Britain’s election is only eight weeks away and, if things stay as they are, the country will soon have a politics of the kaleidoscope, with weakened leaders attempting to construct some sort of order from a panoply of colours and characters. As our UK commentator Hopi Sen observes, after decades of sneering at European counterparts, British politics should brace itself for a period of protracted instability.
As our State of the Left bulletin this month shows, there are few alternatives to messy coalition politics and compromise as the politics of debt continue to dominate. In France and Italy, where the left govern, Manuel Valls and Matteo Renzi push on with their reform programmes despite increasing vocal opposition from their party’s restive leftwingers – the French Socialists showed poorly in yesterday’s regional elections heightening the pressure on the government, while the Italian prime minister tries to balance Silvio Berlusconi with the hard left of his own party ahead of important regional polls.
From Germany, Michael Miebach focuses on why the SPD remain stuck on 25 per cent and unable to dent Chancellor Merkel’s popularity despite a solid record of achievement in coalition government– for instance, the introduction of a minimum wage and a drive to reduce inequality in boardrooms. He writes that there is little room for manoeuvre as the party – and the public – support Germany’s constitutional debt brake, which restricts promises on large-scale investment. On the other hand, as Katrine Marçal reports from Sweden, the Social Democrats, who have a reputation for iron fiscal discipline, have removed the country’s budget surplus target and thus broken a two-decade-long consensus about the nation’s fiscal framework to allow future-facing investment.
The politics of debt and deficits reverberate around Greece, Ireland and Spain, where our observers assess the chances of a Syriza-Sinn Féin-Podemos radical left arc wielding power. And, with all the talk about ‘Pasokification’ or ‘PSOEfication’, we feature contributions from Jan Cornille and Tim Bale, who give a north-west European perspective on the threat of left populism, arguing that the challenge to social democrats comes more from democratic nationalist parties, optimistic green-liberals and right wing populists targeting traditional supporters.
Ruy Teixera and John Halpin also report on Hillary Clinton’s likely campaign in the US, with the observation that the populist and green left should feel confident that its ideas and strategies are gaining strength given trends within the party and across the American political landscape. They write that, “both core progressive constituencies (young people, people of colour, unmarried women, white professionals) and important target voters (the white working class) hold remarkably populist views on inequality, corporate power and government efforts to bolster jobs and wages and are increasingly more moderate-to-liberal on social issues.”
All in all, the UK election will be another key barometer of how post-crash politics has shifted the centre-ground. As Hopi Sen concludes, with the polls neck and neck, one certainty seems to be that UK politicians will soon need advice from their continental colleagues on how to deliver stability in variety.
month's State of the Left features critical analysis from Austria, Belgium,France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States
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