31 December 2016
The New Year poses even greater threats to the complacent political elite.
2016 has been a remarkable ride. At the start of January everybody thought David Cameron would pull off a second miracle after his shock general election victory in 2015. Happy pundits thought he would be able to spin a worthless deal from Brussels and convince the British people that Brexit would be a national catastrophe. In the United States liberal commentators were mocking Donald Trump, predicting that his time atop the national polls was fast coming to an end and insisting that he wouldn’t win a single Republican primary.
Fast forward twelve months and David Cameron is out of Downing Street and out of parliament altogether. Britain has voted to quit the European Union – although Remainer Theresa May is dragging her feet over triggering Article 50. And Donald Trump won 41 Republican primary contests. Oh, and he was elected President too in a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton – the ignored people of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania rose up against the Democratic establishment and gave the Donald the keys to the White House.
2017 has the potential to be an even bigger year for the ordinary people and an even worse year for the rotten political establishment, but the elites won’t be able to say we didn’t warn them…
The Dutch head to the polls in March, and the country is preparing for the biggest shake-up in decades. With a proportional voting system that gives political outsiders a fair shot at bringing about real change, the maverick Eurosceptic Geert Wilders is set to lead the biggest party in the Dutch House of Representatives. The latest Peil poll shows him winning 36 seats and rising, with the governing VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte trailing at only 23.
The need for coalition partners may see Wilders excluded from power, but with such a commanding presence in the Dutch legislature the political establishment will not be able to ignore or silence Mr Wilders again. In December he was convicted of hate speech for daring to criticise the growing role of Islam in European political life – a topic that is of great concern to many ordinary voters.
As the people of the Netherlands rise up and give their endorsement to Wilders, the ideas he represents – and the ideas that the Dutch political establishment have shunned for so long – will undoubtedly become central to Dutch political debate. His concern about rapid cultural change and mass immigration, and his suspicion of the tyrannical European Union, will have to be confronted head on by whoever forms the next Dutch government. Who knows, maybe we’ll see Nexit soon.
Marine Le Pen
Meanwhile in France, the Front National leader Marine Le Pen rides high in the opinion polls. The first round ballot is set to take place at the end of April, with the next President being decided in a head-to-head run-off on the 7th of May. Le Pen’s major rival will be the Republican candidate Francois Fillon, who bested former Prime Minister Alain Juppe and former President Nicolas Sarkozy for the nomination. He too is an opponent of Brussels, although he stops short of calling for withdrawal.
Le Pen has done much to clean up her party after the extremism of her anti-Semite father Jean-Marie Le Pen. It now attracts a respectable cross-section of French society including the young – showing that the movement has big lessons for Eurosceptics and patriots in Britain. Le Pen currently commands a quarter of the vote in a crowded field, but pundits claim she cannot win the second round.
Voters from other parties, they say, will rally around Republican Fillon to keep Le Pen out of office. But these pundits also said a Trump presidency was almost impossible, and only two months ago they said that Mr Fillon himself was a long shot to clinch the Republican nomination. After a year of being shown up at every corner, you’d think the political “experts” would be less hasty in their predictions.
With incumbent President Hollande so unpopular that he has declined to run for a second term, it’s clear that the French people are crying out for a radical change. Ms Le Pen has been one of the major international cheerleaders for Brexit, calling for an immediate vote on her own country’s membership of the European Union. With the example set in the UK, Le Pen could lead France towards a brighter and freer future.
Late in 2016 Italy joined the wave of populist revolt against the global establishment, with Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement leading the charge against an outrageous constitutional reform package that would have given even more power to Europhile Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. On December 4 the people of Italy gave the elite a kicking, rejecting the measures by a twenty point margin and ending the political career of Mr Renzi.
Insider Paolo Gentiloni was quickly appointed Prime Minister to avoid a snap election, but the establishment won’t be able to cling to power forever. The Italian constitution doesn’t require a fresh election until May 2018, but with the country’s current instability and the appetite for change that was expressed on December 4, it is likely that a vote will be called sooner.
In such an event Mr Grillo would almost certainly become the new Italian leader, bringing about meaningful change in the country with the momentum of a mass membership movement committed to direct democracy and exit from the shackles of the disastrous Euro currency. He is currently neck and neck with the governing Democratic Party, but far ahead of them in a hypothetical second round. The new second round is all-important, since it is where a huge bonus is awarded to the victor to ensure stable, one-party government. With such an electoral advantage, it’s no wonder Italian elites are doing all they can do dodge an election.