‘Where people’s personal finances are in danger, they will look to the Conservative alternative for a smaller state, lower taxes and fiscal credibility. The Left should not forget that fact.’ – A post by Harry Langford
We are exactly one year away from an American General Election that may see Barack Obama ousted as President of the United States. It is unlikely, but it is possible. There are no left-wing parties in Government in major western democracies outside of America and Australia. The last significant left-wing Government in Western Europe, that of Spain will almost surely fall in their National Elections on the 20th November two weeks from today.
The challenges for the Left in the West are immense. In recent years the Left has taken what could be generously described as an electoral hammering, and this is a trend that is unlikely to falter in the wake of the financial crisis. This crisis has undoubtedly been the biggest single challenge to face the Left since the rise of Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the US.
In Greece, a Socialist Government is trying as hard as it possibly can to destroy the Eurozone. By putting the question of the next bailout to a plebiscite, it is likely that Greece will reject austerity and bailouts from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will cease. Greece will become bankrupt, and will leave the Euro. Italy, which has the second highest debt:GDP ratio in Europe (around 120%) will almost surely follow. The Italian Government is planning €47bn of cuts before 2013, when the next elections are scheduled. Meanwhile, the assortment of left wing parties in Italy embark on large anti-austerity protests and marches.
Meanwhile, what could charitably be called the “organised Left” in Britain, the Occupy London Protests are sitting outside St Paul’s Cathedral engaged in “protest”. It pains me to use that expression for what they are doing. Polling has shown that their general aims are supported by only 20% of people whilst 46% are opposed. Clearly, the 99% that the OccupyLSX protests claim to represent aren’t very keen on the idea. Ed Miliband, writing in the Observer has expressed sympathy with the protesters.
In short, words fail me at the state of the Left in Europe.
However. There is hope.
In France, the victor of the Parti Socialiste primary elections, Francois Hollande, has the best chance of any in Europe of forming a left-wing Government. It is not a finished matter. The unpopularity of the incumbent President, Nicholas Sarkozy, will not be enough to persuade the French People to elect their first left-wing government since 1988. The relative popularity of the French National Front, and their leader Marine Le Pen, are polling around 20%. The moderate Hollande also faces opposition from the hard-Left.
If the election were held today, Hollande would win 39 per cent of votes, up eight percentage points from three weeks ago, whilst Sarkozy would have 24 per cent, up three points according to French pollster LH2.
A squeeze from both the far-Right, with le Pen pushing an anti-Corporatist, anti-EU, anti-bank agenda, and from the hard-Left whose candidate polled a respectable 17% in the PS Primary. Hollande faces a tough test to make it through to the 2nd round of the election, and then beat Sarkozy or le Pen.
He must build the broadest possible coalition to defeat Sarkozy.
Francois Hollande represents the best chance that the Left have to regain a foothold in Europe.
To be successful once again, the Left must emulate the great left-wing leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries. We should look to the Blair’s, and the Obama’s for the future of the Left. Where people’s personal finances are in danger, they will look to the Conservative alternative for a smaller state, lower taxes and fiscal credibility.
The Left should not forget that fact.
Fiscal credibility, in an age of no money for the Left to spend will be more important than ever. The State must be made more efficient, and will inevitably have to become smaller in some areas. We should set out a strict deficit reduction programme to regain the Nation’s economic trust. Francois Hollande has committed himself and his Party to reduce France’s deficit to less than 3% of GDP. We should do the same. We should set out a vision for the future, and a plan for growth in the new economy.
But. And it is a but. We should remember our achievements in Government. We introduced the National Minimum Wage. We gave record investment to schools and hospitals, and achieved record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.We are not in the financial position that we are in because we employed too many teachers and nurses. We cut crime of all types by 32%. We devolved power to Scotland and Wales.
More importantly, we found peace in Northern Ireland. People had been searching for 400 years, and the Labour Party found it.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apologise for our mistakes. We should say sorry. We should then say “but”. We are not sorry for our achievements in Government. We should not be sorry for our successes.
We can, should, and must do it again.