Spectator Diary

This article was published in The Spectator Australia

I have read and heard so much about the radical social and economic changes that have taken place in Europe in recent years that I have ventured here to see them for myself. It is the best part of two decades since I lived and worked on the continent, so I am sure my assessment will be tempered through age and fond reminiscence of a life before politics.

The English seem to be in the grip of a growing Euroscepticism. Who can blame them? The EU is a political behemoth which I am informed directs somewhere between 54 and 82 per cent of domestic laws. I put down the disparity in my multiple informants’ assessment to the fact that apparently 92 per cent of statistics are made up on the spot; including that last one.

The discussion over migration is not limited to mainland Europe. England, too, is feeling the impact of more than three million arrivals since 1997. Community concerns regarding the changing nature of Britain are widespread. Questions regarding the changes to social cohesion as a result of migration policy provoke an animated response from taxi drivers, politicians, police officers and people in the street. Eerily, they all end with a similar refrain: ‘Don’t let this happen to your country, mate.’

You can tell a lot about a man by the cut of his suit. When the particular individual is fit and athletic-looking, while his suit has suspiciously baggy sections, the educated conclusion is ‘professional security’. The tailored bulges allow for a ‘concealed carry’ without drawing undue attention to the hardware beneath. The subtle appearance of two such individuals in the lobby of the Amsterdam Hilton late on a Saturday morning indicated that my luncheon companion must be near. I wait a few more minutes before concluding that, there being only two security guards, my guest must have been escorted into the hotel restaurant through a side entrance. After all, his regular protection detail is a dozen such escorts.

At the restaurant entrance, I am instantly assessed by another professional life-preserver before being escorted to a private booth, clearly chosen for its strategic value. There I am introduced to my luncheon companion: Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, which has gained 24 seats of the 150-member Dutch House of Representatives. His party was founded only five years ago, but its success is easily explained: Wilders addresses legitimate issues that most of Europe’s mainstream parties dare not touch. Chief among these is whether Muslim immigrants will conform to prevailing Western values, or whether Western Europeans will increasingly be made to conform to the values of their immigrant groups. Alas, his efforts have earned him multiple serious threats of personal harm and continuing legal battles over his right to free speech. In a nation where Islamists have already killed politicians for criticising their ideology, it is no wonder Wilders has security guards.

After an hour and a half, Wilders has proved to be charming, charismatic and politically astute. He is very well informed about his chosen subject matter and is clearly not the ‘extremist’ that the left-liberal press love to make him out to be. But then again, few of us are.

After extending an invitation to Wilders to visit Australia, I took my leave en route to Brussels for another series of meetings about the increasingly dysfunctional EU. Taxi drivers all over the world seem to know how to run the country. Brussels is no different, except my local driver wants to prove it. Upon hearing I am a politician interested in the impact of migration, he takes me on a lengthy drive (with corresponding commentary) around the suburbs of the Belgian capital. It is clear that the unanimously passed 2010 burqa ban is not being enforced by the interim government. After nearly an hour, having returned to my hotel, the driver refuses all attempts to pay him. That’s certainly a first.

The French have followed the Belgians and enacted a burqa ban of their own. Despite a few protests, it seems to be effective in removing the dehumanising mask from Parisian streets. The real test is in the banlieues, where the rapid Islamisation of entire suburbs is taking place. Despite warnings, I take the train to one of these no-go areas. Within moments of disembarking, I wish I had heeded that advice and decide to take the next train back. Discretion is the better part of valour, after all.

Paris is no longer the city of my youth, and I suspect the locals have detected this dramatic cultural change too. The famed aloofness of the French seems to have been displaced by a deepening resignation that the influx of immigrants from former French colonies has exacted a heavy toll that cannot be recovered.

Despite some press reports to the contrary, an Italian official tells me there is no facial coverings ban in Italy. My meeting takes place while the Italian and French foreign ministers are trying to resolve their latest conflict. The French have stopped a train load of Tunisian asylum-seekers from entering France from Italy. This contravenes the Schengen Agreement that guaranteed the free movement of people within the EU. It suggests that no matter how often the political elites decry community concerns about multiculturalism as baseless, they are now starting to acknowledge there is a serious problem right across Europe.

At last, home in Adelaide. Immediately seeing a group of burqa-clad entities floating through the airport, I remark to my wife that it’s only a matter of time before our own cultural relativists realise that they too are far behind mainstream concerns. For the country’s sake, I only hope they catch up before it is too late.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Confidential Daily.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.