Rutte was wise to take on the far right | Letters

Letters
Michael Meadowcroft praises Mark Rutte (pictured) for taking on Geert Wilders and ‘entering into no-holds-barred public meetings’. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP

Jon Henley’s analysis is headlined “Rutte’s victory over Wilders gives few clues to Europe’s direction of travel” (16 March). I disagree. There’s one key clue in the relative victory of Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD party pushing Geert Wilders’ PVV into second place, and that is that Rutte took on Wilders, debating with him and entering into no-holds-barred public meetings and televised question and answer sessions. For too long Europe’s mainstream leaders have sought to marginalise the nationalist right by ignoring it or by changing the electoral system. Historically, this has manifestly failed. If French and German political leaders take on the Front National and the Alternative für Deutschland and, like Rutte, point out the flaws in the far right’s case, then it is likely that these parties will similarly decline at the forthcoming polls.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

• In Holland, when its UN blue beret troops stood by while the Srebrenica massacre took place, leading politicians subsequently took responsibility and resigned. In Turkey, on the other hand, mere mention of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 will get you thrown into prison.
Judith Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

• Your correspondents point out the pitfalls of making historical political parallels (Letters, 16 March) but it is not difficult to trace common elements in Donald Trump’s early weeks of presidency with the tactics of dictators in the 1930s: antisemitism then and Islamophobia now; attacks on the press and media; vilification of judges; ad hominem attacks; intolerable pressure on smaller neighbouring countries; and the abuse of language and convention. Societal injustices in common – gross inequalities, dispossession and deep resentment – provide a fertile context for tyranny.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

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