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Under The Radar – 17 September

Metin Ozer on Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. Denmark hardening on immigration

  2. Governor Newsom survives recall vote

  3. Anglo-French relations on rocky waters

Denmark Hardening on Immigration

What happened?

The UK has been paid an undisclosed sum by the centre-Left Danish government to home 23 Afghan refugees who had spent several years working as interpreters for Denmark. The amount was calculated to meet the expected costs to the British taxpayer of evacuating the interpreters and integrating them into society.

What does it mean?

This manoeuvre is the culmination of a pivot on immigration that left-wing parties across Scandinavia – especially apparent in Denmark – have made in the last few years. Indeed, the current Social Democrat government was elected in 2019, off the back of a promise to cut numbers coming into the country.

Since then, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s Government has taken an increasingly fervent stance. A pledge to limit ‘non-western’ immigrants in low-income neighbourhoods to prevent ethnic ghettos drew controversy as well as actioning the deportation of asylum seekers outside Europe while their applications are processed. Recently, the residency permits of some Syrian refugees have even been revoked, with the justification being that the civil war was now over.

The government has consistently framed these measures as part of the integration of newcomers, essential to protect Denmark’s generous and much-loved welfare system.

That most voters in Western countries are left-wing on economics and right-wing on culture, has become a truism in social science. But it’s one that the Anglosphere’s political Left has, so far, been unable to capitalise on. This is because of the quasi-sacred status of social liberalism within their ideological milieus. However, as left-wing parties like the Social Democrats reap the electoral dividends, even while the UK’s Labour party flounders, perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we see the same tactics here.

Governor Newsom Survives Recall Vote

What happened?

California Governor Gavin Newsom has become the second governor in US history to defeat a recall vote, following a petition to have him unseated that amassed more than 1.5 million signatures.

What does it mean?

Petitions for recall votes in the state of California are popular, with 18 now submitted since the turn of the century, although most do not get as far as a vote. The exception to the rule before Newson was everyone’s favourite-bodybuilder-turned Hollywood action hero-turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won his position as governor in a 2003 recall vote booting out Democrat Gray Davis.

This time around, the recall appeared to be a primarily partisan matter, with Republicans triggering the vote over Newsom’s handling of the pandemic. However, widespread public attention piqued when Newsom was photographed dining at a restaurant last November whilst urging residents of California to remain at home as Covid cases rose.

Having initially dismissed the vote as a distraction, high-ranking Democrats kicked into gear following a series of late summer polls that suggested the Governor could be in trouble. Newsom faced a strong challenge from Trump-supporting Republican, Larry Elder, who emerged as a frontrunner amongst the 46-strong candidate pool. All eyes were trained on the recall vote as a bellwether for the 2022 midterms, and whether the Trump-appeal had died down following his loss in the 2020 Presidential elections. Given what was at stake, both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden had been quick to throw their weight behind the Newsom campaign, which had been framed as a vote on “progressive politics”. Considering California is a deep-blue state, anything other than a decisive victory could have spelled further trouble for the Biden administration and their legislative agenda after a few turbulent months.

Patel puts Anglo-French relations on rocky waters

What happened?

Last week, the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to turn back boats carrying would-be asylum seekers across the Channel. In response, her French counterpart, Gérald Darmanin, penned a letter warning that any “unilateral” act could have “a negative impact” on Franco-British cooperation.

What does it mean?

Blaming the French is a popular British pastime. And in the last few years, it has certainly been the instinctive response of many of those on the right, angered by the growing inflow of migrants from France.

In practice, cooperation between the two nations has been fairly extensive – certainly more than is commonly supposed. After all, for the nearly 20 years since the 2003 Treaty of Le Touquet, Britain’s de facto southeastern frontier has not been Dover but rather at Calais, Dunkirk, and the Gare du Nord in Paris. Indeed, British Border Force officials check passports on French soil and inspect lorries at French Channel ports. Around 50,000 people are apprehended every year through these joint ventures.

So while it may be tempting for Patel to pander to her base and strike a belligerent pose, this may prove counterproductive. After all, the overwhelming majority of illegal migrants who reach France don’t wind up in the UK. It’s only a small minority who brave the journey across the Channel.

French populists are becoming increasingly vocal in pushing for the 2003 Treaty to be revoked. If they get their way, far more people could wind up on British shores than we’re witnessing now. As Darmanin’s rebuke implicitly reminded- the Home Secretary should tread carefully as existing French cooperation is by no means set in stone.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. ‘Russian elections: persecution, cash handouts and the Putin system’ by Max Seddon for The FT

  2. ‘The hard truth for Labour: it’s the Tories who will decide Boris Johnson’s fate’ by Rafael Behr for The Guardian

  3. ‘Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is beating the Republicans at their own Trumpian game’ by Dominic Green for The Telegraph

  4. ‘Michael Gove should empower mayors to help level up’ by James Forsyth for The Times

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