Magazine article The Spectator

Holland's People-Power Revolution

Magazine article The Spectator

Holland's People-Power Revolution

Article excerpt

Wilders's voters are not attacking liberalism: they're defending it

It looks like the people might do it again. After the British electorate misled themselves so badly and American voters failed to rotate the Clinton and Bush families for another presidential cycle, the latest fear is that democracy might occur in Holland.

Polls currently show Geert Wilders's Freedom party almost at level pegging with the governing VVD party, both milling around the 30-seat mark. Questions about when the Dutch became illiberal miss the point that this is a revolt in defence of liberalism rather than against it. The misinterpretation does Dutch voters a serious disservice and fails to acknowledge that the Dutch status quo of recent years -- like that in the UK and US -- has gone badly wrong.

Douglas Murray and Melle Garschagen discuss the turbulence in Dutch politics:

It is now a decade and a half since the Dutch voted for the party of a genuinely revolutionary figure: Pim Fortuyn. After his 2002 assassination and posthumous victory in the election of that year, Dutch politics struggled to keep up. If they had wanted to ameliorate his vote, politicians could have cut immigration, taken their foot off the eurozone accelerator and listened to the sincere concerns of the Dutch public (concerns shared across the continent, and far from delusional) that they are losing their national identity. It is not as though these were minority, or indeed recent, concerns. Four years ago, polls were showing that two thirds of the Dutch public believed there was 'enough Islam in the Netherlands', with just over half wanting a halt on all immigration from Muslim countries.

One of the mysteries of the Dutch political establishment is that they have continuously derided the concerns of the majority as the inexplicable prejudice of a kooky fringe. An interim solution was for the country's politicians to occasionally nod to popular concerns, generally around election time. But it is a tactic that has been working less and less. This past week when Mark Rutte, the prime minister, suddenly started talking almost obscenely toughly about immigration, the public had a right to feel jaded. They would remember, for instance, precisely the same things being said by former minister Rita Verdonk when she was eyeing up the top job 15 years ago.

In the meantime, the other parties are not only demonising the man whose votes they wish to steal, they are also demonising -- and sometimes criminalising -- the views of the Dutch public. Some of their tactics would shame a banana republic. The first time the authorities prosecuted Wilders for his views on Islam, in 2010, the trial collapsed because one of the three Dutch judges privately attempted to persuade a principal witness for the defence (the now late pre-eminent scholar of Islam in the Netherlands, Hans Jansen) to change his evidence. Jansen blew the whistle and the trial collapsed. So when Wilders and his supporters say the judiciary are out to get him, they haven't invented the idea.

The latest trial -- which concluded last year and finished with a guilty verdict -- was an outrageous example of judicial activism. By prosecuting Wilders for advocating less immigration into Holland, the courts effectively made it illegal not to support mass migration. If it is illegal to say that you want 'fewer' Moroccans in your country, then in response to the question of whether you want 'more or fewer Moroccans' in your country, the only legal option is to say 'more'. …

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