Global media coverage of Britain’s decision to ban a Dutch MP who sharply criticises Islam may have contributed to his party’s surge in opinion polls.
According to reports from Holland, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is now the country’s most popular party, moving ahead of the Christian Democrats.
Mr Wilders found himself at the centre of an international free speech row when he was held at London’s Heathrow airport last month before being sent back to Holland.
Britain’s Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, ordered the ban after deciding that his presence in the UK could pose a security risk.
Critics accused the Government of pandering to fears that thousands of angry Muslims might have taken to the streets in protest.
Mr Wilders has compared the Koran to Mein Kampf, and is currently facing prosecution in Dutch courts because of his comments about Islam.
He was travelling to the UK to attend a screening in Parliament of his controversial film, Fitna, which draws parallels between radical Islam and violence.
His 17-minute-long film juxtaposes quotations from the Koran with footage of terrorist atrocities and speeches by Muslim preachers.
Mr Wilders was originally due to show the film in the House of Lords in January, but the showing was postponed amid reports of pressure from Muslim groups.
It was later explained by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who was to host the event, that the original showing was postponed “to allow time for clarification on issues concerning freedom of speech”.
After the Home Secretary decided to block Mr Wilders from attending the rescheduled showing, Lord Pearson said: “The Home Office is guilty of appeasement on this, clearly.”
Lord Pearson said he took exception to some of Wilders’ statements but wanted to show his film “precisely to uphold his right to freedom of speech, even if we disagree with what he’s saying”.