01 March 2013

More voters send a message

"I wish I believed that the Italian election would serve as a wake-up call — a reason to, for example, give the ECB a green light for more expansion, a reason for Germany to do some stimulus and for France to call off its unnecessary belt-tightening. My guess, however, is that we’ll just have more lectures to the Italians and everyone else about how they just aren’t trying hard enough.  And there may be worse figures than Beppe Grillo lurking in Europe’s future."

Paul Krugman

Do read the whole column -- it's a blunt indictment of the European Union's arrogant, out-of-touch elites and the disaster their austerity policies have inflicted.

While the impact of the Italian election is still sinking in, those elites just got another kick in the pants in a much-watched local election in the town of Eastleigh in southern Britain.  The ruling Conservative party was pushed into third place by a stunningly-strong showing by the UKIP (UK Independence Party), a relatively-new, anti-establishment party dedicated to pulling Britain out of the EU.  The UKIP candidate won 28% of the vote, a similar percentage to what Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Star Movement won nationwide in Italy, and came just four points short of winning the seat.  The willingness of voters, exasperated with establishment politicians who ignore their real concerns, to vote in meaningful numbers for outsiders is not confined to Italy.

It's rising steeply, too.  The country was startled when the UKIP won 13% in local elections just last year, yet it more than doubled that vote share in Eastleigh this week.

Europe's establishment needs to heed its people and stop driving them into the arms of radicals.  The UKIP strongly opposes mass immigration (another issue on which mainstream politicians have long defied the popular will), but it is explicitly anti-racist; the same can't be said of some of the more fringe parties dotting the European landscape.  If the establishment pushes blindly on and keeps forcing voters to seek alternatives, then as Krugman says, there may be worse figures lurking in Europe's future.  Just look at its past.

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