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Home News State of the Left - January 2011

State of the Left - January 2011

19 January 2011
State of the Left - January 2011

Policy Network, January 2011

The state of the left is a new monthly insight report from Policy Network’s Social Democracy Observatory.

It provides readers with an opportunity to gauge how centre-left parties are responding to levels of public support through analysis of polling trends and our line-up of national political observers who will offer substantive insights into how and why topical developments are impacting upon the left.

This month we are pleased to introduce three new observers – Laurent Bouvet from France, Ignacio Urquizu from Spain, and David Hetherington from Australia.

Polls from across Europe show that there has not been a significant shift in public support for centre-left parties over the festive period.

Only in Ireland, where the Labour Party could be set to return to government as a junior coalition partner, is the left on the cusp of an immediate electoral breakthrough.

However, there does seem to be a renewed sense of optimism – a new year’s resolution of sorts – among progressives about the opportunities 2011 might offer the left.

In the Netherlands, will the fragmented left unite to challenge the right-wing government? In Germany, will the SPD succeed making “new progress” the big political debate in a growing economy? In Sweden, will blanket speculation in the media about the social democrats’ leadership election translate into political dominance? And in the UK will the bite of the Labour party’s new shadow finance minister put the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition on the backfoot? 

Underneath the surface, however, this bout of progressive optimism seems somewhat fragile.

In France and Germany, there is anxiety about the centre-left losing further support in upcoming elections to appealing National Front and Green parties respectively. And in Australia, the Labor government is struggling to elucidate clear economic priorities despite securing the country from the knock-on effects of the financial crisis.

Is this optimism here to stay? Policy Network continues to shed light on this question, debating whether the tensions within social democracy on mutualism, immigration, leadership and globalisation mean that pessimism is once again around the corner.

Policy Network Political Observers

Reporting monthly from countries across Europe, "the state of the left" will feature both regular columists and guest contributors. View the latest opinion polls from 18 countries here»

David Hetherington - Australia

"China’s insatiable demand for Australian commodities has seen the economy resume its breakneck growth...Julia Gillard is wrestling with a problem that would be the envy of her prime ministerial and presidential peers: how to manage the proceeds of the boom.”

Laurent Bouvet - France

"Could this be the time of the "Peste blonde"?... Marine Le Pen plays the same old extreme right-wing song as her father, with any changes to the tune taking place on the fringes. Yet, these changes have been enough to allow her to grab attention and, more importantly, to increase her audience. "

Michael Miebach - Germany

“The SPD's odds are good in Hamburg, Rheinland-Pfalz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Bremen, while surveys suggest that they will come third in Sachsen-Anhalt and Baden-Württemberg. Such results would obviously fuel the debate about whether or not the SPD is still a ‘people´s party’.”

Ignacio Urquizu - Spain

"Why should Zapatero’s Socialist’s review their policies?...On average, Spanish women now postpone motherhood until the age of 31, and the number of babies born per women is 1.4, one of the lowest rates in the European Union...Life expectancy was around 65 in the 1960s. Now, it is close to 81 years."   

Katrine Kielos - Sweden

“So, who will become the new leader? It’s impossible to know for sure…With Pär Nuder not wanting the job, Sven Erik Österberg seems likely to get it. Österberg is the current group leader in parliament – though respected, he was also one of the central architects of the disastrous 2010 election.”

Rene Cuperus - The Netherlands

“From the Netherlands some hopeful and refreshing news can be reported about progressive politics. Not yet in electoral terms, but in terms of new currents of political energy...For the first time since the wild and roaring 1970s, a joint meeting was organised by the three major progressive parties.”

John McTernan - The UK

“Suddenly, the national economic debate is shifting from debt to growth…Ed Balls has always had a powerful economic analysis and the drive to prosecute an argument. Political events have smoothed his path to the right political bully pulpit.”

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