Facing a new environment
Why Europe’s left are in decline
The collapse of the Left in the French presidential election has been spectacular. Not only did Benoit Hamon, the candidate officially representing the Socialist party of President Hollande, receive a derisory 7% of the votes; the firebrand Marxist Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose lively campaigning saw a late surge of support, was also knocked out of the race. The decisive second round of voting next month will therefore be a contest between the independent centrist, Emmanuel Macron, and the xenophobic and nationalist candidate of the far right, Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning to take France out of the euro and even out of the European Union.
The widespread anger with the French political establishment has led voters to kick out candidates from both the established parties – the conservative Republicans and the Socialists. But the blow has been especially wounding to the left. The Socialist party may now disintegrate.
The left’s troubles are mirrored across the Channel in Britain, where the Labour party’s disarray is proving disastrous for traditional left-wing voters. Few election campaigns in Britain have begun with such overwhelming support for the government. Theresa May’s Conservative government now enjoys an approval rating of around 50% – higher than the party has seen at any time since the height of Margaret Thatcher’s popularity in the 1980s. It is on course to win a landslide victory, with a majority in the 650-seat Parliament of about 100 seats.
The Labour party, by contrast, is suffering a disastrous decline. Latest polls put it at around 25%. And in some parts of the country, especially Scotland and south-east England, it may win no seats at all. Even the party’s MPs are despairing
Fewer words, please. Protesters call on the world to act in Syria as the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks of human rights in London. Overall, the left in the West have been criticised for a feeble reaction to the crimes of the likes of Assad and Putin