Comment

Year of all the elections delivering surprises

Denis MacShane / Apr 2024

Photo: Shutterstock

 

The year of all the elections is not going according to plan. This year at least 64 elections with about half the world’s population going to the ballot box have happened or will take place. Not all are to confirm or change a government. 400 million European Union citizens will vote in June to elect 435 Members of the (European) Parliament.

Who they elect and what MEPs then decide will impact on all of the non-EU member states. Vladimir Putin was strongly re-elected in Russia. It may be difficult to admit but the election was not rigged, or voters forced at gun-point to vote for Putin. 

A real-life novel by Giuliano da Empoli Le mage du Krémlin now translated into English as The Wizard of the Kremlin is better than any of the tired denunciatory journalism on explaining why Putin established his rule over Russia. 

Many in the West deplore the slaughter of Palestinian children, women and pensioners as well as western aid workers in Gaza.  But most Israelis traumatized by the biggest wanton slaughter of Jews since the Nazi era are not raising much of a voice to support the kindly advice of bien-pensant experts in the US, the UK and EU that the time has come to lay down arms and talk with Hamas about the future of the tiny nation where Jews assumed – until October last year they would be safe from persecution, murder and exile.

On 31 March we had nationwide elections in Turkey. President Erdogan was always seen as never under any threat from voters. His slowly-slowly re-Islamisation of Turkey had led to the creation of 5,000 Imam Hatip upper schools for boys and girls aged 14 to 18. Erdogan says he want to create pious Turks with the Koran in one hand and a laptop in the other.  The 645,000 Imam Hatip students make up only 11 percent of the total upper school population but they receive a quarter of all school funding  - double the amount spent per pupil at mainstream schools.

All over the world right-wing politicians turn to religion to boost their appeal. Donald Trump can’t quite recall the words of the Lord’s Prayer but today Conservative MPs announce they will do Christianity in a big way when they go into opposition.

Israel is now governed by extremist rightist religious ministers and in India President Mohdi is seeking to impose the Hindutva ideology of supremacist Hinduism on India’s estimated 204 million Muslims.

Turkish voters are not quite ready to surrender their nation to clerisy however. Erdogan was handsomely trashed in his bastion city of Istanbul as well as the capital Ankara and other major population centres.

To be sure the elections were for mayors not MPs but the winning party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP in its Turkish acronym) is a secular social democratic party within the Party of Europe Socialists to which Britain’s Labour or Germany’s Social Democrats are also affiliated.

The BBC reporting of the Turkish election did not mention the centre-left orientation of the party that humiliated Erdogan but this is in line with the BBC giving up reporting European politics since Brexit kicked in. The BBC has a network of superb reporters who know Europe but the pro-Conservative management of the BBC follows the line Europe no longer matters to Britain. 

For every minute the British press and BBC has reported on elections in Europe or Turkey London journalists have offer hours on the US election.

Dumping on Trump is routine as if every American who voted for him in 2016 was politically lobotomised. This contempt for voters like the London liberal elites’ scorn for our home-grown “deplorables” who voted for Brexit damages politics.

London top-line political commentators have spent most of 2024 gravely announcing Joe Biden is senile and should step down. Yet his economic record with its growth, job creation, stock market strength and willingness to use Keynes rather than Hayek as his economic lodestar is in stark contrast to the failure of the Davos-EU elites represented by Ursula von der Leyen, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, and Giorgia Meloni  as well as Brexit British Tories like Rishi Sunak, or former PM Liz Truss that orthodox economic liberalism was the only model to follow.

For Sir Keir Starmer and his young future Chancellor Rachel Reeves, a junior British chess champion,  the re-election of Joe Biden is essential. The London commentariat tell each other that Biden should stand down but Gladstone was Prime Minister at 84 and Churchill at 80. The example of younger men like Macron or Scholz or Britain’s three Brexit PMs – Johnson, Truss and Sunak – is hardly evidence that much younger politicians are better than their elders.

The other elections the British commentariat keep getting wrong are the European ones. Almost every week Professor Matthew Goodwin a rightist ideologue obsessed with Muslim immigrants assures us in his scatter gun columns in the anti-immigrant press that Europe is heading for control by far-right nationalist identity anti-immigrant politicians.

He has plenty of clones in the French, German, Swiss, Spanish and Italian press where Muslim-phobia now has a strong hold on the political commentariat as did Jew-phobia in pre-1939 papers in Paris and London where the Daily Mail published the Chelsea address of the British Union of Blackshirts and urged its readers to sign up for the British Nazi party. 

Goodwin began in 2014 and 2015 when comment editors in the Financial Times and the Guardian ran his prophesies that the Europhobe Nigel Farage and the anti-Muslim supporters of his UKIP party would win a number of MP seats in the Commons thus launching UKIP as an important party of power. They won none.

Under proportional representation voting systems Professor Goodwin has more luck with his predictions in continental elections. Yet in Spain, Poland, the predicted swing to the right were rejected in recent election with Poland’s anti-EU, anti-women, anti-gay Law and Justice Party booted out of power after eight years. Geert Wilders, the racist Europe hating Dutch populist did win most votes – 23 per cent – in the Dutch election last year. But nearly 8 out of 10 voters repudiated him and he cannot form a government as all other Dutch politicians treat him as a political untouchable given his noxious views and his colossal self-important vanity.

If as predicted Britain turns away from the Tories – the only party in Europe that successfully led its country out of the EU’s partnership and common trae arrangements with 27 other neighbouring democracies  and elects a non Europhobe Labour government – it will be a remarkable repudiation of the Goodwin thesis (widely promulgated  to be fair by Britain’s monolingual left it should be noted) that the Trump-Tory-Le Pen populist xenophobic right was now in the political saddle in the democratic world.

 

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister of Europe and a Globalist contributing editor. His new book Labour Takes Power. The Denis MacShane Diaries 1997-2001 is published by Biteback.

 

Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane

April 2024

About this author ︎►

cartoonSlideImage

Erdogan

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

US Gladiators

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Scholz hacker

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Navalny

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Orbán Valentine

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Trump - Be Afraid

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Biden & Co

See the bigger picture ►

cartoonSlideImage

Orban and Ukraine

See the bigger picture ►

soundcloud-link-mpu1 rss-link-mpu soundcloud-link-mpu itunes-link-mpu