Consider the odium Ukip attracts from right-thinking pundits – by which I obviously don’t mean right as in conservative – square it, and you’re getting close to the opprobrium that the anti-Islamisation movement, Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), is attracting in Germany, not to mention outside it. For a group of demonstrators that number around 17,500 at the most in their most popular Monday gatherings in Dresden, it’s remarkable the breadth of the coalition against them: the churches, Angela Merkel (‘there can be no place in Germany for religious hatred’), the employers federation leader, Ulrich Grillo (‘we should welcome more refugees’) and obviously every anti-racism group on the left. The anti-Pegida demonstrations are gaining in numbers too – there were an estimated 25,000 people at one Munich rally against racism. And granted, there’s plainly quite a number of the Pegida demonstrators who are right-wing extremists; any journalist at these gatherings can muster hair-raising quotes from individual demonstrators within a matter of minutes.
Trouble is, though, they’re not just nutters. There’s a reason why the numbers – including pensioners and manual workers – at these anti-Islamisation gatherings – or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West – swelled from around 200 at their inception in October in Dresden to the thousands the Monday meetings attract now in cities around Germany. One is that mainstream politics have not articulated popular concerns about immigration, and notably immigration from outside Europe. Indeed a poll for Der Spiegel suggested that two thirds of Germans feel that Merkel doesn’t adequately reflect concern about it.