Why the world loves Margaret Thatcher

There are many rituals surrounding the placement of a new Japanese Emperor on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Perhaps the most peculiar is the would-be emperor’s encounter with aquasi-sacred, 1300-year-old bronze mirror, the Yata no Kagami. This object, which embodies ‘wisdom’, is so enigmatic the aspirant emperor isn’t even allowed to see it; instead, functionaries are sent to assure the mirror of the new emperor’s fidelity. Some historians believe the mirror no longer exists, and was lost in a fire in Honshu’s Ise Shrine, 980 years ago. Thus it is with Labour leaders and Margaret Thatcher. Ever since the departure of the Iron Lady, aspiring or actual Labour prime ministers have made obeisance to the strange, overpowering ghost of British politics, years after her retirement and death, when her continued omnipresence is therefore a kind of Zen mystery. Tony Blair, as ever, got in his fealty precociously early. As a young Labour frontbencher, he expressed his high regard for her election winning clarity,

Nicholas Farrell

The Italian left wants to blame Giorgia Meloni for the patriarchy

This weekend, demonstrations took place in major Italian cities to mark the UN’s international day for the elimination of violence against women. Many on the Italian left used the opportunity to suggest Giorgia Meloni is aiding and abetting the murder of Italian women – even though she is Italy’s first female Prime Minister.    The largest protest was in Rome where demonstrators, mainly women – 500,000 according to the organisers – brandished placards saying ‘The Patriarchy Kills’, ‘We Support Female Fury Against The Fascist Meloni Government’ and ‘Meloni Fascist Zionist Collaborator’. Palestinian flags fluttered surreally alongside LGBTQIA2-S rainbow flags, as I think they are now called. Elly Schlein, leader of the main left-wing opposition Partito Democratico, was there and told journalists: the only way to stop ‘the

Gavin Mortimer

Macron’s France is trapped in a cycle of violence

On Monday, the spokesman for Emmanuel Macron’s government, Olivier Véran, visited the village of Crépol in south-eastern France. A fortnight ago few people had heard of Crépol, but on the evening of Saturday 18 November a gang of youths from an inner city a few miles away gatecrashed the village dance.   In the maelstrom of violence that ensued, a 16-year-old local called Thomas was fatally stabbed. Several other young partygoers were wounded and one eye-witness told reporters their attackers had stormed the venue vowing to ‘kill a white’.   The bitter truth is that few people in France have any confidence left in Macron and his government For 24

Dublin is a city on the edge

At 1.30 p.m. last Thursday, a horrific knife attack was perpetrated outside a school on Parnell Street in Dublin’s north inner city. Three children and an adult female were viciously stabbed by the attacker who has now been confirmed to be an Algerian male who acquired Irish citizenship and has been living in the country for the last 20 years. Both the attacker and his four victims have been hospitalised. One of those victims, a 5 year old girl, remains in a critical condition, while her female carer, who tried to stop the knifeman, remains in the Mater hospital. If it wasn’t the horrifying knife attack on Thursday that set

Katja Hoyer

Germany’s Reichsbürger movement is anything but a joke

They don’t believe the German state exists, they make their own passports and they want the German monarchy restored. It’s tempting to dismiss the so-called Reichsbürger movement as a bunch of deranged conspiracy theorists. But the movement is growing, increasingly well-connected and willing to use violence to overthrow the state. In their latest crackdown on extremist Reichsbürger circles, the German authorities on Thursday conducted a coordinated raid involving around 280 police officers in eight of the country’s 16 states. They targeted 20 residences, involving people aged between 25 and 74 who are suspected of having formed a group around a 58-year-old Bavarian man. He had been arrested before, in November

What does Geert Wilders’s win mean for Dutch Muslims?

Muslims in the Netherlands have reacted with an understandable mixture of trepidation and anger to the electoral triumph of the far-right, anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders. Should they be afraid? ‘I don’t know if Muslims are still safe in the Netherlands,’ Habib El Kaddouri, a spokesman for Dutch Moroccans, dramatically informed the news agency ANP. On the face of it, who can blame Muslims for worrying about what Wilders’ unexpected — and frankly stunning — victory might mean for their future prospects. After all, Wilders is no friend of Muslims or Islam. No mosques, Korans or headscarves is the political clarion call of his Freedom Party (PVV). It is unashamedly anti-Islam: ‘We

Why Geert Wilders won

Far right, anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has won a historic victory for his Freedom party (PVV) in shock Dutch elections on Wednesday. As the final votes are counted, Wilders appears to have more than doubled his 17 MPs in 2021 elections, winning 37 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament and almost a quarter of the 13 million votes. ‘The PVV can no longer be ignored,’ vowed Wilders following his success overnight. ‘We will govern’. Wilders, who campaigned on the idea of ‘stopping’ immigration, appears to have benefitted from widespread mistrust of the government after a series of scandals under ex prime minister Mark Rutte. For years, Wilders has tried to

Lisa Haseldine

Is Russia trying to flood Finland with migrants?

Against the background of the war in Ukraine, a diplomatic row is brewing between Russia and Finland. Last week, Finland announced that it would imminently be closing four of its eight border crossings into Russia, promptly doing so on 18 November. The reason? An unexpected increase in the number of illegal migrants coming over the border from Russia in recent weeks. Finnish minister of internal affairs Marie Rantanen put the blame for this squarely on Russia. ‘The activities of the Russian authorities have changed in such a way,’ she said, ‘that it has become possible to get from Russia to Finland, despite the lack of necessary documents.’ At midnight on Saturday,

Gavin Mortimer

The ugly side of the European left

Dutch politics got a blast from the past on Monday when a right-wing politician was assaulted. The country goes to the polls tomorrow and the hospitalisation of Thierry Baudet, attacked with a bottle in a bar in the northern city of Groningen, is a reminder of what happened to Pim Fortuyn in 2002.  After being assaulted in the weeks leading up to the Dutch elections, the flamboyant right-wing Fortuyn was then shot dead nine days before voters went to the polls. His assassin was an animal rights extremist who told a court he didn’t like the way Fortuyn talked about Muslims.  Many people on the left long ago gave up protecting free speech and

The strange tale of Count Kalergi and the Pan-European Union

If the European Union created its own version of Mount Rushmore, who would it place in its pantheon? Horst Köhler, Helmut Kohl, and Francois Mitterrand – the architects of the Maastricht Treaty – perhaps? Or maybe Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, and Konrad Adenauer, who set in motion the long and winding process of European integration in the 1950s?  Almost certain to be overlooked is the man who founded the modern movement for European unity in the first place. That is, the eccentric, cosmopolitan Austro-Hungarian aristocrat Richard Nikolaus Eijiro, Count of Coundehove-Kalergi.   Kalergi had an unusual background. He was born in Tokyo in 1894 to an Austrian

Volhynia and the forgotten massacre of the Second World War

Completely innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered. ‘Terrorism’ hardly suffices to describe the savage rampage beyond the Gaza Wall undertaken by men from Hamas on 7 October. In the aftermath of the Second World War, when knowledge emerged of the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germans and their collaborators, humanity vowed ‘Never Again’. Yet the world has descended once more into ever lower levels of depravity. What is more, thousands of innocents are now being killed as collateral in the on-going counterattacks. The kibbutz of Kfar Aza and kibbutz Be’eri, where some of the most barbaric crimes were carried out by Hamas, joins the long list of places of infamy where

Gavin Mortimer

Macron has lost all credibility on Israel-Palestine

It has been a bruising few days for Emmanuel Macron. It began last Friday when he gave an interview to the BBC at the Élysée palace at the conclusion of a peace forum in Paris. In unusually forthright rhetoric, the president said there was ‘no justification’ for Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which was killing ‘these babies, these ladies, these old people’. He added: ‘There is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.’ He also reiterated a call for a ceasefire in Gaza.   Macron’s words drew a swift and sharp response from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the president’s focus should be on

Nicholas Farrell

Could Britain learn from Italy’s migrant plan?

Italy has become the first European Union country to bite the bullet and set up a scheme to off-shore migrant asylum seekers to a country outside the bloc. Italy’s right-wing prime minister Giorgia Meloni says she hopes the scheme, signed off in Rome last week with Albania’s left-wing prime minister, Edi Rama, will become a model copied across the EU.  It is similar to the Tory government’s troubled Rwanda scheme, but more practical and less vulnerable to legal challenge. Italy will process asylum requests in Albania where it plans to send tens of thousands of migrants a year. Britain, meanwhile, plans to hand the task of deciding who gets asylum to Rwanda

Gavin Mortimer

The shallow solidarity of saying ‘we’re all Jews’

Over 100,000 French citizens marched peacefully through their cities on Sunday. They did so to show their support for the country’s 500,000 Jews, a growing number of whom have been harassed physically and verbally since Hamas attacked Israel last month.  In the Mediterranean city of Nice many of the 3,000 demonstrators chanted ‘we’re all Jews’, a facile and frankly offensive refrain. It’s become a habit in recent years to virtue signal one’s solidarity with victims of terrorism or religious persecution: not only do we share your pain but also your identity. One suspects that had those non-Jewish demonstrators in Nice been confronted on their way home by a group of Hamas

The Catalan volte face that has disgusted Spain

This weekend saw protests across Spain after the acting prime minister, socialist Pedro Sánchez, agreed to a general amnesty for Catalan separatists in return for parliamentary votes to enable him to stay in power. The amnesty will benefit hundreds of separatists facing fines or imprisonment for their involvement in the illegal referendum on independence for Catalonia in 2017, the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence and the concomitant street violence. There have been nine consecutive nights of often violent protest outside the socialist party’s headquarters in Madrid. But Sunday’s demonstrations, convened by the conservative opposition, held at noon in over 50 Spanish cities and attended by hundreds of thousands, were peaceful. At the

Mark Galeotti

Putin isn’t afraid of Cameron

Considering the obsession Russia has with Britain as the source of all its woes, it is perhaps surprising how David Cameron’s return to politics is being taken. Or rather, how little Moscow thinks it matters. After all, there is a flatteringly pervasive sense that while the United States is the main threat to Russia, Britain is more than just its sidekick. Instead, if Washington has the resources, London has the low cunning. Time and again, the Kremlin claims to see MI6 or the Foreign Office or some other arm of Perfidious Albion behind its reversals. Even the recent allegations that a Ukrainian officer masterminded the bombing of its Nord Stream

Katja Hoyer

Can Germany’s ‘Rwanda-style’ migrant plan keep the AfD at bay?

Germany is facing one of the greatest political upheavals in its modern history. Polls indicate that the ruling coalition would gain only a third of the vote between its three parties if an election were to be held now. Meanwhile the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has emerged as the second most popular party. With concerns about immigration one of the hot topic issues, Scholz’s government is now considering a Rwanda-style plan to process asylum claims in partner states outside of the EU. Much is at stake. If it works, it will be a sea change on immigration policy that will affect the entire EU bloc. If it fails or

The pointless spectacle of the pro-Palestine march

Now that Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has defied calls to ban a pro-Palestinian march through London on Armistice Day, attention inevitably turns to what might happen on the day itself. Will there be violence? Could groups intent on causing mayhem splinter from the main protest? Will counter-protesters clash with pro-Palestinian demonstrators? How will the police maintain control of events on the ground and ensure the protest passes off peacefully?  Well down the list of questions and issues is Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, ostensibly the reason for this weekend’s public protests. That is revealing in itself: the actual conflict is almost a side show in the

Suella Braverman has a point about Northern Ireland

Suella Braverman’s description of pro-Palestinian protests as being ‘disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster’ has given the Province’s political class yet another reason – not that they need one – to chunter on at length.  The professionally po-faced, from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party, dutifully trod the path to X/ Twitter, or whichever broadcasting studio would take them, to intone about how off piste the Home Secretary had gone. They said Braverman’s remarks showed how ignorant about the reality on the ground in Northern Ireland she was.  For all the claims the Home Secretary doesn’t know what she’s talking about when it comes to Northern Ireland, she

Gavin Mortimer

The frightening bigotry of the French left

France’s most infamous antisemite is back in the headlines. At the weekend, the president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, declared in an interview that he didn’t believe Jean-Marie Le Pen was an antisemite. This came as a surprise to many given that the 95-year-old Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1972, has been condemned on six occasions by French courts for just such bigotry.  Le Pen’s most notorious declaration was during a television interview in 1987 when, discussing the gas chambers, he said that although he didn’t deny their existence they were nonetheless a ‘small point of detail in the second world war’. The remark caused uproar

Spaniards are horrified by an amnesty for separatists

When has a government ever offered an amnesty to fugitives from justice in order to stay in office? That’s what’s happening in Spain at the moment. Following July’s general election the only way in which the caretaker prime minister, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, can cling to power is by cutting a deal with a hodgepodge of small parties, including two Catalan separatist groups. Their price includes a general amnesty for those indicted for their involvement in the illegal referendum on independence for Catalonia in 2017 and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence. In July’s election Sánchez’s left-wing party, PSOE, won just 121 seats. The support of the radical left party

Will Germany’s ‘Rwanda-style’ migrant plan ever materialise?

Germany’s chancellor is cracking down on asylum seekers – but he is not doing so willingly. The country’s federal government is weighing up a system – similar to the UK’s mooted ‘Rwanda plan’ – for asylum applications to be processed abroad. But Olaf Scholz, who was essentially cornered into the announcement following a marathon session with regional leaders from Germany’s 16 state governments, is sceptical. ‘There are…a whole series of legal questions,’ Scholz said after emerging in the early hours of Tuesday morning from an acrimonious meeting with state leaders. The plan, a 17-page agreement, is an attempt to counter the rise of far-right parties like Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).

The trouble with Olaf Scholz

German chancellor Olaf Scholz still doesn’t get it. ‘Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf’ (the fish stinks from its head) is a popular German saying. It’s proven right by Scholz’s abysmal failure to lead since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He’s failing again with Israel, declaring the Jewish state is Germany’s ‘Staatsräson’, or raison d-etat, but never spelling out what this means. Scholz has flopped with his tepid attempts to explain what’s at stake for Germany and Europe in Ukraine and Israel and why Berlin should be the leadership power of the EU. This problem is partly due to Scholz’s nature. If you think you’re the smartest guy in the room