I'm sure everyone in Britain has by now seen at least one of the Conservative Party's exciting "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" hoardings. For my part, I only ever seem to see the immigration one, but obviously this is mere chance and not a sign that there are more of them than the others. No. Only a real vicious bastard could think that.
Does anyone wonder, though, where the Tories got the idea?
Perhaps they got it in Vienna. Here, you can see some posters issued by the FPÖ (the Freedom Party of Austria) and the alterations various people have carried out on them. What interests us, however, is the strapline across the bottom of the posters. It reads "Er sagt, was Wien denkt" - He says what Vienna thinks.
Are you thinking what we're thinking?
The sentiments on the posters are pretty ugly. They say "Vienna must not become Istanbul", which would indeed be an odd event, but which is code for being unpleasant to foreigners. The "X must not become Y" meme is a very frequent one in German-speaking rightwing politics (it goes back to Nazi scare-stories in the 1920s that black Americans would bring Al Capone-style mafia violence to Germany). And the FPÖ's real viciousness should not be underestimated. Any Tory reading this who may think they really aren't that bad and it's all got up by the Left should pay close attention: they have a long record of viciously racist statements and actions.
In the last few years, their MPs have variously stated that black people are more aggressive than others (this in a debate about the death of a man in police custody), that babies have an innate response to flee from them and that this is a lesson for society (I am not making this up), that the aim of their cultural policy should be "to reach a state where the foreign in our culture is recognised, not as less, but as un-German", that a Green MP was a terrorist and a Nazi (Peter Pilz - I can assure you he is neither, unlike the next guy) that "a new approach to contemporary history as practised by Horst Mahler [a convicted Red Army Faction terrorist turned neo-Nazi who operates a website calling itself "the thinktank of the German Reich"]" was desirable, and more besides. In the past, they introduced a national petition to parliament against "foreigners" in general and established a party-run pseudo-police in Graz which was mercifully shortlived.
Fortunately, they have progressively lost support since 2000, but have maintained influence over government by their ability to create trouble on command. I do hope Michael Howard is not copying them.