Wednesday 13 December 2017

Comment: Control immigration and halt the far-right

Dutch politician Geert Wilders (Michael Probst/AP)
Dutch politician Geert Wilders (Michael Probst/AP)

Tim Stanley

Why is the long-haired nationalist Geert Wilders poised to do well in the Dutch elections? The Netherlands is a liberal country. The economy is strong. Crime is so low that the government has been renting out prison cells.

The answer has to be that the Dutch don't like mass migration. So if Europe wants to stop Mr Wilders, Ms Le Pen and their far-right gang, Europe is going to have to stop mass migration.

It actually makes perfect sense that all of this should come to a head in the hippie Netherlands: that's where the far-right journey began. At the turn of the millennium, a gay academic called Pim Fortuyn formed an anti-Islamic party that turned Dutch politics upside down. Like Mr Wilders, Mr Fortuyn did not oppose migration on biological, racist grounds but by arguing that the Muslim religion was too dogmatic to integrate into Western culture. In 2002, Mr Fortuyn was assassinated by a Dutch environmentalist who accused him of spreading hate.

Western fears about mass migration are not only about jobs. They are also about identity. To the left, all notions of racial or national identity are fraudulent and bigoted. But for many people, identity is a reality rooted in a sense of place and familiarity. When that's threatened, you get nationalism.

Is "Dutchness" really threatened by immigration? Well, the Dutch vastly overestimate how many of their countrymen are Muslim. Interviewed by Ipsos Mori, they put the proportion at 19pc. It's actually just 6pc.

But the election campaign that ends tomorrow has shown how easily questions of identity can eclipse reason. Mr Wilders has tapped into Dutch fears about large, concentrated populations of Muslims that have been bolstered by refugees - a story repeated in many EU nations.

In these countries, migration has reshaped politics. Globalisation was supposed to end this sort of thing. We were told that if we could all move freely then we would shrug off loyalties to where we were born.

Turns out that's not how human beings work. Instead we have nationalist politicians manipulating ethnic tensions.

Brexit was a little bit about identity. Mr Trump was quite a lot about identity. A Wilders victory would be entirely about identity.

People do not like mass migration but the West also needs it to survive. It comes with economic and cultural benefits. If centrist politicians want us to keep enjoying the rewards of immigration then, ironically, they are going to have to turn some immigrants away.

Failure to do that will drive voters ever further to the right. Too much liberty leads to fascism.

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