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It’s the Right, not the Left, in retreat across Europe

One of the perils of politicians is that no sooner have they made a grand pronouncement on the sweep of history, as they perceive it, than events immediately conspire to prove that they had totally misread the runes and that the opposite is true.   That seems the fate of David Miliband who a month or two ago gave us his considered opinion that “Left parties are losing elections more comprehensively than ever before”.    The clear implication was that the only way forward for the Left was to move towards, or preferably outflank, the Right on the market, immigration, welfare reform, and a reduced role for the State.   No sooner had he said it than the Right began to crumble across all the main countries in Europe.   The solution is not to imitate the Right, but to have a distinctive alternative vision.

In France President Sarkozy now lies third in the polls, slightly behind both both Marie le Pen on the Far Right and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the most likely Socialist candidate.   The French Right took a drubbing at the last regional elections and are now set to lose further to the Left in the coming local elections.   In Germany Angela Merkel’s Right-dominated government not only took a hammering in the Hamburg regional elections, but dramatically lost Baden-Wurtenberg for the first time in 50 years.   Her coalition’s grip on power is fading and Left and the Greens are strongly reviving.   In Italy Silvio Berlusconi scarcely represents a force on the Right so much as a sex-obsessed clown, but the Right is deeply split and the problem lies lies rather with the lack of charismatic leadership on the Left.   In Britain a recent poll showed Labour for the first time with a lead over both the Tories and Lib-Dems combined, and that was before the real trouble starts this month from the cascade of cuts thudding down from now on.

The real issue for the Blairites is not that they feel grudgingly pulled to the Right, but that they instinctively embrace it with panache.   This is their natural comfort zone.    Blair’s regular approach in Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet was to anticipate the moves the Tories were likely to make and then beat them to it by leapfrogging over them to stake a position even further to the Right.   So far from occupying the famous centre ground (let alone of course making even a flicker of concern for half the population to the Left of centre), the whole process of Brtish politics in the last twenty years has been to vacate the centre ground and to compete in pushing to the Right.   That is exactly the wrong way forward for Labour.   As Ed Miliband has shown over the last few weeks there is a real chance that the Left has finally learnt that the way back to power is not tamely succumbing to the Right, but representing that large majority on the Centre and Left who have been abandoned since 1980.


  1. Matty says:

    Good article and I think correct in saying that for the Blairites their comfort zone is the right. Even Ed Miliband speaking to the TUC rally has been condemned by them.

  2. P Spence says:

    “Not as deep, not as fast” is not a sustainable position: as evidenced by Diane Abbot’s poor performance on Question Time last night.

    The finance sector has to be largely socialised with investment focussed on jobs and social need, not returns for shareholders. It is depressing how little rethinking there has been to date. Everything is premised on a return to growth but as seems very likely, if growth flat lines what do we do?

    Private wealth and society have contradictory needs: we are in the midst of a classic Marxist crisis between exchange values- beloved by the rich- and use values of which we have an abundance but which are rationed by private property at the expense of the working classes.

    On the R4 news at lunchtime it was reported that landlords will be pulling out of the HB market as the rates are reduced with potential dire consequences for families dependent on benefits. Rent controls and council housing are the answer but why won’t Labour see it? Instead the capacities of local government are about to be decimated when the exact opposite is needed.

    We are in the midst of a prolonged devaluation of wealth. Labour must say loud and clear that it the rich, the rentier class, who must bear the greatest burden. I predict that when Ireland and Greece default, as they surely must, that it will open up great opportunity for socialism, as it did in S America 10 years ago. We must anticipate the moment and be ready with policies that can be pulled off the shelf and implemented.

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