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Home News State of the Left - April 2011

State of the Left - April 2011

14 April 2011
State of the Left - April 2011

Policy Network, April 2011

The dominant leadership styles of the likes of Bill Clinton, Göran Persson, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder have long departed the political arena. And with them the wave of optimism and self-confidence which swept through social democratic parties at the turn of the Millenium. Back then, complacency was the foremost hurdle for social democrats propelling the new economy.

A new generation of leaders has now entered the political fray but they are confronted by manifold dilemmas from every conceivable angle – a lack of trust in the state and the market, public apathy, the rising tide of ‘green’ and coalition politics, and conservative-led public discourse, to name but a few.

What is clear is that the centre-left needs to start winning the ‘big arguments’. Here there are grounds for optimism. In the US, as President Obama enters his long campaign for re-election, he has made a potentially sea-changing speech on the US budget deficit. In the UK, the collapse of public confidence in the Coalition’s NHS reforms provides an opportunity for Labour to re-connect with disillusioned voters.

But leadership also means identifying strategies to cope with the new issues and competitors in our politics – in Australia and Germany,  newly mobilised Green voters are radically changing the political landscape, while in the Netherlands and France cultural tensions continue to affect social democratic narratives.

Are we seeing a new pattern of leadership in response to the challenges facing social democratic parties in Europe? At present, a whole range of styles, approaches and narratives are being deployed – to which the new leaderships in Sweden and Spain will make further contributions.

Success in one country might not necessarily equate to a neighbouring political system. But when success returns, a benchmark will inevitably be set. Bringing together centre-left party leaders and thinkers, Policy Network's upcoming Progressive Governance Conference in Oslo will provide a vital platform for shaping such a winning discourse.

View the latest opinion polls from 18 countries here »

US    United States - Obama takes on the apostles of austerity

Michael Lind"The deeper problem remains the fact that the American centre-left has utterly failed to win the public over to its Keynesian explanation of the Great Recession .Most Americans believe that the beneficiaries of the bail-out and the stimulus have been large banks, large corporations, and wealthy people." BY MICHAEL LIND

Australia - Gillard boldly reignites national climate debate

David Hetherington"Finally, the battlelines are drawn, and the contours of the political debate in Australia in 2011 are clear.  It’s not an overstatement to say that Julia Gillard’s Labor government has embarked on the fight of its political life...The battle centres on carbon pricing." BY DAVID HETHERINGTON

France France - Winning whispers on the Left

Laurent Bouvet"The recent elections provide valuable lessons into the external obstacles faced by the Socialist Party on the road to 2012. There is a quartet of difficulties in this respect, relating to the political trends which have developed and deepened since previous French elections." BY LAURENT BOUVET

Germany - Green success marks SPD failure

"In George Orwell´s 1984, the ruling party’s Ministry of Truth carries three slogans: ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.’ ...Following the elections in three German Länder last month, the SPD headquarters might have displayed the slogan: ‘Failure is success.’... party leaders whitewashed the bad results" BY MICHAEL MIEBACH

Spain Spain - Socialists prepare for life after Zapatero

Ignacio Urquizu "Frontrunners from different political generations compete to win the leadership as Zapatero prepares his legacy. Party leaders have agreed to postpone this political debate until after the elections on May 22. But, in spite of this, the mass media has already chosen its candidates: Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and Carme Chacón". BY IGNACIO URQUIZU

Sweden- What do we know about the surprise new leader?

Katrine Kielos"The skater Stephen Bradbury is famous for winning Australia's first gold medal in speed skating by virtue of the fact that all of his competition slipped. Bradley’s surprise victory reminds us that there are different ways of winning. Similarly, Håkan Juholt the new leader of the social democrats could be said to have won election when everyone else slipped." BY KATRINE KIELOS

The Netherlands The Netherlands - Happy in private life, uncomfortable in society

"For a substantial part of the population personal well-being is accompanied by high discomfort and anxiety about the direction society is taking. Almost 30% of Dutch people feel that they have no grip on their lives and future, that our way of living together is declining and ‘…we can do nothing about it’. BY MONIKA SIE DHIAN HO

The UK The UK - Health reforms inflict pain on Cameron's Conservatives

John McTernan“Andrew Lansley unveiled a reorganisation of the health service so great that the chief executive of the NHS said that it could be seen from space. Destructive, unpopular and inexplicable reforms combined with broken promises give Labour a real chance to fatally brand the Tories, once again, as the enemies of the NHS. BY JOHN MCTERNAN


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