Conservatism is alive and well in Europe, thanks to anger over the recession and some good, old-fashioned fear-mongering. The recent European Union (EU) parliamentary elections saw major gains for center-right parties, as well as the groundbreaking election of a few far-right candidates. The Huffington Post reported that across Europe, “voters deserted left-wing parties in droves,” sparking some serious soul-searching among the Left.
According to Huffington Post, parties that gained seats included the following: Hungary’s “anti-immigration” Jobbik Party; the Greater Romania Party, “which is pro-religion, anti-gay and anti-Hungarian”; the Netherlands’ Freedom Party led by Geert Wilder, who “has called Islam's holy book, the Quran, a fascist text and made a film that linked images of terrorist attacks to Quranic verses”; and, the British National Party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, has called the Holocaust a hoax.
Can the Left save itself? David Lammy for New Statesman laments that “while D-Day veterans remembered the sacrifices of those who fought fascism, two racists from the British National Party were elected to represent us in Europe.” His analysis of what’s gone wrong with Labour and how to fix it urges politicians to abandon the blame game and focus on addressing the “deeply felt grievances of cultural loss and injustice” that permeate contemporary British society. He also acknowledges that the election results reflect larger public disillusionment with politics in general, fed by recent scandals like the abuse of expense accounts by Members of British Parliament (MPs).
Also for New Statesman, Jonathan Derbyshire takes the long view on the future of Left-wing politics. He cites the director of the left-of-center think tank Demos, Richard Reeves, who claims that Labour’s problems are too profound to fix before the next general election. Instead, they should concentrate on the “longer-term intellectual and political renewal of the progressive left.”
Sound similar to the current soul-searching among American Republicans? Perhaps British Labour and the European Left in general can take heart at the fact that, when it comes to politics, parties rise, parties fall, and what goes around comes around.