Wind of change in Europe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 30, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:02 PM, June 30, 2017

Wind of change in Europe

The Republic of Ireland has for long been led by the largest centre-right party called Fine Gael. Following the retirement of Enda Kenny from the ruling party it nominated a new leader in the person of Leo Varadkar on June 7. He was chosen as the best man for the job regardless of his racial origins. His parents are Ashok Varadkar and Miriam Varadkar. He is of Indian heritage with evidently minority ethnic origins which are now being subsumed in a greater Irish identity. 

Varadkar has been nominated as Taoiseach, an Irish word meaning the “leader” which is used as title of prime minister of the Republic of Ireland. He is poised to be the ROI's head of government—his nomination having been endorsed by President Michael D Higgins. Only 38, and as young as French president Emmanuel Macron, the Irish leader of immigrant origin may have a long bright political future ahead of him. 

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Marine Le Pen, the far-right nationalist bordering on the xenophobic, was hoist with her own petard as she lost to centre-left Macron. A banker, and politically, by and large an unknown quantity, Macron became president of France with the overwhelming support from young voters.

That the Trump syndrome would fail to cross the Atlantic was powerfully demonstrated through staunch pro-right Le Pen's electoral disaster.

Earlier in the Austrian presidential election in May, far-right leader Norbert Hoffer had conceded defeat to Alexander van Bellen. The polarising election in Austria after Brexit and US presidential election ended on repudiation of the far-right. A positive message rang out across Europe marking what many believed as an antidote to the ultra-nationalist spectre.  

Look at Britain. The dogmatic UKIP, once led by Trump's darling boy in the UK Nigel Farage but now being headed by Paul Nuttal, drew a blank in the June snap general election. The party of the man Farage which aggressively campaigned for Brexit and saw a referendum held on it going in its favour has no presence in the House of Commons. What a tragic turn of fate within such a short time! 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been elected to the hung parliament with a decisive party strength vis-à-vis the conservative government of Theresa May. While Corbyn's support base lies firmly with 18 to 25-year-old voters (reminds me of Democrat Bernie Sanders' popularity with young generation American voters) Theresa May has to latch onto the older generation electoral base. Not only is her proposed silver brigade health insurance premium being objected to by targeted  beneficiaries Tory grandee Michael Heseltine has pointed to an inner demographic deficiency. Older generation Conservative supporters are passing away at the rate of two percent per annum tasking the party to launch a replacement campaign to transfuse fresh blood into it.

The British government is committed to resolving issues of EU nationals in the UK and of UK nationals in the EU. A fine balance has to be worked out in implementing Brexit so that both categories of nationals do not become pawns on the dice of financial arrangements.

We, as member of the Commonwealth as well as beneficiary of the EU, may press for a statement of a positive policy on other immigrants seeking entry to the EU and UK. Jeremy Corbyn, the triumphant Labour leader whose party has traditionally been more liberal on the immigrant issue than the Conservatives, could have a positive say in the matter.

Turn to Grenfell Tower fire disaster which killed at least 79 people. Majority of them were foreigners including Bangladeshis. The wave of national support for the victims put across a resounding signal of unity behind the cause of securing lives in community building blocks. Concerts were arranged with American artistes participating to foster community togetherness aimed at preventing a recurrence. There is now compunction for not having paid the attention due to such building blocks.

In fact Prime Minister Theresa May has opened a super cell to entertain and address grievances brought up to it by people living in community blocks. Ministers have proposed discussion in the parliament on the issue from time to time so that it does not get kicked into the tall grass.

All this means two things. First, small people's voice is becoming heard and second, decent-minded souls far outnumber the hateful lot. The silent majority must speak up and take charge.

The writer is an analyst of current affairs and former Associate Editor, The Daily Star. 


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