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by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 6
December 2019

Finally! The Swedish ‘moderates’ agree to work with the populists

The only way for populist movements to mature is to let them in
by Freddie Sayers

The Swedish Moderate party have dropped their ban on working with the far-right Swedish Democrats, and have already met them to discuss co-operation on immigration, law and order and energy policy.

Finally! The situation in Sweden recently, where a successful political party that represents more than 20% of voters’ views has been frozen out of discussions with other parties because their views were deemed deplorable, has been obviously counter-productive. It is literally a core part of every populist’s appeal that the ‘establishment’ is conspiring to keep them outside the room — in this case it was true.

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The Sweden Democrats party may have originally grown out of fascist and white nationalist movements but they are not that any more, and the more included they are the less scary they will become. Swedish campaigner Siavosh Derakhti told us in a recent interview how in fact they have had a huge political effect already: “all the parties are actually speaking like they are Sweden Democrats,” he said.

You only need to look at Italy, where Matteo Salvini’s League party has been boosted by being ejected from government, to see how this works. The best  — perhaps the only — way for populist movements that are born out of anger to mature into constructive parts of the political discussion is to allow them a seat at the table.

As David Goodhart wrote on these pages:

The general direction of travel is towards less extreme views with experience of office tempering the views of leaders and most activists: consider the Freedom party in Austria and the People’s party in Denmark. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has gradually moved away from support for France leaving the EU and not just because of Brexit.

The Italian populist coalition has also just provided a good recent example of this domestication. Both the 5 Star Movement and Lega Nord were seduced by the anti-MMR vaccine cult and had promised to abolish a law banning children from attending school unless they had received jabs against 10 diseases. But when the 5 Star education minister was faced with an outbreak of measles in schools the party abruptly dropped its opposition to vaccination and in effect adopted the policy it had previously repudiated.

- David Goodhart

Let’s hope that it leads to a more productive politics in Sweden.

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