The EU and the conflict between Good Policy and Good Politics

“The EU and the conflict between Good Policy and Good Politics”, published in on October 29, 2014

On October 9, the U.K. Independence Party sent tremors through the British establishment and proponents of European unionism in general when it won the Clacton by-election and took a seat in British Parliament. UKIP had already shown its influence in May, when it won a plurality of the British seats for European Parliament, but this is the first seat it has won in the country’s Parliament, and there will be arguably many more UKIP victories in elections in the United Kingdom next spring.

The mainstream U.K. political establishment is rattled that the party Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” in 2006 will upset their order and potentially cost the Conservative government its majority (as Cameron warned in the aftermath of UKIP’s victory). But the factors behind UKIP’s rise are not just evident in Britain; throughout Europe, radical populist Eurosceptic parties are thriving.

Eurosceptic parties also won pluralities in France and Denmark and did well in Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands. The populist parties are varied ideologically and in their tone. Many are right-wing, but there are also left-wing parties like Syriza in Greece which have surged in response to austerity. Some, like Golden Dawn, which won three of Greece’s EU Parliament seats, are outright neo-Nazis. What generally binds these parties together is support for Euroscepticism, xenophobia, and anti-migration policy.

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