Populism vs Reality
The radical right in power
Giorgia Meloni and Rishi Sunak share a joke at the July NATO summit (Photo by Paul Ellis - Getty Images)
A few weeks ago, tribune of the people Professor Matthew Goodwin wrote a post proposing a new radical right populist party to replace the Conservatives. There is no chance of this happening before the election. The only person on the right with the necessary name recognition to take 10% or more of the Conservative vote is Nigel Farage, and if he was going to try he’d do it via Reform which, while struggling, is at least an existing entity.
But it is true that the Conservatives are deeply split, as per my article on their post-election future, between the radical right “National Conservativism” of MPs like Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger, and Lee Anderson, and the more conventional centre-right. The Cates/Kruger platform is the same as Goodwin’s: big reductions in “legal” migration as well as further crackdowns on asylum seekers; a vague anti-elitist sentiment; and moral panics, with sex education in schools a current favourite.
If we had a different electoral system then the Tories would already be split into radical right and centre-right parties, as is the case across Europe. Depending on what happens next year it’s not impossible we end up with that happening anyway.
In his post Goodwin cites Giorgia Meloni’s “Brothers of Italy” party as an example of how his approach can win elections. Her triumph last year as head of a coalition including Matteo Salvini’s “Lega” party and the late Silvio Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia” was indeed spectacular. And her agenda during the campaign was similar to Goodwin’s. On immigration she even proposed a naval blockade to stop any migrants reaching Italy. She attacked “wokeness” in all its forms, with a heavy focus on restoring the traditional family. And, like every populist in history, attacked elites at home and globally, with particular venom directed at Brussels.
But Goodwin, and his fellow travellers in the UK, have chosen to ignore what she’s actually done in government, presumably because it raises some major questions about their worldview. This is not only because in practice she has been far less radical than promised, but also because her approach highlights Anglo-populism’s biggest lacuna - its complete lack of an economic policy.
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