Andrew has commented below on the results of the Dutch election a few days ago. I’m in foreign parts with spotty access to news-type stuff, but I see the pro-business Liberals got 31 seats, the anti-business Labour got 30, and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party near trebled its seats from 9 to 24. The governing Christian Democrats were pushed into fourth place. After being offline for a couple of days, I opened up my computer to find 27,000 emails including a few from anti-Wilders readers drawing my attention to this piece published on the eve of the election:
‘Look’, he said, spreading a sheaf of the daily newspapers across the table. ‘There’s nothing about Wilders! Forget about Wilders! This election is about mortgages!’
It was hard to disagree… The general assumption seems to be that Rutte’s DVV party will take a brace of seats from the Christian Democrats, and hold about 45 in the new 150-seat parliament, thus giving Rutte first crack at forming a government.
This mild and consensual scenario wasn’t what was being talked about three months ago. Then, opinion polling found that the party most likely to gain in the wake of the collapse of the fourth Balkenende government (a Christian Democrat/Labour coalition, with others) was Wilders’ nativist PVV, a party advocating an end to immigration from Muslim countries, the closure of Muslim schools, banning both the burqa and the Koran, and various other measures… So why, two days before the election, was he on track to gain no seats at all?
Gee, let me take a wild guess: Because all those newspapers saying this was an election about mortgages were just plain wrong? And, more than that, they’re part of the problem: The politico-media class in the Netherlands as elsewhere has ruled that discussion of the Islamization of Europe is not part of respectable people’s conversation and so they talk about mortgages – and prosecute those who, like Wilders, decline to submit to such shriveled bounds of public discourse.
But they are foolish to assume the masses will self-neuter as quietly as their betters.
Thus, Wednesday’s consensus: Wilders is so over, a peripheral figure to all except Yank Islamophobes ignorant of the nuances of Dutch politics.
Friday’s consensus: “Geert Wilders is on course to become a kingmaker.“
This will serve as a useful media template for many Euro-elections ahead. Meanwhile, the fourth-placed Jan Peter Balkende will continue to be described as “mainstream” while the third-placed Wilders will remain on the “extreme far-right fringe”. As I suggested to the media last time round, maybe he only seems so “extreme” and “far” because of where you’re standing.