The grand coalition of Europe's far right
Written by Javier Maquieira, Associate
Edited by David Gaffney , Partner
Europe has witnessed some remarkable trends in recent times, such as the rise of new coalition and minority governments, active independentist movements, and an increased presence of far right parties at all levels of political representation. While the liberal idea of a Europe “united in diversity” has yet to be realised following failed attempts to achieve further integration through the European Union, an opposite force is testing new ways of avoiding just that. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, heir apparent of the French far right and the niece of Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marion Le Pen, has set her eyes on building a pan-European, “grand coalition” of the right in order to solve the lack of unity among European extreme nationalists. At the centre of Maréchal-Le Pen’s plans to establish a common ideological programme is her Institute of Social, Economic and Political Sciences (ISSEP) in Lyon; a higher education school founded in 2018 to “train the future leaders of the real right”. This metapolitical project is now opening its first branch outside France in Madrid through Maréchal-Le Pen’s partnership with Spain’s far-right party, Vox. Vox might as well be a strategic partner for the former Front National member of the France’s National Assembly. Led by Santiago Abascal, the emerging Spanish party has the potential to bring together a Latin alliance of South European far right parties, on the one hand, and political organisations in the Visegrád Four through its membership to the anti-EU European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, on the other. If successful in their “educational” endeavour, Vox leaders and Maréchal-Le Pen could eventually influence similar organisations across Europe to converge and push forward a common extremely conservative and anti-EU agenda. It may feel like a distant threat, but in post-Brexit Europe any political event risks being twisted and used to boost the cause of anti-immigration and Eurosceptic ideas. In the face of a unified far right, European leaders must champion the economic and cultural case for diversity.
As vote counting continues in Ireland, Sinn Féin has described the general election as “something of a revolution in the ballot box”. With all first preferences counted, the centre-left nationalist party has 24.5% of the vote, compared to 22.2% for Fianna Fáil and 20.9% for Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael, meaning that no party will win enough seats for an outright majority. According to the latest reports at least 900 people have now died from the coronavirus, most of them in mainland China, meaning the death toll has overtaken that of Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003. While more than 40,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease globally, the end of the extended lunar new year break in China today will put the country’s containment strategy to the test. Parasite has become the first non-English film to win best picture at the Academy Awards. The South Korean feature also picked up best director, best international feature film and best original screenplay. Renée Zellweger won the best actress Oscar for her role in Judy, and Joaquin Phoenix accepted the lead actor award for Joker with an impassioned speech on inequality.
Business and economy
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, is expected to announce on Tuesday the start of construction on the first stage of the controversial railway project High Speed 2. As part of his decision, HS2’s board will be overhauled, adding new non-executive directors to the project which must cut costs to address its soaring price tag. (£) China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, has accused some senior Conservative politicians of conducting “a witch-hunt” after they opposed the UK government’s decision to involve Huawei in the country’s 5G network. In an interview with BBC, Liu insisted that the tech company operates totally independently from the Chinese government as a private business, and criticised the UK government’s restrictions on its involvement. High winds brought by Storm Ciara helped a British Airways jet make the fastest subsonic flight from New York to London on Sunday. Assisted by unusually strong tailwinds, the Boeing 747-436 reportedly completed the 3,500-mile journey in just four hours and 56 minutes, regaining the record from Norwegian and shaving more than 100 minutes off the scheduled flight time.
Columns of note
Jonathan Evans explains in The Times how the seven principles of public life could be upheld as artificial intelligence is deployed across the public sector. Of the seven, Evans maintains that AI currently poses a threat for openness, accountability, and objectivity. He concludes that ethical AI is possible if authorities are open about algorithmic systems, AI decisions are explained, and technical solutions to data bias work to avoid discrimination. (£) In The Guardian, Richard McGregor argues that the coronavirus outbreak has exposed the deep flaws of Xi Jinping’s leadership. The death of Li Wenliang, the doctor that warned about the virus in December 2019, and the subsequent emotional reaction of Chinese citizens after Xi’s government had tried to silence him, have crystallised the elite’s dislike for China’s leader.
Source: The Times
The week ahead
After a hectic week for US Democrats in Iowa, their primary vote takes place in New Hampshire on Wednesday. While senator Bernie Sanders is leading the polls in the neighbouring state, former mayor Pete Buttigieg is on his heels after beating expectations in Iowa. On Tuesday, the European Commission will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the future partnership between the UK and the EU. Meanwhile, the coronavirus will continue to make the headlines as more economic data and company results are released this week. In the US, Facebook is facing a court case before tax authorities in San Francisco on Wednesday. The same day, Google will seek to overturn the first of three EU antitrust fines levied against it. In other corporate news, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland will be the first big UK banks to report their full year results, on Thursday and Friday respectively.
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Until 1972, most tennis balls were either black or white. The advent of colour television made them hard to see on the screen, and so yellow ones were introduced.
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