As an aside from Smokers Army considerations, the Italian election last Sunday set me thinking.
With final results in from Sunday’s national elections in Italy, the depth of the defeat for the left can be fully appreciated with the resignation of the leader of the Democratic Party (PD) and the severely diminished presence of the center-left coalition in Parliament.
According to the Italian media, elections left the PD “prostrate” while the center-left coalition itself has “disappeared” from the electoral map charting political predominance across Italy’s 20 regions.
The tabulated election results show the center-right coalition taking 267 seats in the House (with 124 of these going to the League) and 136 in the Senate, nudging aside Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party as the de facto leader of the center-right. Forza Italia will have taken 104 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (House) and 57 in the Senate.
In second place, the upstart 5-Star Movement (M5S) took 228 seats in the House and 113 in the Senate, making it the single largest party in the new legislature. As electoral maps illustrate, the M5s stormed through the south of Italy with percentages as high as 50 percent, while the League dominated the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
Why is there such a strong shift to the political right happening?
Somehow or other this reminded of something Ronald Reagan one said:
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
And I remember that the first time I heard that, back in the 1980s during Reagan’s presidency, I didn’t really understand what it meant. Why should anybody be frightened of the government? Weren’t they the most benign organisations? Weren’t they there to help, and provide services that private enterprise couldn’t or wouldn’t?
But back then, of course, I was a bit of a lefty. And the left always has great faith in the power of government. The left see government as Good, and private enterprise (aka capitalism) as greedy and heartless and self-centred and only interested in making a profit.
And I’d grown up in Welfare State Britain, and it was all I’d ever known. And it seemed perfectly good to me.
I think it takes the government to do something really nasty to them before that leftist illusion gets shattered. And in my own case the really nasty thing the government did, in July 2007, was to introduce the public smoking ban.
I was by that time much more centrist than leftist, and I’d been voting Lib Dem for the previous 25 years. For I saw myself as being not leftwing enough to vote Labour, and not rightwing enough to vote Conservative. The Lib Dems looked like the right place for me. They were Liberal, and they were Democratic: that’s what was written on the tin.
So it was with profound dismay that I learned that almost all the nice, touchy-feely Liberal Democratic MPs that I’d been voting for all those years had voted for the smoking ban. What was “liberal” about that? The Lib-Dems weren’t in the least bit liberal at all.
I then started voting for UKIP. Or rather, I started voting for Nigel: the Nigel Farage whose public image was of a cheeky chap who liked a beer and a cigarette (like I did).
So at the last election, after Nigel had stopped being the leader of UKIP, and the party had rescinded its commitment to introducing smoking rooms into pubs, I finally bit the bullet and voted Conservative. I didn’t really see myself as being a conservative (I always imagined them wearing brown shoes and tweed jackets), but there was nobody else to vote for.
And another kick in the teeth from big government came when the EU parliament voted, in lat 2009, for a European smoking ban, complete with show trials for prominent offenders. Up until that point I’d been pro-Europe, and saw the EU as another benign organisation. But when they banned smoking they stopped looking at all benign. In fact they started looking oppressive and dictatorial. And my enthusiasm for the EU began to rapidly fade. And soon it was gone.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the European political class seemed to be populated by wise, urbane, sophisticated, far-sighted people with names like Jacques Delors. But they all seem to have vanished now, and the the new European political class is petty and vindictive and bullying. e.g. towards Greece, and now also towards Britain, and increasingly anyone who dares to disagree with them at all.
And so from being a pro-government leftwinger I metamorphosed into an anti-government rightwinger. And I seem to be becoming more an more anti-government with every passing year.
And I can’t help but think that the same metamorphosis has been taking place all over Europe. For any smoker anywhere in Europe is going to be feeling the force of the state, in the form of one smoking ban or other. And quite likely drinkers and stout people have been feeling it as well.
Add to that, of course, the callous disregard almost all governments now seem to have for their own citizens, as they ship in immigrants over their protests, or favour alien cultures over their own native cultures (e.g. halal meat), or put Islam before Christianity.
In many ways, in Europe, far more than in the USA, the state has become omnipotent. And the smoking bans that have swept across Europe were an expression of omnipotent state power. And the European political class have been enjoying unfettered power for so long now, that they simply don’t bother consulting their own citizens any more. They know best what’s good for everyone, and they feel entitled to govern in whatever way they see fit.
But if the EU and the UK Labour party reached high tide in the early years of the the 21st century, the tide is now ebbing away very fast. People have seen what unfettered government can do, and they don’t like it. And they’ll all each have 101 examples of state power in action that they have witnessed, and they’re utterly sick of it.
It started with Brexit. And now it’s continuing with the rout of the statist Italian left. But it’s only just started. And it’s going to repeat itself in every country in Europe. And it will bring an end to the pretensions of the imperial EU, and much else beside. And it will bring about an almost total eclipse of the Left, such is the depth of the anger.
And it’ll stay that way until the Right in their turn become as unbearable as the Left.
But I suspect that day is a very long way away.