Gains for the far-right were scattered across the continent without any unified trend emerging. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party came second on a fiercely anti-islam programme with 17 per cent of the vote and in Austria two far- right parties also got a combined score of 17 per cent.
In both cases the rise of the right coincided with a collapse in support for centre left parties, and it was the same story in Britain where Nick Griffin’s anti-immigration British National Party won its first ever two seats in the European Parliament. The BNP actually polled fewer votes than five years ago, but benefited from the slump in popularity of Gordon Brown’s ruling Labour Party. In Hungary the far right Jobbik Party gained three seats with 14.7 per cent of the vote, taking advantage of the collapse in support for the ruling socialists there. In Denmark, Slovakia and Finland extremists made gains, while in Roumania Corneliu Vadim Tudor’s “Greater Romania Party” made gains on a highly nationalistic agenda which his critics claim takes advantage of xenophobic feelings. However the movement towards the far-right was by no means universal. In France the Front National, Europe’s biggest far-right party for the last three decades scored only 6.3 per cent of the vote, way off the historic high of nearly 20% it recorded 12 years ago in a presidential election, and at the lower end of expectations.