There is a surprising new asset in the struggle against the far right in Europe – Nigel Farage. The inability of the garrulous pub landlord of British politics to keep quiet cost the Freedom Party victory in the Austrian election on Sunday.
That is certainly the view of the Austrian right wingers. Farage had taken it upon himself to declare that Norbert Hofer, the Freedom Party leader, would hold a referendum on leaving the European Union after he had won. “That did not help us, it hindered us,” was the angry complaint by Anton Mahdalik, a senior party member. “We were very aware that a majority of Austrians support EU membership.”
Hofer had described Farage’s unsolicited intervention as a “crass misjudgement”. He was so worried by the pronouncements of the Ukip man that he put out a statement on the eve of the poll saying, “I would ask him not to interfere in Austria’s internal affairs. It doesn’t fill me with joy when someone meddles from outside.” His country, he pointed out, had no desire to emulate Brexit. “It is not something I want. We need to build a stronger union,” he said.