As most of Europe goes far-right, the UK swings left — but not completely

HomeWorld NewsAs most of Europe goes far-right, the UK swings left — but not completely

While Britain has swung left, across Europe, far-right parties have gained ground over more liberal, centrist opponents, exemplified by recent EU Parliament elections. This shift has sparked concerns that mainstream parties are abandoning the post-WWII principle of no collaboration with fascists, widening the political space for neo-fascism.

Profile imageBy Vijay Anand   July 5, 2024, 3:53:08 AM IST (Updated)

As most of Europe goes far-right, the UK swings left — but not completely

Over the past few years, a trend has emerged in Europe — far-right parties gaining the popular vote over their more liberal, centrist, or moderate opponents. This was most recently exemplified by the recent elections to the European Parliament, which took a shift to the right with more Eurosceptic nationalists and fewer mainstream liberals and Greens.

Even in the UK General Election, Nigel Farage’s far-right Reform UK made significant strides, with exit polls projecting 13 seats for the party. While not a massive number, this signifies a slight shift in voter sympathies from the centrist-right Conservative Party to the more radical far-right.

In seats won by Labour in 2019, their vote share is actually down 1 percentage point. However, in constituencies the Conservatives won in 2019, Labour has seen a 5-point increase in support, while the Tories have plummeted by 28 points. The four-year-old Reform UK seems to be the big winner in both types of seats, gaining around 10-18 percentage points.

The EU results have sparked concerns that the political establishment across the continent is quietly abandoning the post-WWII axiom of “no collaboration with fascists.”

While mainstream media outlets have sought to downplay the radical tendencies of far-right parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, and the Alternative for Democracy (AfD) in Germany, analysts argue the reality is that the political divide is now between the conventional right and an emboldened neo-fascist right.

“The message we keep hearing is that these parties may flirt with fascist motifs, but there’s no reason to panic because they still respect democratic rules,” said one analyst quoted by Project Syndicate. “Yet this domestication of the radical right should trouble us all because it signals a readiness by traditional conservative parties to go along with the new movement.”

The European People’s Party (EPP), comprising Christian democrats, liberal conservatives, and traditional conservatives, emerged as the biggest winner in the European Parliament elections. However, the new parliament will include no left-wing parties whose extremism is even distantly comparable to that of the far right, raising concerns about potential collaboration between the EPP and neo-fascist factions.

“The axiom of post-WWII European democracy, ‘No collaboration with fascists,’ has been quietly abandoned,” the analyst warned. “This is a dangerous game that risks widening the political space for neo-fascism.”

Experts say reclaiming the political space from this new fascism will require decisive and authentic action, pointing to French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly in response to the far-right’s electoral gains as a potential model.

“Even if Le Pen wins and decides who will be the next prime minister, Macron, as president, will retain the ability to mobilise a new majority against the government,” the analyst said. “We must take the fight to the new fascism as forcefully and as fast as possible.”

Follow our live updates of the 2024 UK General Election here.

First Published: 

Jul 5, 2024 3:03 AM


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