Yes, Britain is on the point of breaking up – but there are more ill winds blowing in Europe right now. The National Front is polling so strongly in France that Marine Le Pen would be president if an election was held tomorrow. And as I write, the populist Sweden Democrats seem to be the only real winners of the general election held there today.
As far as I can tell, this hasn’t been picked up by the English-language media yet – they’re focusing on the power transfer to the Social Democrats (this isn’t the same as a victory: a victory means you actually win more voters). What follows is from the Swedish TV and websites, so please forgive the dodgy translation.
The conservative Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, is out*: but we knew he would be. His party’s share of the vote is 7pc down from last year, to 23pc, a rather stunning collapse. But where has that 7pc gone? Not to his main rivals, the Social Democrats: they’re still on 31 per cent, as they were at the last general election – and that was one of their worst defeats for decades. This means Sweden is about to get a new Prime Minister (Stefan Löfven, below) who spectacularly failed to lift his party off the floor.
The only real gainer is the Sweden Democrats, who are (as I type) on 13pc of the vote, more than double the 5.8pc last time. All other parties in Sweden refuse to enter coalition with them (and were shocked enough that they got into parliament four years ago). But this has helped the Sweden Democrats play the insurgent card, saying the Stockholm “elite” is ganging up against them.
As for the other parties – they concentrated too much on denouncing the Sweden Democrats and not enough on addressing the concerns of their target voters. As one TV commentator put it, it’s all very well bemoaning racism but if a voter’s school suddenly takes in 100 kids who don’t speak Swedish then they’re going to have concerns. Who’s listening? In a lot of cases, the answer was the Sweden Democrats.
Åsa Romson, head of the Swedish Greens, has just said of the Sweden Democrats’ success:
“This means the main Swedish parties have failed. But we have been their polar opposite before, and we will continue to be polar opposites to all racists.”
Who are the Sweden Democrats?
They call themselves “Sweden’s only opposition party”, the implication being that the Stockholm elite is one indistinguishable blob of vested interest. Like UKIP, they say they are neither left or right. I’d put them closer to Maine Le Pen’s National Front in being anti-immigration and protectionist. Is Ms Romson fair to compare them to racists? There is no doubt that the Sweden Democrats have moved towards the mainstream in recent years and tried to address racism within their ranks. Their language is a mixture of Salmond/Farage-style anger at the elite and populism. The below tweet from a Swede is a fair point:-
Look at their video: below. It’s well-produced, quite funny – but with a message that you can recognise fairly quickly.
The narrator says that Sweden is taking its democracy for granted. It used to be famous for its healthcare and its social democracy.
“Instead we are top in the world for reported rape.”
I mention this because one of the commentators, below, has picked up on it: what demographic do we think is doing the raping? Eh? This isn’t a dog whistle that Britain’s two main nationalist parties (the SNP and UKIP) would dream of blowing. It’s closer to Marine Le Pen’s kind of politics.
But what unites these Scottish, UK and European nationalist parties is the strategy of posing as the insurgent, out to stand up for the people against a Westminster elite/Riksdag elite etc.
At 2’07, the Sweden Democrats’ video shows the EVIL ELITE in a limo and the narrator says:-
“We want to hit out against the elite who have let our society disintegrate for decades. They are to blame for the problems in our society… It is, therefore, no mystery that politicians want to be elected on the same policies which caused the problems in the first place… Their failed integration politics is solved by more mass immigration. And the problem of begging is solved by having even more people come here to beg.”
Then at 3’03, cut to a picture of a herd of cows…
“And the strangest thing of all: no matter what the other parties say, they still tend to think the same thing. Sometimes they think so similarly that they use the same campaign slogans.”
They accuse the other parties of changing their policies to suit the confected outrage of the Twitter elite in Soder (Stockholm’s equivalent of Islington). They (5.50, with the hard rock music) say they haven’t gone to political school, but worked out their policies from real life. At 6’32 they show a crowd with a placard saying “no to racism” and the narrator saying: “they’ll say anything to shut us up”. This, of course, is what the BNP said here: it almost relished the racism charges.
And were did this surge in Swedish Democrat support come from? Like UKIP, mostly from the conservatives but from a whole bunch of other parties too.
*10.23pm update: In his resignation address, Reinfeldt said
“It has been amazing to have been able to work with some of the most capable leaders that I think exist… Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Mark Rutte”.
This is a nod to what I have called Cameron’s Northern Alliance – Cameron/Merkel/Rutte/Reinfeldt. She may well be the only one of them standing this time next year.
Reinfeldt cut taxes and delivered growth in his first term, but chickened out in his second term and fought this election jumping to the left. And hoping that hugging his main enemy would save him. I do hope Cameron learns from his mistake.
THOSE RESULTS IN MORE DETAIL