So, the people of the Netherlands have chosen the formation of their parliament, the House of Representatives. Democracy in action, again, and it’s a good thing. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Mark Rutte, told us last night that the Netherlands had rejected ‘the wrong kind of populism’.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, populism is that form of politics which appeals to ordinary people. One assumes that Mr Rutte was referring to the Dutch people rejecting Mr Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) over Mr Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
It made me curious to think what the equivalent situation would have been here in the UK if we transposed the Dutch political landscape on to our own. So, for example, in the UK we have a political movement which focuses on what it considers to be the pernicious spread of Islam and Sharia in the UK. It’s a movement which believes that the religion of Islam ‘challenges an English, Christian way of life’. That movement is called the English Defence League and whilst it is not a political party as such, nor does it have a formal membership, it is nonetheless a group of people which espouses views and aims remarkably similar to those of Mr Wilders’ PVV.
Now, Mr Wilders has just lifted his party’s parliamentary representation from 12 to 20 seats; a 66% rise in popularity making the PVV the second largest party in the House of Representatives. It made me think that if the English Defence League was a formally constituted political party in the UK, and if it had campaigned in a UK General Election in the way that Mr Wilders has in the Netherlands, and if it had achieved the same result as Mr Wilders did in the Netherlands last night, then this morning the English Defence League would have 86 MPs in the House of Commons.
Now, I’m not advocating the politics of the PVV nor the English Defence League here, far from it. However, what I am doing is pointing out that for all the talk of the Dutch ‘rejecting the wrong kind of populism’ and the Dutch being one of the most liberal, tolerant nations in Europe, if not on the planet, then what are they doing making the PVV the second largest political party in their parliament?
Is something going on here which, even now, we’re not prepared to confront? Mr Wilders and his PVV party seem to be appealing to an awful lot of ordinary people, rightly or wrongly. I assume that, quite simply, we’re not supposed to adopt such a perspective; ‘the wrong kind of populism’. After all, for so many politicians, politics is what you do to people, what you tell them to think; not what they choose to vote for. For the people know not what they’re doing. Or do they?