They propose the following code of conduct:
"- Condemn all racist, xenophobic, discriminatory or nationalistic statements or actions.
- Not get into a ruling coalition or electoral alliance with a Party inciting or attempting to stir up
racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred, at European or national levels.
- Refuse an implicit support from a Party inciting or attempting to stir up racial or ethnic prejudices
and racial hatred to form a government.
- Fight the legitimization of the discourses of such Parties by refusing to engage into their terms of
the debate, by not taking up their ideas into its political platforms nor in the policies it implements
when in government.
- Isolate its members not respecting those principles."
The other side to this strategy of isolation is PES-specific: the party places some of the blame in the court of the Conservative and Liberal parties for their obsession with cutting the deficits across Europe and not paying attention to jobs and growth. I tend to agree to some extent, in that fiscal conservatism needs to be married with some overarching ideology and approach to the state and society - whether left-wing or right-wing. Unprincipled cutting of the welfare state on the altar of deficit reduction is alienating to the public; it is simply the elites tending to the public finances without regard to the public.
Though I disagree with the Tory vision of the state, Labour's charges of ideological cuts strikes me as purely politik. Both parties would make ideological cuts and revisions to the tax system, and it's healthy to have a debate about what sort of society and conception of the state there should be. So far, while Labour has spoken out about the cuts being unfair, I think they should give a clearer idea about what role they think the state should play. The left-wing arguments of fairness will start to ring hollow against the right-wing version if they let it go unchallenged. The key, though, is to have the debate and to make sure that politics matters beyond the mere management of the state. Otherwise mainstream politics will appear to be distant and disconnected.
So the challenge is for parties to be more challenging and engaging in a way that avoids the terms and rhetoric styles of the far-right. The proposal not to accept support from the far-right is a principled and right approach, though it comes with dangers too.
In the Netherlands, the new government is a minority coalition with support from Geert Wilders' PVV party. An alternative coalition would look more like a Grand Coalition, as parties more to the left of the VVD (Liberals) or the CDA (Christian Democrats) would have to join. Under the current arrangement, the danger is that the PVV's policies could be legitimised to a degree by the association with the government, while it could also play as an opposition party and try to have it both ways at the next election. Those who claim that Wilders will become more moderate when faced with the realities of power have to remember that the PVV doesn't have to take the responsibility for bad decisions by the government. On the other hand, a Grand Coalition would limit the scope for mainstream political debate and could permit Wilders to set himself up as the main opposition. The governing parties would have to try and maintain their own distinct identities and arguments, which the LibDems in the UK have found hard to do.
On balance, I think that the Grand Coalition approach is better if done well, and it is certainly the more principled option. However, it may depend on the conduct of the parties which approach will turn out to be the best in each case. A completely different question, of course, is whether the approach or recommendations of the Europarties will make any difference to the actions of the national parties. I can't see it figuring in their day-to-day political action.
In other news, the Public Prosecution Department in the Netherlands has recommended that Wilders be found not guilty of inciting hatred towards Muslims or of discriminating against them. They were forced to take up the case after a High Court ruling, but the political consequences will likely be contrary to what the anti-racism campaigners originally wanted.