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State of the Left: Squeezed from all sides

26 June 2015





Squeezed from all sides
One of the few electoral bright spots for the European centre left in recent years was Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s victory in the 2011 Danish general election. Last week, however, her Social Democrats lost office, thus continuing the trend which has seen no major centre-left governing party in Europe win re-election since the onset of the crisis.

As Kristian Weise details for this month’s State of the Left, there was a paradox in the result: the Social Democrats gained votes and seats but, thanks to a rise in support for the populist right, the left bloc narrowly lost power. There are clear parallels with Labour’s defeat in Britain last month in which Ukip – eating into the party’s support in many places – played a role.  The Danish People’s party's strong second-place finish came on the back of not only its anti-immigration stance, but also a pledge to defend the welfare state. Whether the centre left claims to be tough on immigration – as both Labour and Thorning-Schmidt did – or not, it loses.  

The result confirms that, amid fears about economic insecurity, immigration and the EU, the populist right poses a potent threat to many of the centre-left’s traditional sources of support. The need for the left to develop a response which marries a programme for economic change with an inclusive narrative around national identity is highlighted by Katrine Marçal, who reports from Sweden on the plight of Scandinavia’s sole remaining centre-left government.

What of Europe’s other social democratic parties which are in government? The picture is largely bleak. Jérémie Gagné finds the Germany SPD unable to capitalise in the polls on its creditable record as Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner. In France, Gérard Grunberg suggests few Socialists believe Francois Hollande can win re-election (although his reformist prime minister, Manuel Valls, remains popular and emerged stronger from a recent party congress). And in Italy, voters fired a warning shot across Matteo Renzi’s bows in last month’s regional and local elections. From the latter, at least, the message to the prime minister, believes Mattia Guidi, may be that his efforts to reform the Democratic party may not have gone far enough. In government or on the opposition benches, there is, perhaps, a wider lesson in that for social democrats across the continent.



SWEDEN
Time for ‘Blue Löfven’?
Patriotic rhetoric and a programme for radical economic change lay at the heart of the appeal of Swedish social democracy. Stefan Löfven could do with a little more of both
BY KATRINE MARÇAL

Until the Labour party comes to terms with the scale of its rejection ... it will lose and lose again
HOPI SEN                                   READ MORE >>
ITALY
A warning signal for Renzi
The Italian prime minister receives a set-back in local and regional elections. But which lessons should he now draw?
BY MATTIA GUIDI
GERMANY
The SPD’s turnout dilemma
Despite a solid performance in government, the SPD has gained little in the polls. Is it time for the party to think about non-voters?
BY JÉRÉMIE GAGNÉ
FRANCE
Manuel Valls's moment
The French prime minister defies an attempt to weaken him and emerges as the only potential alternative to François Hollande
BY GÉRARD GRUNBERG
This edition of State of the Left features updates and analysis from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.



DENMARK
Winning the battle, losing the war
The Danish Social Democrats emerged as the largest party in last week’s elections but had to concede power to the centre-right Liberal party amid strong gains for the populist right
BY KRISTIAN WEISE


IRELAND
The gay marriage afterparty
Ireland’s referendum belies political apathy and offers political parties some lessons
BY EOIN O'MALLEY


NETHERLANDS
The contagious mood of the left
Just as victory for our allies abroad can bolster confidence, we share in the despair of defeat
BY RENÉ CUPERUS


CANADA
The end of the Harper era?
After almost 10 years of Conservative government, Canadians have clearly had enough. The leader of the centre-left New Democratic party, Thomas Mulcair, has a clear shot at becoming prime minister after the upcoming election
BY CLAUDIA CHWALISZ


UNITED KINGDOM
Facing up to the scale of Labour's defeat
Labour’s next leader must recognise the need for change in order for the party to survive
BY HOPI SEN


GREECE
Apocalypse avoided?
The prospect of a disastrous ‘Grexit’ looks to have been averted but there are few grounds for optimism about Greece’s future
BY YANNIS PALAIOLOGOS


UNITED STATES
Five hundred days to go
The Democrats’ presidential hopefuls must reconcile recognising the progress of the Obama years with presenting their own vision for the future
BY DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER


POLAND
Long march ahead for the Polish left
After a dismal result in the presidential election, Polish social democrats face a triple threat and little time to prepare until voters go to the polls to pick a new parliament
BY JĘDRZEJ WŁODARCZYK


MEXICO
The road not taken
Once a beacon of hope, Mexico’s divided left now stands at a crossroads
BY ARTURO FRANCO

 

Photo credits: Arbeiderpartiet; Phil Jamieson; Parti socialiste; Francesco Pierantoni; SPD Schleswig-Holstein; 10 Downing Street

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