As Rishi Sunak and Giorgia Meloni plan to deepen the alliance between the UK and Italy, HOPE not hate is concerned about what this means for the direction of the Conservative Party.
At the G20 Summit, the UK Prime Minister and Italy’s premier discussed ways of working together on the “shared challenge of illegal immigration” in Europe, hinting that they would use Italy’s turn at hosting the G7 next year to “bring people together to talk about the issue”. This raises red flags about the Conservative Party’s trend towards emulating the European right’s brand of populist politics, and the open door this creates for the far right to enter the political mainstream in the UK.
The Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, leads Brothers of Italy, a far-right political party with roots in post World War II neo-facism that endorses inhumane asylum policies and is staunchly anti-LGBT+.
Despite claiming that her party has “no nostalgia for fascism”, this supposed split from its origins as the Italian Social Movement (MSI) during Mussolini’s dictatorship has been in name only. Remnants of the organisation’s original fascist ideology remain a driving force for Meloni’s vision for the country.
Meloni summed up Brothers of Italy’s political ideology in a speech in 2021 with:
“No to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration, yes to work for our people.”
Meloni has routinely repurposed fascist rhetoric used in Italy in the early 20th century. In 2016 she claimed “ethnic replacement” was underway as “over 153,000 immigrants, primarily African men, arrived in Italy”. In 2019, she accused the then Italian Government of wanting to “destroy our European and Christian identity with uncontrolled mass migration”, and has pledged to establish a “naval blockade” of Africa’s Mediterranean coast. She also said NGOs working with refugees ignored “the starving Venezuelans of Italian origin” in favour of a plan to “bring in people different from our identity”.
“Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology.
Meloni’s views are socially conservative. On multiple occasions she’s spoken of her belief that “a child deserves only the best: a mother and a father”. IVF for same-sex couples is banned in Italy, surrogacy is prohibited outright, and Meloni has proposed extending a ban to criminalise gay couples who seek surrogate mothers abroad. Milan city council has also been instructed to stop registering the children of same-sex parents.
The common ground found between Sunak and Meloni on migration is worrying, though not unexpected. Our research has found considerable overlap between how the Conservative Government and the far right talk about migration. This is not entirely surprising as right-wing political parties around the world use the issue of immigration to shore up their base and fearmonger. This framing looks set to continue, as Sunak forges ahead with an alliance with a politician who has taken anti-migrant politics to the extreme.
Meloni herself announced that the two countries “share values”, giving the UK’s immigration policies the stamp of approval from one of Europe’s most extreme right-wing leaders:
“Tackling traffickers and illegal migration is something that your government is doing very well. I’m following your work and I absolutely agree with your work and I think there are many things that we can do together.”
Normalising and promoting extreme anti-migrant sentiment at the political level is dangerous, as it provides a route for far-right politics to creep into the political mainstream. In Italy Meloni has dragged her once extreme and fringe party into the political mainstream.
We see this playing out already, with Meloni using her “share[d] values and experiences with the British Tories” to hit back at claims of fascism and move her party into mainstream conservatism.
Pursuing this relationship with Meloni against a backdrop of the Illegal Immigration Bill, the Rwanda plan, over 80 far-right anti-migrant protests so far this year, has made clear which direction Sunak’s Government plans to go in – one that is increasingly creeping towards the brand of politics pushed by Europe’s far-right political parties and leaders.
Sadly, as is so often the case, whenever there is conflict in the Middle East there is fallout on the streets of Britain. Unsurprisingly, some…
HOPE not hate can reveal violent messages from far-right activists threatening the use of crossbows ahead of a series of far-right demonstrations this weekend. Far-right…