As I watch the fall out settle from the victory of French centrist Emanuel Macron against far right Front Nationale leader Marine Le Pen I am reminded of history. In 2001, the Front Nationale under Ms Le Pen’s father Jean Marie, shocked France and the world with its first round performance in the French Presidential election. Mr Le Pen, on an anti-immigrant, make France great again, resume nuclear testing platform had made it to the second round. Nervous about a revival of fascism in Europe millions held their breath. In the end the incumbent, Jacques Chirac took another term.
But back to 2017. As we lurch through a succession of European elections in short order, Mr Macrons victory in France is just a brief respite with Britain going to the polls to determine if Theresa May will get her first full term in office on 8 June. Indicators appear to suggest she will comfortably win. Mrs May, former Home Secretary, only came to office after the abrupt resignation of her predecessor David Cameron. She does not have to worry about the far right fringe in Britain, in the same way that France has had to with the Le Pens.
However many many British people will remember the days of the Iron Lady, Baronness Margaret Thatcher. This is a whose austerity affected town and city alike, and whose dislike of the U.S.S.R. meant she preferred confrontation even when her ideological best friend forever, United States President Ronald Reagan, was trying to reconcile with the East.
Germans have a particularly good reason for being for being wary of extremism. In the 72 years and 3 days since Victory in Europe day 1945, it has gone from being a thoroughly defeated ringleader of the Axis alliance to being a well respected member of the international community. It is certainly not to say we should forget the ghastly gas chambers of Auschwitz or the murderous hell holes that were Germany concentration camps. However nearly every person who was responsible for these crimes is dead or 90+ years old.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing her biggest challenge. She is the accepted face of conservative Germany. She has been in office for over a decade during which time the German economy has been one of the rock stars of economic growth. But the refugee flood coming out of Syria and the Middle East has caused anger across Europe. Many have come from countries where war is the dominant theme. They will be traumatized and are struggling to adapt to a completely foreign country. Since many of the wars started in the Middle East have been east vs west proxy wars, the best way to resolve these problems is to stop funding and arming the proxies.
2017 will be an interesting year as New Zealand has good relations with all of these nations. It does not need a swing to the far right in any of these countries.