In the election in the Netherlands in June, Geert Wilders’s far-right Freedom Party got 15.5 per cent of the total vote – a 10 per cent increase on its showing in 2006. It now has 24 seats out of 150 in the Dutch parliament, making Wilders an influential powerbroker. He is a state-of-the-art populist. He doesn’t need to rally a crowd: his incendiary one-liners are disseminated on the internet and recycled by the Dutch media, day after day. Everyone follows his antics, whether or not they agree with his politics. On 11 September he will be in New York protesting against the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.
The unsatisfactory election result means that a coalition of Liberals (31 seats) and Christian Democrats (21 seats) is in the making, but they’ll need Wilders’s party for an overall majority. Hence the ‘agreement of support’, a document now being drawn up by the two coalition parties and the Freedom Party. All three have committed themselves to accepting the others’ opinions about Islam. Wilders, who cast himself as a potential prime minister during the election campaign, may become a pillar of government, while continuing to denounce Islam and Muslims as ‘violent, dangerous and backward’, ‘a fascist ideology’ and a ‘totalitarian’ religion; he has described Muhammad as ‘a barbarian, a mass murderer and paedophile’.
More than anything it was Wilders’s call to send Muslims and other immigrants back ‘home’, irrespective of their Dutch citizenship, that won him such a large share of the vote in June. He’s announced that the presence of ‘non-western allochtons’ – including ‘ne’er-do-wells’ from the Dutch Antilles – should be audited: what is the bill, for ‘the Dutch taxpayer’, of keeping these disagreeable people below sea-level, in a climate that doesn’t suit them and a culture they cannot grasp? He’s proposed that Muslim women who wear a headscarf should pay an annual ‘head rag tax’ (kopvoddenbelasting) of 1000 euros. In a TV interview in Denmark he urged that ‘millions of Muslims be deported from Europe’.
He is also a dab hand with figures. In 2009 he claimed that Holland’s ‘Islamisation’ was continuing apace and, in the same breath, said that ‘only last year  we had 140,000 immigrants’, inviting confusion between numbers of Muslim immigrants and the total number of immigrants to Holland. More reliable figures suggest that net inward migration was 26,640, or 0.16 per cent of the population. Wilders however believes that Muslims are scheming to become a majority, and that by the time they are it will be ‘too late to save our freedom’. By 2025, he suggests, one in three children born in Europe will have Muslim parents. ‘There is only one solution, only one language: send them away.’
The ‘agreement of support’ will bind his anti-Islamic position into the government of a prosperous EU member state. Our ministry of foreign affairs recently sent a memo to embassies abroad, priming them for the difficult questions that will be asked once the new government is formed. Will the building of mosques in the Netherlands be banned? Or the Quran? Or Islamic schools? The memo reminds civil servants overseas to insist that measures of this kind would be unconstitutional. ‘As far as we know,’ it adds without much conviction, ‘the next government does not intend to amend the constitution.’