will find it hard to believe is that Europe itself is contemplating supporting this vision. Italy, in the crosshairs of an unprecedented number arriving on its shores (129,000 this year so far), is at its wits end. The EU is doing deals with Tunisia, a country that palms migrants off and dumps them in the middle of the desert but it is not stopping the invasion.
Yet all the while, in the UK, Labour points to the EU as the honest broker when it comes to migration.
Today, “good people”, you know them, the morally better ones, do not know where to look. Centrist politicians just don’t know where to turn next.