Monday, 13 February 2017

Birds of a Brexit feather?

Birds of a feather flock together, they say. Or to put it the way the French do, tell me who you hang out with, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Erdoğan, Trump and May. Birds of a feather? 
Germany has just elected a president of the centre-left, backed by both the two biggest parties, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and her coalition partners, the Social Democrats.

It was interesting to be in France last week. Support for the Conservative candidate for the presidential election in May has collapsed, following the publication of revelations about his use of nearly a million euros of public money to employ as political assistants his wife (who claims she did no work or him) and his children (who weren’t qualified for the work they were ostensibly asked to do. Meanwhile, the far-right candidate, Marine le Pen, may we have seen her support peak, at a shockingly high level – perhaps as high as 30% – but with a growing probability that she’ll struggle to raise it any higher and will therefore miss her chance at the presidency. This has raised hopes that  a moderate candidate of the centre left, Emmanuel Macron, may take the prize.

Following on from the defeat of the hard right candidate for the Austrian presidency, it begins to feel as though the unappetising xenophobic nationalism that has gripped Trump’s America and Brexit Britain may not after all be unstoppable. It may, indeed, already have reached its high-water mark.

There’s a glimmer of hope in the darkness, then. A sense that the infection that has been poisoning our societies can be resisted. A growing feeling, even, that Europe can pull together, stand united, and uphold the kind of values we thought, in pre-Trump days, were secure in the democracies.

Sadly, for those nations where the populist currents have already wreaked their toxic harm, that doesn’t make life any easier. Facing a cold, bleak world out there, Britain is having to go, cap in hand, to some dubious friends. In order that it can leave the EU and turns its back on the old friends who may soon be making a stand for the principles we previously believed Britons held dear.

Theresa May was proud to be the first foreign leader to visit Donald Trump. That’s the man who, on grounds of security against terrorism, has been trying to exclude foreigners from seven countries which have never been the source of an attack on American soil. Foiled by the judiciary in his first attempt to impose that diktat, he has resorted to attacks on judges worthy of autocrats anywhere. He’s not keen on journalists who dare to criticise him either.

His visitor, it seems, isn’t that keen on them either. It has been revealed that May’s government is planning legislation against whistle-blowers that threatens them, and journalists who publish the information they provide, with prison. Another hallmark of the authoritarian regime.

Which leads neatly into the tale of May’s next foreign visit, to Turkey. There she called on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the strong man who hasn’t merely attacked the judiciary in words, but has dismissed 125,000 people from their jobs, including police and judges, on no better grounds than a denunciation by anonymous informers. Indeed, he even has 45,000 in gaol facing terrorist charges.

Trump and Erdogan. These are the people Brexit Britain has to hang out with.

Does that tell us what Britain’s becoming? Because that feels like a pretty dismal picture of the nation.

No comments: