Migration betrayal will push the UK into a French-style political collapse

Marine Le Pen, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party parliamentary group, and Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National - RN) party and head of the RN list for the European elections, attend a political rally during the party's campaign for the EU elections, in Paris, France, June 2, 2024
The future of the Right? If Farage fails, more nativist leaders like Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella will rise in Britain too - Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Amid the rough and tumble of our general election, some have paused to puzzle over the peculiarity of Britain being about to hand a massive majority to a humdrum technocrat, just as the hard-Right surges in Europe. One could endlessly dissect this “British exceptionalism”, from the Tory party’s self-immolation to the distortions of first-past-the-post. And yet, unless Britain changes course, we too could be ruled by the hard Right in five to 10 years’ time.

This may seem far-fetched. It is tempting to dismiss France – where Marine Le Pen is heading for a dramatic electoral showdown with a radical Leftist alliance – as a unique basket case, for instance. It has a formidable history of impassioned polarisation.

The country’s ghettoised banlieues, ravaged by anomie and nihilism, are the outcome of a conceited post-war technocratic project to build Le Corbusier-style concrete cities for the working class. France’s guiding philosophy of laïcité, rooted in an Enlightenment philosophy that vehemently opposes obscurantism and pious display, is irreconcilable with Islam and its adherents’ demands for religious “respect”.

The rise of the hard Right in other European countries can be explained away in a similar fashion, from Italy’s previous dabblings with fascism to Germany’s enigmatic Eurasian mindset, a powerful country situated between East and West. And yet there is also a common story. These countries are drifting to the Right because their ruling classes have failed to tackle the twin existential issues facing the West: economic stagnation and unsustainable mass migration. Europe is a warning of where we could soon end up if we don’t confront these issues ourselves.

True, Britain has long prided itself on its relaxed attitude to migration. Yet polls suggest that views are hardening. Repeated broken promises have made mass immigration a symbol of elite deception. Uncontrolled borders have become emblematic of a country where all commitment to order, all will to fix problems, has withered away.

Nor should we be blind to the toxic peculiarities of the British migration problem. Our elites’ carnivalesque fondness for multiculturalism, coupled with their disdainful indifference to “left-behind” areas, has led to a highly distinctive form of British “chain migration”, with virtually self-contained communities being transplanted from abroad to inner city tenement blocks and Northern towns.

Very soon all this is going to explosively intersect with stagnation. Britain may be tipping into a dangerous paradox, whereby mass migration drives GDP growth and at the same time – because we are incapable of building infrastructure to support population growth – undermines living standards.

What is alarming is that, as pressing as these issues are, the coming years under Labour will almost certainly be a write-off. The key question is: to what extent? Keir Starmer is in many ways an irrelevant nonentity, the tedious point B that the mechanistic laws of linear time demand comes between A and C. But the question of whether his interregnum is mediocre or shambolic may well decide the course of history.

An optimistic take is that Labour can lay some useful if limited groundwork, before being ejected from office due to its timidity once the Right has got its act together. Perhaps it will make a start on planning reform and bring some order to asylum. But somehow I suspect that the Left will, as usual, respond to the great challenges of our age with a mixture of pomposity and paralysis.

For one thing, Europe’s Right-wards lurch threatens to upend Starmer’s “velvet glove” approach to migration. His hopes of managing asylum flows through multilateral cooperation are already in ruins. His pledge to scrap the Rwanda policy is disastrously timed.

A perception that Britain is softening its borders when Europeans are moving to shut theirs may well result in a spike in Channel crossings. If Starmer does try to pivot to a harder deterrent plan, there is a serious question over whether his party – full of human rights lawyers and refugee activists – could sink to such an act of national pragmatism or would prefer to heroically fall on its sword, committing political suicide.

Nor does Labour have a growth plan that might help it evade the migration challenge. Ultimately, this country has stagnated because big business has ceased to innovate. The next reforming government will have to knock our corporate laggards into shape through the removal of subsidies and, in the case of Big Pharma, reform of overly indulgent intellectual property laws.

With Labour so desperate to position itself as the “party of big business” and so gullible towards corporate blather about Brexit being the root of their ills, the elephant in the room will continue to be ignored. Any notion that Labour can get around it by building a few more houses and wind farms is absurd.

The scenario that the country should fear most is one in which Labour fails and the centre Right is still out for the count. That is why there is a lot riding on whether Reform is able to either swallow the Tory party or force it into an electable form.

Some are aghast at the growing influence of Nigel Farage. But if he does not win the ideological war on the Right, a far nastier, more nationalistic movement could appear.

Unless a party emerges that is willing and able to slash migration, within a few years the demand to reduce numbers could morph, as it has across Europe and America, into talk of the need to actively deport illegal, criminal, and even non-white non-assimilated foreigners.

The window in Britain for a populist movement focused on not just giving the people what they want, but fixing deep problems is also steadily closing. In Europe and America, a socialist brand of populism is taking hold which indulges in the obscene falsehood that the West would be a land of milk and honey were it not for scrounging immigrants and greedy corporations.

For now, Reform has opted for the more accurate message that Britain’s problems include immigration but they also transcend it. Faragism, with its desire to cut migration but also to reduce public spending and overhaul the NHS, stands for an intriguing mixture of mass empowerment and Thatcherite tough love.

But if this fails to make headway, whoever moves into this space may well adopt the dangerous magical thinking of Le Pen’s National Rally, which rails against vital changes to pensions, or the anti-capitalism of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, which favours squeezing big business to fund public goods.

That Britain is heading for a period of turbulence is an understatement. We may be about to live through the most important juncture in our history since the Second World War.