Stunning successes for European extreme-Right and anti-immigrant parties, particularly in France and the Netherlands, have shocked mainstream political parties and led to a vigorous debate about what should be done.
Now, new research from the Institute of Race Relations challenges Tony Blair’s hypothesis that Social Democratic parties in Europe must isolate the extreme-Right by tackling its themes head on, and making immigration a central issue.
In The electoral extreme-Right – who gains?, the IRR examines the way immigration was treated in recent election campaigns in France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland, and reviews the start of electoral campaigning in the run-up to elections in Sweden and Germany. Case studies of these countries gives the lie to Blair’s argument and supports the warning from the German president, Gerhard Schröder, that there should be no appeasement or accommodation with extreme-Right views.
The IRR’s main findings are that:
- Making immigration a central issue benefits the extreme-Right and not Social Democratic parties. There is a direct correlation between the high percentage of the vote gained by the extreme-Right and the extent to which mainstream parties have prioritised immigration as a central electoral issue.
- Where mainstream political parties do not exploit the immigration issue, the extreme-Right and immigrant parties fail to register electorally.
- Although the extreme-Right gains from the increasingly hysterical debate about immigration, the ultimate winners are the centre-Right parties which pose as tough on immigration and crime and incorporate a watered-down version of the extreme-Right’s racist policies.