John Derbyshire On Hungary, France, And Britain: “Putinism,” Patriotism, And Populism
Mixed news from across the pond for Dissident Right types.
The big downer: the decision by the government of Hungary to ban Richard Spencer’s conference, scheduled for October 3rd-5th in Budapest.
(In fact, on October 3, Richard was actually taken into custody by the Hungarian police—an atrocity that, as I write this on Saturday afternoon, does not yet seem to have made it into the Main Stream Media here in the Land Of The Free.)
Richard is an occasional VDARE.com contributor, former editor of Taki’s Magazine and founder of AltRight.com, now president of the National Policy Institute, a white-identity think-tank, and Editor of its journal, RADIX. I have shared platforms with Richard on a number of occasions over the years, and shall be doing so again at the H.L. Mencken Club bash this coming October 31st weekend. (It’s not too late to register!)
The Budapest conference, titled “The Future of Europe: Its Culture, People, And Civilization,” was outlawed by Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Fidesz party.
Fidesz is variously described as “center-right,” “populist,” “far right,” or “Putinist.” Whatever it is, the party’s leader apparently thinks it outrageous that people would want to gather peacefully to discuss Europe’s future.
Hence the ban, to which Spencer responded by reorganizing the conference as a private gathering.
“It’s true that the government’s actions are going to make our meeting a little more inconvenient than it otherwise would be. But life is full of such challenges,” Mr. Spencer said.
[Hungary Bans Conference by U.S. Group It Calls ‘Racist,’ by Margit Feher, Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2014]
I commend Richard for his cheerfully philosophical approach. But the underlying issue, after the harassment of the American Renaissance conferences here in the U.S. (also ignored by the MSM) is very grave.
These are the party’s first Senate seats, although in past years they have held seats in the Assembly, France’s lower chamber, where they currently hold one and a half. (Lawyer Gilbert Collard votes with the FN, while being a member of another French right party.) Sunday’s victory comes after the National Front’s sensational success in elections to the European Parliament this May, where they took a plurality—24 of France’s 74 seats.
One of these two newly-elected senators, David Rachline, is just 26 years old, the youngest person ever to be voted into the chamber under the constitution of the Fifth Republic (which began in 1958). The other, Stéphane Ravier, is a comparatively grizzled 45. There is nothing fogeyish about today’s dissident conservatism.
Things are getting interesting in the run-up to next spring’s UK general election. With no offense at all to the Hungarians and the French, Britain is anyway more interesting to Americans because of the Thatcher-Reagan effect—political trends in the two cousin nations travelling roughly in sync.
It has been conference season over there. The House of Commons adjourns for a month in mid-September so that the members can attend their parties’ annual conferences.
This year’s conference schedule was:
- Labour: September 21-24 in Manchester.
- UKIP: September 26-27 in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
- Conservative: September 28-October1 in Birmingham.
(The Liberal Democrats, currently the third party in the House of Commons, jumped the gun by holding their conference in August, in Glasgow, Scotland. This may have been something to do with the September 18th referendum on Scottish independence, I don’t know. I can’t work up much interest in the Lib Dems. Neither, to judge from poll figures, can the British electorate.)
The UKIP conference, although the shortest, was undoubtedly the most fun to watch. The party leader, Nigel Farage, seems at first glance to have escaped from a Monty Python sketch. When he speaks, however, he is frank, cogent, and patriotic. Brenda Walker reported for us on his interview at the Daily Caller: listen for yourself.
Farage broke off his conference speech on Saturday to introduce the latest defector to UKIP from the Conservative Party. This was Mark Reckless, Conservative Member of Parliament for an outer commuter suburb of London, who announced his defection right there on the conference platform.
The crowd of course went wild. When they had calmed down some, Reckless spoke to the reasons for his defection. Immigration was right up front, and he addressed the topic in forthright terms.
Let me return to those promises that I made to [my voters]. I, like every Conservative candidate across the country at the 2010 election, promised that we would cut net immigration from hundreds of thousands every year to just tens of thousands. Yet the reality is that 243,000 more people came to our country last year than left—back up to the levels we saw under Labour.
Now, I’m not someone who is always and everywhere against immigration. It takes energy and guts to cross half the world to try and find a better future for yourself and your family. And I believe in a sensible amount of legal, controlled migration.
But if we are to ask my constituents, and constituents across the country, to support some immigration, then in return they need to believe and understand that we have control over who comes to our country and in what numbers; and at the moment we do not have any sense of that. [Applause.]
The insanity of our immigration rules means that a second-generation Briton wanting to bring granny over for a wedding—still less if they want to get married to someone from abroad themselves—will face huge difficulties, yet they will see an open door to immigration to anyone from the European Union. [Applause.]
Now does anyone, left or right, genuinely support an immigration system where we turn away the best and brightest from our Commonwealth, people with links and family here, in order to make room for unskilled immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. [Applause.]
I promise to cut immigration while treating people fairly and humanely. I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative; I can keep it as UKIP. [Applause.]
Well, it’s not the call for a complete moratorium that many would like to hear. Islam was not mentioned, either. That “best and brightest” has a suspiciously Zuckerbergish sound to American ears. And the appeal to the Commonwealth would have been heard in different ways by different audience members: to the over-fifties in Britain it brings to mind white Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders, while the younger set is more likely to think of Nigerians and Pakistanis.
In the context of what may be said at the conference of a credible political party, though, Reckless was pushing the envelope. His words were a refreshing contrast to the futile arm-waving of the Conservatives and the immigration boosterism of Labour.
Mark Reckless resigned his seat in Parliament following his decision to defect. This was not constitutionally required of him, but it is expected under the circumstances as the decent thing to do. His constituency now having no sitting member, a special election will be held, probably in early November. Reckless’ Labour opponent will be Naushabah Khan, a London PR executive. A Conservative replacement candidate has not yet been named.
The election will not be a foregone conclusion. The constituency has not been much afflicted with mass immigration; UKIP has not previously fielded a candidate there; and local Conservative Party members are angry with Reckless. He could easily lose—perhaps to Labour’s Ms. Khan, thereby reminding Conservatives nationwide of the hazards of splitting the vote.
Reckless is the second Conservative candidate to defect to UKIP. The first, Douglas Carswell, switched on August 28th. Like Reckless, he resigned his seat. The special election for it will be held next Thursday, October 9th. Carswell, who is locally very popular, is odds-on favorite to win, thereby becoming UKIP’s first Member of Parliament. (The party has 24 seats in the European Parliament.)
The defections have brought forth some odd reactions from Conservative politicians. London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is intelligent and ambitious, but the kind of pol journalists call “colorful”—i.e. slightly nuts—told the audience at this week’s conference that Conservatives who defect to UKIP are types who like to engage sexually with vacuum cleaners.
Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has preferred to concentrate on the dimensions of Mark Reckless’ heinie. He told one group of conference attendees that party volunteers had “knocked on doors, stuffed envelopes, licked stamps to get his fat arse on the [House of] Commons benches, and this is how he repays them.”
To a different group he argued that if Reckless had “got off his fat arse and worked harder he wouldn’t have to defect to UKIP to save his skin.”
Labour politicians have not been forthcoming with references to anatomy or sexual pathology, but they are undoubtedly just as worried as the Tories. Nigel Farage made the point in his conference speech, using poll numbers from, among other places, Rotherham to support his case, that UKIP can take votes from both Conservative and Labour.
Plainly, UKIP has the big parties running scared. And it could indeed be a major spoiler. It’s not likely they could actually win next spring’s general election, though. For all the news they are making, and for all the enthusiasm on display at last weekend’s UKIP conference, they are polling only at 15 percent nationwide. (This is more than looks, however, in the present fractured state of British politics: the two big parties generally poll in the 30s).
As those poll numbers show, the paradox of populism is that it is not actually very popular. In mature democracies people like their big old familiar parties, the ones their parents voted for. They seek a certain gravitas, a dull predictability, in their politicians. New parties come across as amateurish and unserious.
Of course, this is unfair. At the grass-roots level—I speak as a former Conservative Party member who regularly attended constituency meetings in central London—every political party contains a fair proportion of lunatics. There was a fuss last year when an unnamed senior Conservative referred to his own party activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons.” [Ukip sees surge in interest after Tory brands activists swivel-eyed loons, By Rowena Mason, Telegraph, May 19, 2013] The remark was injudicious, of course; but it returned an echo from the bosom of anyone who has spent much time in politics.
Nigel Farage is a serious man leading a serious party—a party that knows how to speak in terms other than the cold economism of Labourites and Conservatives. Patriotic immigration reformers on this side of the Atlantic should hope for his success in these coming special elections, and in next year’s general.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.
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