Europe’s established left is facing the threat of extinction

Europe’s established left is facing the threat of extinction, by Michael Browning.

In less than two years, the continent’s ­social democratic parties have suffered historic losses in France, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy. On a continent long defined by democratic competition ­between centre-right and centre-left parties, the collapse of the left could have far-reaching consequences, beyond particular party interests.

Many factors underlie the left’s decline, including the dissolution of the traditional working class. But one of the most important reasons is as grim as it is simple: European voters are increasingly opposed to immigration, and do not trust the left to limit it. …

Democracy triumphing, eventually:

When right-wing populists first started gaining political traction, Europe’s centre-left parties hoped their traditional strengths would enable them to weather the challenge. To avoid unwittingly strengthening right-wing narratives, centre-left campaigners ­attempted to shift public debate towards their ideological comfort zone: unemployment, inequality, and social justice. Germany’s ­Social Democratic Party based its entire 2017 election campaign on the slogan: “It’s time for more ­justice.”

Yet defeat after painful defeat has driven centre-left parties to a stark realisation: voters who are concerned primarily with immigration are not going to be won over with calls — however justified — for equality. As a result, centre-left parties across Europe have begun to change course, with social democrats in several key countries changing long-held ­positions on migration.

hat-tip Stephen Neil