The True Finns may have rougher edges than the genial euroskeptics of Britain’s UKIP, but their leader, Timo Soini, was one of the hits at UKIP’s enjoyable and distinctly upbeat conference last weekend in Birmingham with a speech that included good jokes (somewhat rare from a Finnish politician), a powerful sense of affection for the Europe des Patries that the oligarchs of Brussels are so keen to destroy and a rousing Churchillian finale.
With municipal elections approaching in Finland, the FT (behind paywall) takes a look at the True Finns and their impact here. Here’s an extract:
Finland’s status as one of the most hardline northern eurozone countries owes much to the emergence of Mr Soini and his party. Their 19 per cent score in last year’s parliamentary elections caused great anguish among the traditional parties, many of which are in a sprawling six-party coalition government. It also sparked a move from the Social Democrats, whose leader is the finance minister, Jutta Urpilainen, to toughen their stance on the euro significantly, leading Finland to become the only country to demand collateral from Greece and Spain as part of their international rescues…
But the latest polls suggest that that influence is not necessarily translating into success at the ballot box. Certainly the True Finns will do better than in the previous local elections in 2007. The latest political barometer for YLE, the state broadcaster, from August shows them getting 15.8 per cent of the vote, up from 5.4 per cent in 2007. But that compares with a peak polling score of 22.7 per cent in the summer of 2011. . . .
But the tougher stance is causing tensions in the coalition. Jyrki Katainen, the prime minister, was forced to reprimand other ministers – predominantly the Social Democrat foreign minister – for loose talk over the euro. “I’m a bit sick at how they are drifting into True Finn territory,” says a person close to the prime minister.
And then there’s this:
[Soini’s] office is dominated by a big picture of himself and a Greek bond from 1899 (“useless,” he adds).
Yes, a sense of humor.