European Right are looking good for government

Meloni, part of Europe's new respectable Right (Brothers of Italy) political party for the upcoming European elections, at Piazza Del Popolo, on June 1, 2024 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)


Writing from a distance, the three principal lessons of the European elections on June 9 are that the former bêtes noires of the untouchable political right have successfully met the system halfway; the general direction of Europe remains substantially unaltered even though the long-invincible founding elements have lost almost all their tail feathers in a light scorching; and Europe has rebuked the greens and will not pay the heavy invoices for their militant green offensive.

The principal parties of the right, long deemed somewhat reactionary and dismissed even this election evening by French President Macron as “nationalist demagogues,” have gained ground, partially by moderating their messages and partially by benefiting from greater general toleration, and they are no longer ineligible for government.

It must be said that it was astonishing to see the former National Front in France, which was outvoted four to one in the second round of the presidential election by Jacques Chirac in 2002, bring in on Sunday more than twice the vote of the party of President Macron.

Of course, Marine Le Pen now bears little political resemblance to her father, the founder of the National Front, whom she expelled from the party. But she appears to be following the pattern set by François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, of winning the presidency of France on the third try.

It is a reassuring sign of political maturation generally, that the French Right would move appreciably toward the centre and that the French centre would become substantially more accommodating.

It is also interesting that President Macron responded so swiftly and decisively to the sharp rejection of his own party, by dissolving the National Assembly for new elections in just three weeks. President Macron founded a new party and astonishingly led it to victory in his first attempt at electoral politics at the age of 39 in 2017, but in the tradition of the French Fifth Republic, he has made no effort to establish a genuine party organization throughout the country and at the grassroots, and its only strength is its leader and founder.

In this, he was emulating the founder of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle, who took little interest in the political formations that arose to support him. French political parties frequently change their names, entirely shift their perspective, or vanish altogether.

In calling for new legislative elections, Macron is effectively forcing Le Pen to come out of the shadows and if elected prime minister, to show her mettle and enjoyed her political honeymoon with Macron still in the presidency and not making her life easier in the next three years. This is assuming that she wins the parliamentary elections; if she does not, the president will have blunted her momentum well ahead of the next presidential election.

Even farther ahead in this development is Italy, where prime minister Giorgia Meloni put her own name at the head of her Brothers of Italy party in every region. She led it to a much narrower victory in the European elections than Le Pen enjoyed in France, and the principal question arising from Sunday’s events, apart from the results of the French election, will be whether the Italian premier sides with the Euro-establishment under Commission president Ursula von der Leyen or joins with the Conservative and Reform group which made significant gains and where Le Pen’s partisans will sit.

Whichever she chooses, Premier Meloni has played her hand skilfully and has importantly contributed both to the increased flexibility of the European centre and the increased respectability of the new European Right.

The rebuke of the Greens is something that almost everybody can celebrate. The defeat of the international Left in the Cold War caused it, in an act of improvisation that few would have suspected the Left to be capable of, to clamber aboard the environmental bandwagon that had up to then been inhabited by authentic if sometimes tedious conservationists, such as Greenpeace.

They transformed it into a battering ram to assault capitalism from a new perspective, in the name of saving the planet. Naturally, this movement has been ignored and regarded with contempt and astonishment everywhere, including the chief polluting countries, China, India, and Russia, except in the Western world, and particularly Western Europe.

There does appear to be a very gradual warming trend, but nothing outside the historic cycles of weather fluctuations, and absolutely nothing to justify the strident Green demands for essentially a shutdown of our principal and most efficient source of energy with a war on oil and natural gas.

The Green extremists have done a good deal of damage to the European economy and have been particularly damaging in Germany and have largely reduced that country to being an energy vassal state of Russia. That they are being rebuffed in Western Europe, as they are in the United States, is an entirely positive development.

The move to the right has been very discernible in the Netherlands, Austria, and in Germany where the Alternative for Germany Party has come in second, two points ahead of the governing Social Democrats. If that party can continue to strengthen its credentials as a moderate and not extreme conservative party, Germany could have a lengthy period of responsible conservative government such as occurred under Konrad Adenauer and, to a considerable extent, Helmut Kohl.

The old Communist Linke is now down to under three percent and the Social Democrats, so powerful under Willi Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, and even Gerhard Schroeder, came in on Sunday at under 14 percent. Europe and the world are waiting for Germany to develop the self-confidence to act responsibly as Europe’s leading power. On Sunday we perhaps saw a significant step in that direction.