Testing times for Europe, as far right move closer to centre-stage

Barely a week gone, and 2015 has already not proved a good advertisement for European tolerance and multiculturalism. Mosques have been bombed in Sweden, in Dresden thousands of anti-immigrant marchers demand a halt the “Islamisation of the West”, and in Paris 12 die in the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Grist to the mill of the purveyors of hate. “When will Rutte and other western government leaders finally get the message: it’s war,” Dutch anti-Islamist Gert Wilders, currently up on incitement charges, railed on Wednesday. More fuel on the fire.

All reflect the same unhappy story of failed integration of Muslim communities into Europe and the poisonous effects of the growing gulf of misunderstanding and extremism opening up among both assimilees and assimilators. All raise the same difficult questions about how Europe’s mainstream parties should take on the challenges that are certain to arise.

2014 was a good year for the radical right. In the UK the rampant Ukip successfully drove its two big issues , immigration and “Brexit”, on to the political agenda with the desperate Tories rushing to embrace new curbs on migration and promises of “EU reform or else …”

Success in shaping the political agenda was rewarded by political success for poll-topping Ukip in the European Parliament elections last May, a success mirrored by that of Marine Le Pen’s Front National, which came out on top with 26 per cent – a historic score which has shaken the mainstream parties of left and right. Significantly, both have moved to toughen up their image on immigration.

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