My May 26th post, “Move to the right in threes”, was about the realignment of European politics following the Euro elections, in which the right of centre parties did very well. I postulated then that the noticeable rightward shift held risks for us all, both at ‘home’ and in Europe. Since then there has been a significant reshuffle of the UK government which, undeniably, removed a number of moderate or centre-ist politicians and replaced them with right-leaning and largely euro-sceptic ones.
Yesterday the right-wing and avowedly eurosceptic Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, declared he was, in effect, “coming in from the cold” and seeking a seat in Parliament at the next election. It is completely reasonable to link these two events: can there be any doubt that after years of public prevarication and exile Boris has been encouraged to declare, both by the political environment and, probably, by the “men in grey suits” behind the Tory party? He obviously feels the current of Conservatism is flowing in his direction and that his brand of right-wing Conservatism is in the ascendency. It may well be this is part of a strategy to head off the threat from UKIP at the next election, less than a year away, and that once the Conservatives are returned with a working majority the government would return to the centre ground. I doubt it. I fear this reflects a more widespread shift to the right in our national life which will give comfort, if not licence, to darker forces and lead to intolerance and ugly and violent confrontations between extremes, with the rest of us caught between the hammer and anvil.
You only have to look at what has happened in Israel, and Russia, both supposedly parliamentary democracies, to see what happens when the rottweilers are unleashed, and their activities tolerated, as tools of policy (Palestine / Ukraine). In Ukraine the so-called pro-Russian separatists are, in fact, seeking establishment of a kind of ultra-orthodox anti-gay, anti-muslim Christian theocracy. It suits V. Putin to support them for regional strategic reasons but look at the consequences already – not least the murderous destruction of an airliner and 298 innocent lives. In Israel, the governing balance of Orthodox vs Liberal has always been a problem. In my opinion, despite being a parliamentary democracy, the State of Israel has never been able to separate military and executive power. When every person must undergo military service, and maintain that as a reservist, how much more difficult is it to see gun-toting ultra-orthodox settlers as an abberation? The lines between the governed and those who govern are blurred to the extent that a former Brigadier-General is able to openly suggest full-scale invasion and re-occupation of Palestine, and others to speak of “finishing the job”: not leaving even a child alive. Historians know that this is precisly how Hitler came to power, and what that led to: an incremental moving of the boundary between the tolerable and intolerable until it became normal to burn shops, commit murder and, ultimately, exterminate.
I know this is a very long way from the tousle-haired Boris and his ambition to lead the Tories, but be in no doubt that even if he were the bumbling bufoon his image projects he does present a likeable personality that makes him very electable and one which the Conservative power- makers are happy to use . He is a mask, maybe unwitting maybe not, of something more worrying and the socio-political background that is making it possible should be a concern to us all – oddly, especially to Jews who will again fall victim to the rise of the right and increasing anti-semitism.