Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Europe drifts right...

There appears to be something of a rightward drift in Western politics. The French first elected a right-wing President in an ideologically charged election and now have given the right a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. In Finland the right-wing coalition dominated the last elections. The same happened in Sweden on a more modest scale. In Belgium the right have just won a strong victory. In Britain the Conservatives have had a lead for some time although there has been no electoral test of their revival. The Germans have a right-wing government.

The obvious exceptions are Spain, Italy and the United States. Spain's result was due to an incredible miscalculation by the right-wing Prime Minister. Italy's politics always has a screw loose. In the US the Democrats are doing well but that has taken some pretty massive incompetence on the part of the Republicans. I'm not convinced that the current Democratic strength is the result of a real left-wing drift in American politics.

The trend right could just be a coincidence. Or a transient rejection of centre-left governments that swept to power in the heyday of the Third Way. I think it is something more. A rejection of the supposedly progressive values of the tranzi elite: Treating criminals like victims. Neglecting or showing disdain for the culture, history and values of the Western nations in deference to a self-hating multi-culturalism. Accepting the mass-migration of populations that Western states have proven unable to integrate as an inevitability. Submerging nation-states in unaccountable supranational bodies.

These values and objectives were never really shared by the population but became a kind of political consensus in the absence of a crisis that would remind Western peoples of what they had to lose. The combination of 9/11 and the Cartoons Crisis was a very effective wake-up call. That free-speech might be so endangered by cowardice in the face of a violent minority alarmed people used to taking such values for granted. The right is the major beneficiary because they have always been the most skeptical of the tranzi ideals. This gives right-wing parties, where they can see this trend and latch onto it, a significant advantage.

This zeitgeist will not provide the right with electoral victories on a platter. The right-wing leadership in each state will have to convince people that they can rebuild important values and cultural confidence. However, it appears to me that the opportunity is there for the taking.


edmund said...

i think there's a great deal in this obviously- have you read John O'Sullivan by the way-you might find him very

Italy I think is in many ways actualy a case for your thesis. Berlusconi was personaly unpopular (the polls hsoed early on the massive early left lead was the result of his personal unpopularity) but used attacks on communism, tax rises and gay rights to an amazing campaign peforance

I would not ignoe the degree to which it's a case of voters resenting the cost of the welfare state- and how high it's got, this is leading to tax revolts with some of the effects you've mentioned. In the Anglo-Saxon world by contrast the coaltin is in trouble in austrlia and the conservatives are having trouble despite the liberals commiting Bush level errors (in this case being fantastically corrupt) -it may just be anglosaxon democracies have mostly been low tax enough to lack this revolt?

I think this is actually in many ways part of a broader trend- the comspolitian attmepts to elimiante traditonal distincions. For example the italian left were probably hurt by their support of civil unions ( I would say fairly clearly) and I would be very surprised if Gay Marriage did not hurt Royal - if only by helping concentrate the right behind Sarkozy.

I think the internatioal instituts point one has to be carefull about and not be excessively Anglo-SAxon about this! the NCP in Finland for example is by far the most pro interntional instituiosn of the big 3 parties-indeed probably of any significant Finnish party! And Sarkozy was arguablly the second most pro e eu candidate -after bayrou another center-right candidate . The right in France is still singifincatly though not massivley more pro Eu than the left. In many ways it's like the UK 20 years ago- the key divide is center vs non center not rights vs left on that issue.

Also one should be carefull on some issues- for example France is clealry among the least multi-culturalist western nations- compare it with the US!

Vino S said...

I think the trend to the Right can be somewhat overstated but it does exist. However, because of the nature of the Right - it is not forming as coherent an international movement as the Left (used) to. Re the EU, it is Christian-democrats who tend to be the _most_ pro-EU.

And, with regard to immigration, the Right of course has 2 different positions on that. Liberalism - in its economic sense - means free movement of labour as well as other economic freedoms. However, conservatism takes the opposite view of immigration. I do find it amusing how some of those on the right who are always tending to tell the poor to 'get on their bikes' seem to object when poor people from abroad do the same!

I agree with Edmund in that concern about taxes must be a factor. With a welfare state that reaches a certain size (20-30% of GDP in most W European countries) marginal rates of taxation on the average earner have to be in the region of 40 to 50% (especially if a lot of the welfare state is funded through contributory social security benefits). This is of course worsened by an aging population. As such, despite the fact that i disagree with them, i can see why a lot of people would vote for the right.

The interesting thing, though, among Sarkozy voters - as Henry pointed out on his blog - is that they were disproportionately elderly. Hence the wage-earner 'tax revolt' as Tom dubs it is not a major factor in Sarkozy's victory. It is more the social conservatism of the elderly behind it.