Thierry Baudet, a populist prodigy, blows up the party he created

A PHOTO of Thierry Baudet from a newspaper profile in 2014 shows him sprawled on his grand piano, gazing fetchingly to camera. The Chopin-playing Dutch intellectual, then 31, had written a book denouncing the EU. Two years later he co-founded a party, Forum For Democracy (FVD), which won the largest vote-share in provincial elections in 2019. In a speech that night Mr Baudet described it as a world-historical turning point, invoking Hegel’s “owl of Minerva”, a symbol of wisdom that “spreads its wings only [at] dusk”.

This month the FVD blew itself up in a series of scandals, and music again played a role. At a dinner on November 20th a newly recruited politician wanted to play 1980s disco. Mr Baudet insisted on classical. Soon, says an FVD senator who later quit the party, Mr Baudet was ranting that covid-19 was a plot by George Soros. He answered worries about anti-Semitism in the party by saying that “almost everyone I know is anti-Semitic.” (He later repudiated these statements, but did not explain what he had meant.)

The next day a newspaper published chats full of racist and anti-Semitic vitriol among FVD’s youth wing, run by Mr Baudet’s ally, Freek Jansen. Rather than fire Mr Jansen, Mr Baudet quit as parliamentary leader. But he stayed on as an MP, and said he would return as leader if members asked. The FVD’s…

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