Power Shift in Washington

Despite various possible legal and constitutional arguments, it seems obvious that Donald Trump has lost the 2020 election, but equally obvious that the result was far closer than pollsters and pundits predicted. From a racial nationalist standpoint, there are positive and negative lessons from these results.

On the positive side, White working class (in British terms) or middle class (in US terms) American voters have for the second successive presidential election defied political correctness and voted for a man who at least in terms of surface showmanship, seems to reject all of modern liberalism’s shibboleths.

Trump supporters in Nevada, where unlike in some other states the President’s fans were demanding that counting continue.

As in 2016, pollsters and journalists failed to pick up the extent of White Americans’ rejection of the ‘woke’ agenda. Ohio – long seen as a marginal ‘swing state’ and where most pollsters predicted a gain for Biden this year – remained solidly pro-Trump, who (with 90% of votes counted) looks to have won the state 53%-45% compared to a 52%-44% victory against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Examples of increasingly loyal pro-Trump areas include Clark County, Ohio, voting 57% for Trump in 2016 and 61% for Trump this year. Clark County (75% White) was once a strong manufacturing area, but industry has declined catastrophically in recent decades and it is now among the most depressed areas in America.

The state of West Virginia, where White workers were once reliable supporters of Democratic presidential candidates – voting 68% for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and even supporting losing Democratic candidates such as Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Michael Dukakis in 1988 – again strongly backed Trump with 68.5% in 2016 and 69% this year.

Some readers will remember the old National Alliance compound in Marlinton, West Virginia. This is part of Pocahontas County which backed Trump with 68% in 2016 and 69% this year. The new NA headquarters is even an even more pro-Trump area – Johnson County, Tennessee, voting 82% for Trump in 2016 and 83% this year!

Falls Church County, Virginia, where H&D editor Mark Cotterill once lived, is at the opposite political extreme, voting 76-13 in favour of Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 82-17 for Biden this year. The state of Virginia as a whole has shifted in the opposite direction to its West Virginia neighbour: once a ‘swing state’ that voted 62% for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and backed even losing Republican candidates George Bush (1992) and Bob Dole (1996), Virginia is now solidly behind the Democratic Party. This seems to reflect not only demographic change, with increasing numbers of black and Hispanic Virginians, but also a distaste for the modern Republican party among many younger, educated and fairly affluent White voters (especially young women) – although very wealthy Whites seem to have set aside their social liberalism and rewarded Trump for his tax cuts.

An unexpected aspect of racial politics this year involved Hispanic voters. While statisticians lump Hispanics together as a bloc, in reality they fall into two broadly opposed camps. This year Trump increased his support among strongly anti-communist Cuban immigrants (especially numerous in the crucial swing state of Florida) and some other conservative and/or Catholic Hispanics, who are alienated by the Democrats’ swing to the left, especially on social issues such as abortion. Though not himself noted for piety, Trump solidified his support among Christian conservatives by nominating Catholic legal scholar Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court a few weeks before the election.

While these Hispanics were repelled by the Democrats’ turn to the ‘left’ and more particularly by their obsession with feminism, ‘trans’ rights and general ‘wokeism’, a very different bloc of Hispanics is in the vanguard of semi-socialist politics. These voters backed leftwing challenger Bernie Sanders rather than Biden in the Democratic primaries, and were targeted by specialist sections of the Trump campaign using Facebook messaging etc. to persuade them that Biden was an establishment candidate who wasn’t worth backing.

Where Biden does seem to have improved on Clinton’s woeful campaign is among some White blue-collar workers who were persuaded to return to the Democratic fold. This was undoubtedly a factor in Biden recapturing two absolutely crucial states – Wisconsin and Michigan – by tiny margins. Equally if not more important is the long-term demographic change, with increasing numbers of Black voters tipping the balance in some states.

After he came down heavily on the side of ‘civil rights’ in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson confided to one of his closest aides that in doing so he had lost the South for the Democratic Party for a generation. Arguably this turned out to be two generations, but eventually (as Johnson implicitly predicted) increasing numbers of new black voters would compensate for the loss of White ex-Democrats.

Despite Trump slightly increasing his support among black voters (probably again concentrated among a small number of black Christian conservatives), the more important trend was the higher turnout of overwhelmingly pro-Biden blacks that helped offset support for Trump among ‘poor Whites’.

This (rather than over-hyped allegations of ‘fraud’) was the main reason why in states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, early Trump leads were whittled down as ballots from black-dominated areas of Philadelphia and Atlanta were added to vote totals. Emblematic of this trend was Gwinnett County, Georgia. This county was 90% White as recently as 1990, but Whites have recently slipped to minority status here: appropriately enough, Gwinnett County’s ballots were among the last to be completely counted this year and seem likely to confirm Biden’s winning path to the White House – due to demographics, not fraud.

None of this should surprise H&D readers. If anything, the surprise is that after months of black rioting, tearing down statues, looting, and open insults to traditional notions of civility and order – even after all this, many White voters effectively surrendered to the radical ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, either by voting for Biden or simply giving up on democratic politics.

Back in 1983 American Football fans at the University of Mississippi (known as Ole Miss) defied ‘anti-racist’ demands to stop flying the Confederate battle flag. In 2020 more than two-thirds of Mississippi voters backed a BLM-inspired move to change their state flag.

One clear example was in Mississippi, where 68% of voters backed a change to the state flag, removing the image of the old Confederate battle flag. In 2001 a similar initiative was rejected, but BLM-related campaigns had renewed pressure this year. Even while backing Trump by a 59-39% margin, Mississippi voters this year gave up the battle to retain their 126-year-old flag.

Trump’s defeat is not the end of White America, but it is the end of a particular variant of populist White resistance. The very fact that many Trump supporters (taking their cue from the President himself) were so quick to take refuge in impotent rage about ‘fraud’ indicates the futility of their conspiracist, paranoid political strategy. Trump spent much of his presidency tweeting about the evils of the political establishment – despite controlling both the White House and Senate. The sad truth is that Trump didn’t have much of a concrete agenda and leaves behind little concrete legacy aside from a conservative majority on the Supreme Court – and even that becomes less tangible the closer one examines the meaning of ‘conservatism’.

The President’s devotion to Israel won him little support among Jewish voters, 77% of whom backed his opponent Joe Biden. For all the campaign rhetoric, US policy in the Middle East will change very little under Biden – US-sponsored efforts to build bridges between Israel and Arab dictatorships will continue, with the ultimate objective of a de facto Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran. Just like Trump (but with less inflammatory tweeting) President Biden will seek a ‘tougher’ form of nuclear deal with Iran, though he might be more open than his predecessor to realistic voices in London, Paris and Berlin who favour something closer to the Obama-era deal with Tehran.

Donald Trump and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu formed an intimate political partnership: will Netanyahu follow his friend into oblivion?

Trump was a modest improvement on the 2001-2009, neocon-dominated Bush Administration. Yet from day one his senior appointments lacked quality, integrity or ideological backbone: the Reagan era was a halcyon age by contrast. While Reagan Republicanism was a long way from the ideological spectrum of H&D‘s readership, the Reagan White House included some pretty solid paleoconservatives, and even those who weren’t on our ideological wavelength were generally a class above their Trump-era counterparts.

As in the UK, the US political scene is marked by an obvious racial consciousness among White working/middle-class voters, but lack of a serious political infrastructure giving those voters a voice. Following Trump’s defeat, the Republican party establishment will seek to reassert control and ensure selection of a more ‘moderate’ presidential candidate in 2024. Trump himself was sui generis, and there is no new Pat Buchanan or Ron Paul on the horizon. Even at humbler levels of the political system, it’s difficult to find high-quality defenders of White America. So-called ‘right-wingers’ are more likely to be crank conspiracy theorists such as newly elected Republican Congresswomen Lauren Boebert (Colorado) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia), who support the frankly weird and amorphous ‘QAnon’ theory. One factor this year (which alert readers will have deduced from statistics quoted earlier) was the almost total disappearance of third party candidates. Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen was on the ballot in every state but generally polled only 1% compared to 3.3% for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in 2016.

Lib Dems drop mayoral candidate in ‘anti-semitism scandal’

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, Liberal Democrat candidate suspended over ‘anti-semitism’

The Liberal Democrats, struggling to hold on to their status as the UK’s third largest political party, have run into a storm over ‘anti-semitism’ as they attempt to select a candidate for next May’s London mayoral election to take on Labour’s Sadiq Khan, arguably the most powerful Muslim politician in the Western world.

London Lib Dem members were set to choose between two potential candidates in a postal ballot this month, but one of those candidates has today been suspended after discovery of a video from more than twenty years ago where she made an ‘anti-semitic’ attack on senior Labour politician Jack Straw.

Straw is an Anglican Christian of partly Jewish ancestry, who served in several prominent roles under Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, most famously as Foreign Secretary during the Iraq war.

At the 1997 general election Geeta Sidhu-Robb was the Conservative candidate against Straw in his Blackburn constituency. Malawi-born Ms Sidhu-Robb tried to stir up Pakistani voters in Blackburn’s Asian ghetto, telling them via megaphone: “Don’t vote for a Jew, Jack Straw is a Jew. If you vote for him, you’re voting for a Jew. Jews are the enemies of Muslims.”

As a committed Europhile, former corporate lawyer Sidhu-Robb later defected from the Tories to the anti-Brexit Lib Dems, and ended up on the shortlist to become London mayoral candidate, until her ‘anti-semitic’ record was discovered this week.

Watch Tory candidate (now Lib Dem) Geeta Sidhu-Robb making an ‘anti-semitic’ attack on Labour’s Jack Straw. (The relevant section of the video begins after a few seconds.)

What surprises H&D is that alarm bells hadn’t rung sooner among the Lib Dem leadership. It was reasonably well known during the Straw years that several Blackburn Tories encouraged antisemitic anti-Labour campaigns in Asian areas of Blackburn, and Ms Sidhu-Robb’s remarks were actually broadcast in a Channel 5 documentary more than 20 years ago!

Perhaps the Lib Dems were so pleased to tick three political boxes with Ms Sidhu-Robb – ex-Tory defector, non-White, and female – that they didn’t engage their brains. Moreover some concerned activists, including former mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita, have alleged that Ms Sidhu-Robb was being courted by the party because of her wealthy connections and her role in the anti-Brexit pressure group Open Britain and its new campaign ‘Democracy Unleashed’, formerly known as the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign.

Today Ms Sidhu-Robb issued a grovelling apology in an effort to save her rapidly sinking political career:
“I am deeply ashamed of the ignorant and abusive language I used on one occasion in the 1997 General Election campaign. As shown in the footage, I instantly regretted my appalling behaviour, which I continue to do.
“Those words are entirely inconsistent with my views and values, and though there are no excuses for my actions, there is some context; that is, that I was under a great deal of strain and retaliated to the racial abuse I was receiving in Blackburn ‘like for like’.”

Croatian election win for centre-right: mixed fortunes for populists/nationalists

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkoviċ (above centre) celebrates victory in this week’s election.

Although the final declarations in last Sunday’s Croatian elections have been delayed by recounts at two polling stations where suspected irregularities have been detected, the final outcome of a poll held under a D’Hondt type system (party lists in big multi-member constituencies) will not be affected by the small number of ballot papers to be recounted.

With more than 99% of the votes cast now counted, the big winner is the HDZ (English translation: the Croatian Democratic Union) which, in the days of President Franjo Tudjman might have been counted as a nationalist party, but has tacked to the centre over the years to please its friends in high places (notably Angela Merkel, of whose CDU party the HDZ is a close ally in the European parliament).  

Opinion polls put the HDZ and the Social Democratic Party (which is much further to the left of centre than its name suggests) running neck and neck, but in the event, the HDZ took 66 of the 151 seats in the Croatian Sabor or parliament, whereas the SDP and its gaggle of left-wing allies took 41, far short of expectations.

The populist campaign of nationalist folk-singer Miroslav Škoro led to his party winning sixteen seats, one more than polls had predicted.

The HDZ is seen as having had a good crisis, so to speak.  Croatia endured a very harsh but short-lived lockdown after a football fan imported Covid-19 on his return from a match in neighbouring Italy.  The Coronavirus was contained quickly, with far fewer deaths per capita than most European countries and a rapid return to normality just in time for the all important tourist season.  The HDZ led government has been given credit accordingly.  Its uninspiring but evidently persuasive “safety first” message “now is not the time to be indulging in political experiments” clearly resonated with the electorate.

Despite the HDZ’s strong showing, a national populist list led by folk singer Miroslav Škoro’s Domovinksi Pokret (Homeland Movement), formed in the aftermath of its leader’s surprisingly good result in the presidential elections six months ago, won sixteen seats in the Sabor, one more than the opinion polls had suggested was likely.

Since the DP has only been in existence for a few months, and is now the third party of Croatia, it is not surprising that Mr Škoro proclaimed himself delighted with the result.

Radical nationalist and war hero General Željko Glasnoviċ was narrowly defeated in his campaign for one of three seats elected by the Croatian diaspora.

Sadly, however, so strong was the surge for the HDZ that it was able, though only by a small margin, to unseat the very radical nationalist, retired General Željko Glasnoviċ, a hero of the country’s independence war of the early 1990s, who previously held one of the three seats reserved for the Croatian diaspora.  General Glasnoviċ stood as an independent, but was warmly endorsed by Mr Škoro.  He had good hopes of winning, and exit polls suggested that he would retain his seat, but it was not to be.

Another right of centre party, Most (“the Bridge”: Croatian political parties have a penchant for eccentric names) took eight seats, while the far left Možemo (“we can”, named after Podemos in Spain, which means precisely the same thing) took  seven, with smaller parties and representatives of Croatia’s ethnic minorities (for whom a number of seats are reserved in the Sabor) picking up the rest.

Croatia’s greens are divided into a right wing faction, which signed up to the DP led list and a left wing faction allied with Možemo, so their votes were aggregated with those of their allies (and seats allocated accordingly).

Echoing the German experience, where the AfD has more or less completely eclipsed the more radical NDP, Desna Liga (the League of the Right) a hard line nationalist list led by the self-styled “pocket rocket” Bruna Esih, the latest in a series of photogenic female nationalist leaders in Europe, polled very poorly, only its glamorous leader personally picking up a half way respectable vote.

Radical nationalist leader Bruna Esih (above right) allied with Karlo Starčević of the Croatian Party of Rights (above left) to present a joint list of candidates who ended up overshadowed by Miroslav Škoro’s party.

These elections took place under unusual circumstances, as Europe emerges from the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic.  It is tolerably clear that incumbents who are perceived as competent (not a label that attaches to our own dear prime minister!) have been strengthened at the expense of populist challengers, for example, the CDU as against the AfD in Germany, so the strong showing of the DP is all the more creditable.

With local elections next year, the DP seems to have a promising future ahead of it, while the Desna Liga needs to find ways to improve on a disappointing performance against a more high profile rival.

Croatian Election Results: latest update

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is celebrating victory in this week’s elections.

This week’s Croatian elections have resulted in a big win for the ruling HDZ, once seen as a ‘nationalist’ party but now part of the centre-right European mainstream.

Click here for a full analysis by H&D‘s Croatian correspondent.

Le Pen’s RN wins control of Perpignan

Louis Aliot, RN winner in the Mediterranean city of Perpignan

For the first time since 2001, the main French nationalist and anti-immigration party has won control of a city with a population of more than 100,000. (click here for detailed results)

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) won Sunday’s second-round election in Perpignan, a city of 120,000 inhabitants on the Mediterranean coast, very close to the French border with Spain. Under its previous name National Front (FN) – led by Mme Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen – the party controlled the slightly larger city of Toulon from 1997 to 2001.

Today was the second round in local elections across France, long delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic since the first round in March.

French local elections are carried out over two rounds, with voters choosing among party lists: the head of the winning list becomes mayor. The 35,000 local councils involved range from tiny villages to enormous cities, three of which (Paris, Lyon and Marseille) are also broken down into districts known as arrondissements with their own councils.

In Perpignan the RN slate headed by Louis Aliot defeated an alliance of conservative parties in the second round. Various defeated leftist, centrist and green parties had been knocked out in the first round and tried to urge their voters to back the conservatives to block the ‘fascist’ RN.

The half-Jewish M. Aliot was a leading official of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s FN, and is a Vice-President of the RN under Marine Le Pen. He had been a regional councillor in the Pyrénées-Orientales département (whose capital is Perpignan) since 2010.

Ludovic Pajot (above right) 26-year-old newly elected RN mayor of Bruay-la-Buissière

In other early results, the FN retained control of the northern town of Hénin-Beaumont and gained nearby Bruay-la-Buissière. Both are former coal mining towns of about 25,000 inhabitants, and are part of the Pas de Calais region that has become the main power base for Marine Le Pen.H&D will report on the full results tomorrow and analyse the implications for Mme Le Pen’s chances of eventually taking power in France.

A more detailed H&D analysis of the French elections is online here

Meanwhile today also saw the first round of Poland’s presidential election, where the populist-conservative incumbent President Andrzej Duda has qualified for the second round run-off, with exit polls showing he has won 41.8% of the vote against the pro-EU, centre-right candidate Rafał Trzaskowski.

A so-called ‘far right’ presidential candidate Krzysztof Bosak seems to have polled just over 7%. He represented a coalition of right-wing parties, some of which are relatively pro-Moscow.

Mixed results for RN in French elections

For the 2020 local elections the anti-immigration RN headed by Marine Le Pen (above right) formed joint slates with the much smaller eurosceptic party headed by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (above left)

On Sunday 28th June French local government elections held their decisive second round, postponed for more than three months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

These elections were for more than 35,000 communes across France, ranging from tiny villages to giant cities. The three largest cities (Paris, Lyon and Marseilles) also elect councillors and mayors in their various districts known as arrondissements. There are also regional councils known as départements, but these departmental elections (once known as cantonal elections) are held separately from the communes – most recently in 2015, and next due in 2021.

Similarly the mayors and councillors in the communes are elected to six-year terms, so the positions elected on Sunday were last elected in 2014.

In those days Marine Le Pen’s party was called the Front National (National Front – FN); it was renamed Rassemblement National (National Rally – RN) in 2018.

Six years ago the FN won 1,438 councillors spread across 463 communes. After this week’s second round the RN’s councillor total was down to 840, spread across 258 communes.

Despite this patchy performance, one headline result was very positive news for Marine Le Pen. Louis Aliot (who was Mme Le Pen’s domestic partner for a decade until last year) is the new Mayor of Perpignan, after his RN slate won the second round with 53.1% against 46.9% for his conservative opponent.

This is the first time in almost twenty years that the RN or FN has controlled a city with a population of more than 100,000. From 1997 to 2001 the FN controlled Toulon, a slightly larger city further along the Mediterranean coast.

Steeve Briois (above left) was re-elected Mayor of the RN stronghold Hénin-Beaumont after the first round of local elections in March

Aside from Perpignan, the other communes won by the RN this year are relatively small towns. Six of these had already been won on the first round in March, by the RN polling more than 50%.

All of these were communes that the FN/RN had already controlled since 2014:

  • the Mediterranean port of Fréjus; first round RN vote 50.6%, population 52,672
  • the Avignon suburb of Le Pontet; first round RN vote 57.2%, population 17,530
  • Beaucaire, a small town in the Rhône Valley ten miles south-west of Avignon; first round RN vote 59.5%, population 15,963
  • Villers-Cotterêts, a small town fifty miles north of Paris; first round RN vote 53.5%, population 10,872
  • Hayange, an ancient iron manufacturing town in the Lorraine region close to the Franco-German border; first round RN vote 63.1%, population 15,811
  • Hénin-Beaumont, a former coal mining town in the Pas de Calais region of northern France, and now the strongest nationalist area of France – very much the heartland of Marine Le Pen’s brand of populist nationalism; first round RN vote 74.2%, population 26,022

The three communes gained by the RN after Sunday’s second round were:

  • Perpignan, a city on the Mediterranean coast, very close to the Franco-Spanish border; RN second round vote 53.1%, population 120,158
  • Moissac, a small town in the Occitania region of southern France; RN second round vote 62.5%, population 13,039
  • Bruay-la-Buissière, a former coal mining town in the Pas de Calais, close to the existing RN stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont; RN second round vote 52.0%, population 21,831.

The bigger picture of last Sunday’s elections was a historically unprecedented win for the French green party EELV who gained control of several important cities including Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Besançon.

Stéphane Ravier, previously Mayor of a Marseilles arrondissement, was one of the RN’s high-profile defeats in Sunday’s second round, beaten by a conservative slate by a very tight 51-49 margin.

A joint slate of Greens, Communists and Socialists became the largest party grouping in Marseille, winning 38.3% in the second round ahead of a conservative coalition on 30.8%, the RN on 20.3%, and assorted dissident leftist and dissident conservative slates making up the remaining 10.2%.

After negotiations later this week a Green mayor is likely to take power in Marseille. The bad news for Marine Le Pen’s RN is that by a very tight margin their candidate Stéphane Ravier lost the mayoralty of the 13th-14th arrondissement of Marseilles. Under the old FN label he had won the mayoralty of the old 7th arrondissement in 2014 and had controlled the new 13th-14th after boundary changes in 2017.

On the bright side, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party suffered numerous defeats across the country. Opinion polls still suggest that the most likely second round in the next presidential election in 2022 will be between Macron and Marine Le Pen – and that Macron would again win such a contest, though by a closer margin than in 2017.

However Macron’s authority is steadily dribbling away. The challenge for Marine Le Pen’s party will now be to make a success of running Perpignan, make further gains in next year’s regional elections; and achieve the difficult balance between reassuring ‘mainstream’ voters that the nationalist right can be trusted, without disillusioning traditional nationalists whose support is still required to provide an activist base.

The danger is that purging ‘hardliners’ leads to an exodus of local government candidates and other activists, without inspiring an influx of new blood. Floating voters are all very well, but any party also needs a solid base of committed supporters.

Not much to celebrate: Macron in London for De Gaulle anniversary as French local elections approach

While many Britons still in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis tend to think France has by comparison done quite well, the French themselves increasingly despair of President Emmanuel Macron.

This neo-Blairite ‘centrist’ poseur was once a media favourite, but as with his Canadian equivalent Justin Trudeau, even the docile press have started to perceive his essential shallowness. Fine words about national unity sound increasingly fatuous when, as in the last few days, a city such as Dijon is gripped by race war between Chechen and Algerian gangs.

Gen. Charles de Gaulle (far right) in 1941 with (left to right) Polish exile Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski; Canadian Corps commander Gen. Andrew McNaughton; and Winston Churchill – who was later alleged to have ordered Sikorski’s assassionation (see articles in the two most recent editions of H&D).

This weekend Macron is in London for celebrations to mark the 80th anniversary of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s declaration in 1940 that rallied a minority of Frenchmen in an anti-German alliance with Winston Churchill’s British Empire.

(Presumably statues of these ‘racist colonialists’ will be protected for long enough to avoid embarrassment!)

Meanwhile France is preparing for the long-delayed second round of municipal elections being held in most of the country in nine days time (28th June). The first round was held way back on 15th March, but the second had to be postponed for three months due to the Covid-19 crisis.

These elections are in 35,000 communes across France, ranging from tiny villages to big cities. The three biggest cities – Paris, Lyon and Marseille – also have elections for arrondissements, roughly the equivalent of London boroughs, as well as city-wide councils.

Those communes with more than 1,000 electors vote on a two-round party list system, with the head of the winning list becoming mayor. To qualify for the second round a party list must poll above 10% in the first, but parties polling above 5% can negotiate to merge their lists with larger parties in advance of the second round, allowing many opportunities for horse-trading.

Serge Federbusch, the half-Hungarian, half-Algerian Jewish mayoral candidate in Paris for Marine Le Pen’s ‘far right’ National Rally (RN)

So in Paris for example, the incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo looks certain to win after striking a deal with the Greens to form a joint second round slate. The conservative slate in the French capital is headed by Rachida Dati, a half Moroccan, half-Algerian woman who once served as a spokesman and minister for ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy. This conservative slate is headed for second place, while Macron’s ‘centrist’ slate, headed by yet another woman, is in third.

Greens polled very well across the country during the first round contests in March, which were also notable for very low turnouts due to both Covid-19 and general political disillusionment. For whatever reason these low turnouts seem to have contributed to quite poor results for the main French nationalist party, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN – formerly the National Front) as well as for the far left.

Le Pen’s RN – which traditionally struggles in these local elections because the two round system doesn’t suit ‘extremist’ parties – has been reduced to a small number of strongholds such as Hénin-Beaumont in the far north Pas de Calais region.

Despite forming a joint slate with the eurosceptic party Debout la France, the RN managed only 8,114 first round votes (1.5%) across the whole of Paris, where its mayoral candidate was ex-socialist Serge Federbusch, son of Hungarian and Algerian-Jewish communists. This was down from 42,560 votes (6.3%) in 2014.

However the good news for Le Pen (and perhaps also for the struggling President Macron) is that the conservative right is also failing. For example, the incumbent conservatives were beaten into second place by a green-socialist slate in Marseille.

Le Pen’s RN slate finished third in Marseille with 19.4% (having been runner-up with 23.2% at the previous elections in 2014), but whereas the greens, socialists, communists and all but one of the ultra-leftist factions have united for the second round, the conservatives still regard Le Pen’s movement as ‘beyond the pale’, so they will continue to oppose each other.

So long as there is no ‘mainstream’ conservative revival, Marine Le Pen is likely to qualify for the run-off in the next presidential election, either against Macron or some sort of socialist.

Marion Maréchal – niece of Marine Le Pen and granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen – might be the future of French nationalism.

One remaining question is whether Macron will run his full presidential term until 2022, or choose to call a ‘snap’ election this year and seek a fresh mandate post-Covid. Despite his unpopularity, this might prove his best bet due to a divided opposition, but the question then would be whether this election (in 2020 or 2022) is Marine Le Pen’s last shot.

The RN leader has made a lot of enemies with her efforts to purge the RN of traditional nationalist themes. An example of this could be seen this week, as Marine Le Pen sought in vain to be included in the ranks of mainstream politicians paying tribute to De Gaulle.

The next presidential campaign will be her third. Will she be allowed a fourth? Or will French nationalism once again head for realignment under a new leader, perhaps Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal?

Slovak national-socialists gain seats

Slovak national socialist leader Marian Kotleba, whose party L’SNS gained seats in yesterday’s general election

The Slovak national socialist party People’s Party – Our Slovakia (L’SNS) led by Marian Kotleba gained three extra MPs in yesterday’s general election and is now the joint-third largest party in the Slovak Parliament with 17 seats.

Meanwhile the more ‘moderate’ Slovak National Party, which at the previous election in 2016 was slightly larger than L’SNS, was wiped out yesterday, falling from 8.6% to 3.2% and losing all of its 15 seats.

L’SNS polled exactly the same vote as four years ago, 8.0%, but it seems likely that a large slice of the former Slovak National Party vote went to a populist conservative party called ‘Ordinary People’, who were the big winners yesterday on an anti-corruption platform.

‘Ordinary People’ seems to be somewhere between the populist nationalism of Victor Orban and the more amorphous protest vote party typified by Italy’s Five Star Movement. Its leader has already said he will be prepared to enter coalition talks with any party except for the defeated government party – the corrupt socialists – and the beyond-the-pale ‘nazis’ of L’SNS.

In practice this means some sort of deal with the anti-immigration party ‘We are Family’, who have 17 seats, and with a libertarian, eurosceptic party ‘Freedom and Solidarity’ with 13 seats. The pro-EU liberal alliance ‘For the People’ backed by Slovakia’s president Zuzana Čaputová (who won a resounding victory hailed by the world’s liberal media as recently as 2019) was in sixth place with 12 seats, so would not be able to reach a working majority in alliance with ‘Ordinary People’.

UKIP fast disappearing, while populist independent wins by-election

A populist independent – boxing coach Ken Dobson – won a Manchester City Council by-election this week in Clayton & Openshaw, just west of the city centre. Mr Dobson becomes one of only four non-Labour members among 96 city councillors.

Independent Dobson won a majority of 108 over Labour’s African candidate. The Lib Dems also put up an African, and the Tory was Asian – so Mr Dobson and the Green were the only White candidates.

This Manchester upset contrasted with miserable results for two other ‘protest vote’ candidates yesterday.

UKIP’s Geoff Courtenay (above right) welcomes then party leader Richard Braine to a Hillingdon branch meeting

UKIP’s Geoff Courtenay polled only 16 (sixteen) votes (0.8%) in Hillingdon East ward, Hillingdon. He is an experienced UKIP candidate, and in fact stood here at the General Election against Prime Minister Boris Johnson last December. And this is a ward where UKIP polled 19.3% in 2014.

One really must wonder how long UKIP will carry on. Perhaps it will linger in the manner of the Social Democratic Party that was dissolved in 1988, but which kept going under the same name but a different structure under former Foreign Secretary Dr David Owen. Even this SDP was closed down in 1990, but a tiny band of supporters keep up the name to this day. Similarly, occasional eccentrics might still stand as UKIP candidates in future, though even that will require someone to keep filling in the forms and sending in accounts to the Electoral Commission, so total extinction within the next year or two might be more likely.

Former councillor Brian Silvester

Meanwhile an ex-UKIP councillor and frequent purveyor of social media outrage, Brian Silvester, was bottom of the poll with 34 votes (2.2%) as an independent candidate for Crewe South ward, Cheshire East. UKIP polled 14.8% in this ward in 2015. Since leaving UKIP, ex-Cllr Silvester spent a couple of years as a prominent ally of Anne Marie Waters in her For Britain Movement, then left to support the Brexit Party last summer.

Taken together, this week’s local government by-elections demonstrate both the continuing demand for a radical populist alternative to the established parties, and the continuing absence of a mass party answering that demand.

Sinn Féin wins Irish election and seeks far-left coalition

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (above centre), the big winner of last week’s Irish general election, with IRA godfathers Gerry Adams and the late Martin McGuinness

Sinn Féin – political wing of the terrorist IRA – has emerged as largest single-party from the Irish general election, and is now trying to forge a coalition with two leftwing partners – the Greens and the ultra-left party People Before Profit (whose origins in the Socialist Workers Party). It’s not yet clear whether PBP will bring along the other far left parties with whom it formed a joint slate in last week’s elections.

Between them Sinn Féin, the Greens and the far left have 54 members in the new Irish Parliament. While 80 seats are needed for an overall majority, Sinn Féin hope that the remaining parties and independents would be so divided among themselves that this block of 54 could be the core of a new governing coalition. Yet a stable government would surely depend on an agreement with Fianna Fáil, the party that grew out of the anti-treaty IRA in the 1922-23 Irish Civil War, but which has usually distanced itself from the Provisional IRA and its political front in recent years.

Fianna Fáil’s 37 MPs (excluding the Speaker) would give a Sinn Féin domnated coalition with the Greens and far left a total of 91 seats – a comfortable working majority – but reaching agreement ought to be tricky, given that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had pledged during the election campaign not to work with Sinn Féin.

The two old establishment parties – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – have 72 seats between them, but an ‘old gang’ coalition of this sort might seem like a kick in the teeth for voters who clearly opted for change.

Many non-Irish readers might be mystified by the failure of Fine Gael leader and outgoing prime minister Leo Varadkar, whose apparent triumph in last year’s Brexit negotiations with Boris Johnson seemed to bring the destruction of the Union, and Dublin’s dream of a ‘United Ireland’ closer than ever.

Outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (above right) seemed to have triumphed in Brexit negotiations with Boris Johnson, but has been decisively rejected by Irish voters.

Yet back home Varadkar was facing some of the same troubles that beset the former UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Ireland is no longer seen by the Irish as having benefited from an ‘economic miracle’. As in London, there is a housing crisis for young people, but again as in London most young voters have in response opted for the far left, choosing to ignore the parallel crises caused by mass immigration that has made Dublin unrecognisable in recent years.

Sinn Féin, which once played an ambiguous role, posing to European leftists as a socialist revolutionary movement, while presenting itself to the Irish diaspora in the USA as a traditional nationalist party sharing their social conservatism, has now reinvented itself inambiguously as a socially liberal party, ticking all the correct trendy boxes, though still unapologetic – indeed proud – of the IRA’s bloody record of murder and mayhem.

As with many such populist insurgencies, government might prove a trickier business than rhetorical opposition, and we have yet to see precisely how the new coalition will stack up a governing majority.

Meanwhile the rival populists of the conservative/eurosceptic right almost all failed: click here for details.

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