Monday, January 20, 2014

Europe's Tea Parties? Not So Fast

European versions of the Tea Party are sprouting among, and due to, the continent's troubled economies warns (sic) The Economist. "Warns", because that is mainly a bad thing, according  to the London newspaper.
In May voters across the 28-member European Union will elect 751 deputies to the European Parliament. Polls suggest that the FN could win a plurality of the votes in France. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has similarly high hopes, as does the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands. Anti-EU populists of the left and right could take between 16% and 25% of the parliament’s seats, up from 12% today. Many of those votes will go to established parties of the Eurosceptic left. But those of the right and far right might take about 9%. And it is they, not the parties of the left, who are scaring the mainstream.
There are numerous problems with this simplistic put-'em-all-in-th'-same-barrel view.

For instance, France's National Front should in no way be assimilated to the Tea Party. As No Pasarán and Le Monde Watch have reported numerous times,  
the Front National's Marine Le Pen criticizes privatization and "extreme" free market policies, holding that France needs "a strong state", while one of her top aides speaks of taking advantage of the fears engendered by globalization and surfing on insecurity and on social suffering
When told "that in the U.S. she would sound like a left-wing politician", she went as far as telling the New York Times's Russell Shorto that Barack "Obama is way to the right of us”!

Meanwhile, Adam Shaw is perhaps more on the money when the Fox News reporter says that "the often stale British political system is being rocked by its very own Tea Party."
The UK Independence Party (UKIP), formed in 1993 opposing Britain’s entry into the European Union, failed to make an electoral dent for a long time. However UKIP has built up steam in recent years and is spearheading a seismic shift in the British political spectrum.

In this year’s local elections – the British version of midterms -- UKIP took a stunning 23 percent of the vote, up from the 3.1 percent they won in the 2010 national election. Their leader, Nigel Farage, is buoyed by their recent success.

“We want to take back our country, we want to take back our government, and we want to take back our birthright,” Farage told in forthright language rarely seen in British politics.

 … It is here where UKIP spied an opportunity, adopting an anti-establishment, populist platform that argues for lower taxation, privatization, smaller government and getting Britain out of the European Union.

 … “The sense of frustration the Tea Party feels about the remoteness about the bureaucratic class of the Washington beltway is similar to our frustration with being dealt with by Brussels,” said Farage.

Many experts agree. Andrew Russell, Head of Politics at the University of Manchester, told that the comparison between the Tea Party and UKIP is an accurate one, and that he believes that UKIP could take the 2014 elections by storm,

“UKIP will do well in the 2014 European elections. They may even win them in terms of the popular vote. This will increase the pressure on the Conservatives.”

Yet instead of reaching out and finding middle ground, the Tories have snubbed UKIP. In 2006 David Cameron dismissed the newcomers as full of “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists,” and top Tory Kenneth Clark recently branded them as “a collection of clowns.”

 … As a right-wing libertarian, populist movement, there are many comparisons to be drawn with the Tea Party, yet Farage argues that there are differences too, particularly that UKIP wants to take votes away from the Tories, not to reform them.

It is here that could make them bigger in Britain than the Tea Party in America – UKIP is making inroads as a party, not just through individual candidates.

What remains to be seen is how UKIP will capitalize on their situation, and in that the next year will be vital.

“Like the Tea Party UKIP might have a profound effect on their closest neighbors politically,” Russell told “But like the Tea Party they might repel the crucial section of support needed for that party to win.”