Parties of the left are out of power in three of the Big Four now, and everyone expects Labour to lose the next General Election in Britain. Going down the list to the Next-Biggest Four, we have Spain (Zapatero’s center-left government hanging in there), Poland (center-right), Romania (grand coalition of the two largest parties; can’t exactly say left-right, because Romanian politics always don’t map well on that axis) and the Netherlands (bizarre Grand Coalition of Christian Democrats and Labour, with Labour far down in the polls and expected to be kicked out soon). It’s not unreasonable to expect that by next summer, Spain might be the only large country in Europe with a left-of-center government.
There’s a recent post over at Crooked Timber deploring this, and suggesting that it’s because
[Weâ€™re seeing] the end of the electoral strategy which began with Bill Clinton and which (arguably) is still being kept alive by Kevin Rudd in Australia. Basically, itâ€™s the view that you can keep a balloon flying by constantly chucking out left-wing ballast. Which worked very well in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it does have a limited lifespan built into it. After a while, you run out of ballast to throw out and you find that the hot-air burners arenâ€™t working any more; the traditional left-wing base of your party has switched off, the unions canâ€™t provide blocks of support and youâ€™re left as a more or less identikit technocrat party, largely indistinguishable from your opponents and trying to compete on the basis of more efficient provision of â€œpublic servicesâ€.
Well… maybe. I submit that this model works tolerably well for Britain (though I have some reservations); somewhat less well for Germany; and hardly at all for France. (Italian and Spanish politics I leave to those who are better informed.) Continue reading