guardian.co.uk: English Defence League filling vacuum left by mainstream politics, says report

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Comment: An effective way for Finland to come to grips with its far-right problem in parliament would be to see how countries like Britain deal with these types of threats.Two thinktanks, Right Response and Chatham House, are warning that out-of-touch politicians on a grassroots level have left a vacuum for far-right groups like the English Defence League. 

Matthew Goodwin of Right Response claims that mainstream parties had become increasingly professional and managerial. “(They are) concentrating on political marketing techniques and relying on computer-generated canvas returns, tightly-scripted phone banks, focus groups and opinion polls,” he said, “rather than on face-to-face contact, except at election time. Extreme parties often had more innovative websites too.”

He continues: “The rise of extreme parties was not only linked to anxiety over threats to jobs, social housing and the welfare state posed by immigrants. Mainstream parties needed to challenge more forcefully claims national cultures were under attack and that meant going beyond making an economic case for immigration and arguing instead for cultural diversity.”

Such observations by the author of Right Response could very well apply to Finland and explain partially why a right-wing populist party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) won 19.1% of the vote in the last election. Instead of challenging the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim claims of some of the PS candidates, mainstream parties except for the Greens started to flirt with that party’s xenophobic message.

It appears that in Finland we are having a difficult time admitting how severe of a social ill is racism and if there are far-right anti-democratic politicians in parliament. Migrant Tales has maintained for a long time that the Suomen Sisu wing of the PS led by MP Jussi Halla-aho and his cronies are extremists that should be isolated from Timo Soini’s party.

Social Democratic Party Presidential hopeful Paavo Lipponen has warned earlier about the threat of the far right in the PS. He continued to drive home this message today on MTV3’s Huomenta Suomen Torstaikapinetissa show: “A clear far-right streak exists in the Perussuomalaiset party,” said Lipponen. “We must now ask whether this is Perussuomalaiset (party’s) line and if it accepts this type of politics.” 

Conservative MP for Northampton North, Michael Ellis, was quoted on guardian.co.uk as stating that he had “every confidence” that the coalition government would combat “the rise of the ‘new far-right'” and the potential for “lone wolf'” terrorism.

“One must only look at the terrible atrocity this summer in Norway at the hands of a murderous terrorist – in the name of a crazed war against Islam,” he said, “to see the relevancy and currency of this report.”

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James Meikle

Mainstream political parties must tackle far-right groups through doorstep hearts and minds campaigns that tackle anti-Muslim sentiments at local level, according to two reports on challenging extremists.

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MTV3: Lipponen jyrähtää jälleen: Perussuomalaisissa asuu äärioikeistolaisuus

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