About us

Leading international thinktank and political network


Register for all the latest updates in our regular newsletter

Home News State of the Left - July 2011

State of the Left - July 2011

20 July 2011
State of the Left - July 2011

Rahm Emanuel’s epithet that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” seems to have been a leitmotif for European social democrats in recent weeks, if not across the Atlantic. Political leadership is a tricky business; anticipating the sting of unknown events and knowing when to land your punches in a crisis takes courage as well as experience.

In Britain, in the wake of the spiralling News International phone-hacking saga, Labour’s Ed Miliband is having a very good crisis; he has answered many of his critics’ concerns with a bold and courageous response, pushing for a judicial inquiry into the troubled relationship between politics and the media, while also rebuking David Cameron’s management of the Murdoch affair.

Håkan Juholt, meanwhile, has been contemplating in Sweden how best to strike his opponents – when they are weakest, or when he is strongest. Regarded by many as a political unknown when he became leader of the social democrats, Juholt has won some important victories in recent weeks and could be on the cusp of defeating the government’s new budget in the autumn. This is a looming crisis which Juholt is determined not to waste.

After a meeting of minds at the Progressive Governance Conference in Oslo, does this add credence to suggestions that Miliband-Juholt are the new political power couple on the left?

Yet, across the Atlantic, the social democratic heavyweight du jour, Barack Obama, continues to wear heavy the burden of expectation in his attempts to redress America's own debt crisis. He has now been drawn into an almighty political slugging match, a game of unprecedented brinkmanship, with the Republican Congress about how best to structure deficit reduction. The battle is by no means over, but it is entering its final rounds –Obama needs to quickly reassert his leadership.

Elsewhere, good crisis management underscores the strategies of social democrats. In Denmark, the left is so determined to fight the forthcoming election on the issue of economic competence, it is now following the centre-right government’s immigration policies – perversely, this mum’s-the-word strategy has reaped rewards for Mrs Thorning-Schmidt, as she stands ready to assume the title of the premier.

Similarly, in Australia, the Labor government is trying different approaches to defuse the immigration debate and not trigger a potentially calamitous crisis, while in Germany the SPD is already discussing its challengers for the 2013 Chancellor bout. Finally, our new political observers from Chile, who will report from countries across South America in future editions, highlight the political opportunies afforded to Peru’s new president.

View the latest opinion polls from 18 countries here »

Policy Network Political Observers

Reporting monthly from across the world, "the state of the left" will feature both regular columists and guest contributors.

Uk  UK - Ed Miliband is running the Murdoch show

John McTernan“Miliband's bold call when the scandal went viral has made him the man who shapes the political agenda. What was risky, radical and reckless a short time ago has become reality. He has the greatest power in politics - he makes the weather." BY JOHN MCTERNAN

US United States - American progressivism looks leaderless

Michael Lind" Fewer and fewer centrist liberals are defending the president as a pragmatist playing a complex game of “three-dimensional chess” designed to outwit the conservatives...The consistent refusal of Obama to provide progressive leadership has left American progressivism leaderless. " BY MICHAEL LIND

Sweden - Juholt blow brings prospect of early Swedish election

Katrine Kielos" The opposition has found a gap in the budget law that makes it possible to stop what is being determined at the core of the government's economic policy. If Reinfeldt does not back down Juholt might decide to push him towards dissolving the government and calling a new election." BY KATRINE KIELOS

Denmark Denmark - On the borders of politics

Kristian Madsen"Fudging the border issue is actually an expression of the party's current political strategy. On questions of immigration and law and order the Social Democrats are guided by what internally is known as the "Sass Larsen Doctrine", which takes its name from the party's number two, the hard-nosed and bare-knuckled shadow finance minister. BY KRISTIAN MADSEN

Germany - Coalition fighting on all fronts

Michael Miebach"A conservative-green coalition has become realistic, and a lot of Greens would prefer this option to a testing three-party-formation. Jeering at the Greens for being a ‘latte-macchiato-party’, as Sigmar Gabriel did a while ago, is definitely the wrong approach." BY MICHAEL MIEBACH

  Australia - Asylum and refugee politics torment Labor

David Hetherington" It’s the issue that never goes away, one which bedevils 21st century social democratic parties around the world. The treatment of asylum seekers is a minefield for progressive politics, splitting the twin bases on which social democrat electoral success has historically been constructed." BY DAVID HETHERINGTON

Peru  South America - Towards Brazilian-inspired social democracy in Peru

Francisco Diaz Robert Funk"Peru is an extreme case of a very Latin American – and increasingly global – phenomenon. While it has enjoyed average GDP growth rates of around 5.5% since 2000, most Peruvians do not enjoy the benefits of this prosperity". FRANCISCO JAVIER DÍAZ & ROBERT FUNK

Most read on the Social Democracy Observatory

1. The angry white men and their motives, by Matthew Goodwin
2. The open society and its believers, by Paul Scheffer
3. It's reform or dire electoral straits for the centre-left, by Patrick Diamond
4. What leadership crisis in the EU? by Olaf Cramme
5. The Precariat – The new dangerous class, by Guy Standing

Policy Network’s State of the Left will take a short break and return in September with further insights into social democracy in Europe and beyond.

Share this page

Search news

News search form