International human rights law guaranteed the ‘right to a nationality’ following the World Wars, reinforcing the assumption that legal nationality was a social good that guaranteed political membership and rights protection. Yet today we see troubling shifts in how states view citizenship and nationality rights; at the individual level, denationalisation (the involuntary loss of citizenship) is increasingly used as a method to punish enemies and reward others, thus de-valuing the concept of citizenship as a fundamental right and instead positing it as a privilege. At the group level, denationalisation sometimes targets entire identity groups in the quest to create and isolate ‘strangers’, particularly in times of rising nationalism. In this chapter, Lindsey N. Kingston challenges the belief that legal nationality is always a social good and contends that legal nationality – the assumed marker of political membership in our world system – can be weaponised. First, modern citizenship and its ensuing documentation exist in many communities with deeply harmful consequences. Second, citizenship is approached by some political leaders as both a reward for exceptionally good deeds and a punishment for bad behaviour deemed threatening to the state. Third, the statelessness that results from the revocation or denial of citizenship serves as a method for the erasure of specific identity groups.
Populism in Europe – lessons from Umberto Bossi’s Northern League
This chapter seeks to answer the question of what lessons can be drawn from the experiences of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord/Northern League by looking at (1) the party’s position within the political system, assessed in terms of its programmatic stances, electoral strength and policy impact; (2) the role of its organisation; and (3) the role of its leadership. Our main conclusion is that Bossi’s League was generally successful, thanks to a clear, distinctive political message well suited to incentivising the creation of closed political communities based on post-material, identitarian values, a rooted organisation and strong leadership. At the same time, we highlight that even in a highly institutionalised “mass” party there are always risks of “organisational decay” associated with the excessive centralisation of power in the hands of one personality surrounded by a small circle of faithful allies, as the case of the League illustrates very well. We also point to the multidimensionality of party ideology and the tensions that may emerge in apparently consistent political platforms. Ultimately, through this comprehensive review, based on the evidence of the preceding chapters, we aim to highlight the limits of the existing literature, which tends to conceive of the evolution of parties in a rather deterministic and teleological way. On the contrary, we show the complexity and plurality of models coexisting within party systems today and even within individual parties. We argue that the ideological and organisational repertoire from which today’s political entrepreneurs can draw is much wider than is commonly believed.
North, peripheries, cross-class appeal and shifting alliances
This chapter first considers electoral results and geography of the vote of the Lega Nord/Northern League with particular focus on the regional and provincial distribution of the vote from 1990 to 2012. The chapter also looks at the ‘peripheralisation’ of the League vote by considering its results in peripheral versus metropolitan areas. This is followed by an analysis of the social composition of the League vote, which is characterised by a cross-class appeal. Finally the chapter provides an overview of the interactions between the party and other political actors in the electoral arena. In particular, it focuses on its shifting relations with the other centre-right parties while in government or opposition. A postscript considers the party’s electoral evolution under Matteo Salvini’s leadership. It shows that, in recent years, the League vote has experienced a significant territorial expansion, which reflects the programmatic nationalisation of the party.
Through a detailed study of key party documents, and by building on previous work on the topic, this chapter defines what the Lega Nord/ Northern League is and discusses the reasons why its regionalism and populism must be seen as the core of the party’s identity. First, we argue that it is impossible to understand the League from its foundation to the present day without highlighting its territorial politics. This is because, whatever policy or strategic U-turns the party has made (for example, its position on European integration, or its alliances), the raison d’être of the League has always been the attainment of some form of northern autonomy. Second, the populist framework of interpretation constructed by the League is discussed in detail. The League has posited the existence of a virtuous and homogeneous ‘us’ – honest, hard-working and simple-living northern Italians, attached to their local traditions – and represented them as being under siege from above by the financial and political elites and, from below, by a series of ‘others’ (in particular southern Italians and immigrants). A postscript describes the more recent transformations experienced by the party under Matteo Salvini’s leadership. Our aim is to show that the ideological profile of today’s League cannot be fully understood without considering Umberto Bossi’s legacy.
Labels such as “extreme right-wing”, “neofascist”, “antipolitical”, “populist” and “radical right” have all been used to define parties such as the Lega Nord/Northern League in recent years – as well as various combinations of them, and more. In this chapter, we argue that: (a) the most descriptively useful term for a definition of the League’s ideology remains that of “regionalist populist”; (b) the party model adopted by the League is that of the “mass party”. Moreover, Chapter 1 claims that, as one of the oldest right-wing populist parties in western Europe, and one that has accumulated considerable experience in government at both national and subnational levels, the League has much to teach us and other European populist parties about how populists can achieve rootedness and success. The Introduction also provides an overview of the book’s content, focusing on the reasons behind the party’s resilience, the importance of grassroots organisation, and the involvement of party members in its activities. It is argued that the current Lega, other populists parties and indeed parties in general have much to learn from Umberto Bossi’s League.
This chapter starts with a general discussion of the key features of mass parties and then focuses on Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord/Northern League, by considering its organisation and membership. It argues that, as a traditional “mass party”, the League provides a perfect example of an organisation able to maintain high levels of mobilisation and to “gain” much from its members, despite its lack of internal democracy and strong centralisation of power in the hands of its leader (what we call here: “participation without power”). The chapter relies on a rich series of interviews with party members and representatives to reveal the party’s internal workings. In addition to this, it also draws on an analysis of key League statutes, rules and regulations and other publications produced by the party for internal use (such as party manuals). Hence, this part of the book provides a better understanding of the structure of and relations of power within the organisation that Bossi created and led for three decades. A postscript outlines the organisational evolution of the party after Bossi’s resignation and under Matteo Salvini’s new leadership.
This chapter offers a discussion of what party members did within, and for, the Lega Nord/Northern League) under Umberto Bossi’s leadership. This includes representing the party in the institutions and getting involved in externally and internally facing activities. This is followed by a discussion of the incentives behind people’s involvement in political parties generally, and in the League more specifically. The analysis then moves to an interpretation of the narratives put forward by League members about the reasons for their participation in the life of the party, i.e. what they thought of the League and what made them stay in it. Ultimately, the chapter reveals how a “traditional” model of party organisation thrived by relying on people’s active participation, while being able to shape views and identities of party members. The main argument made here is that activism was crucial to the efficient functioning of the League as a political party, and also played an important role in the lives of its members.
This chapter focuses on the representation of the Lega Nord/Northern League in legislative and executive bodies at the national level from its foundation until Umberto Bossi’s resignation in 2012, and then considers its role in successive national governments and its impact on key policy areas. Following on from this, it provides a short overview of the role of the party at the subnational level, particularly in regional governments. Interestingly, while Bossi’s party was arguably able to only partially fulfil its aims in successive national governments, its subnational representatives managed to come across to the northern electorate as constructive and pragmatic administrators on many occasions. Lastly, before moving to the conclusion, the chapter offers some thoughts on what the party’s experiences as a member of successive executives actually mean. A postscript looks at the League’s more recent governmental experience under Matteo Salvini’s leadership.
This is the first book to offer a detailed and systematic analysis based on original research of the ideology, electoral and governmental performances, organisational model, type of leadership and member activism characterising the Lega Nord (Northern League) under its founder, Umberto Bossi (1991–2012). Created thirty years ago, the Northern League has now been shelved by a new leader, Matteo Salvini, who has replaced it with a brand new party that bears his own name: the Lega per Salvini Premier (League for Salvini Premier). However, as western Europe continues to witness the sustained growth of populism within its borders, “Bossi’s League” offers a case study of a populist party moving very early on from protest to government. The book identifies the Northern League’s consistent and coherent ideology, its strong leadership and its ability to create communities of loyal partisan activists as key ingredients of its success. It is shown that the League has much to teach us about how populists can achieve durability and rootedness and how parties of all kinds can still benefit from a committed and dedicated membership today.
This chapter starts by placing Umberto Bossi within the “universe” of main Italian and European leaders. Particularly by considering “longevity” as an indicator of political strength, it is shown why Bossi’s case is rather unique and can help us empirically to explore key dimensions of political leadership. Following a framework of analysis based on the established literature, we then consider Bossi’s position within the Lega Nord/Northern League, his relationship with senior figures within the party and with party members and activists. Having done this, the chapter then provides an assessment of Bossi as an external leader by looking at how he appealed to, and was perceived by, the broader electorate, and how he interacted with the leader of the centre-right coalition (and his main competitor/ally): Silvio Berlusconi. Finally, the conclusion stresses the fact that successful leaders are able to combine a solid control of the party organisation and members’ loyalty with an effective use of external communication and strategic interactions with key figures from competing parties. In the postscript, Bossi’s experience is linked to that of the current leader of the League, Matteo Salvini. We show that, whereas some elements of continuity can be detected, Salvini has invested much more in the construction of an “external” leadership.