This, from a Policy Network email I’ve just received, is jolly optimistic and I’m not sure whether it corresponds to an entirely measured assessment of where the left currently finds itself – but, anyhow, as a matter of record, at this miserable time of year, the narrative it weaves is certainly eye-catching and upbeat:
Something is happening on the political left. Having spent much of 2011 adrift in the shadows of missed opportunities, social democrats are back with a new self-assurance. Gone is the fear to take on vested interest and market domination. Instead, confidence has returned in the ability of centre-left politics to change society through the power of collective action.
Barack Obama has used his State of the Union speech to target the rich and corporations with too much power; French presidential front runner François Hollande has passionately taken aim at the world of finance; and UK Labour leader Ed Miliband can claim success in shifting national political debate onto the terrain of “responsible capitalism.”
A lasting paradigm shift beyond the economic orthodoxy of the past thirty years is as yet far from evident. But positive signs are emerging. For instance, public opinion in the US, once the great bastion of unbridled competition and admiration for wealth, appears to have shifted to widespread resentment of inequalities of income and wealth. This is echoed across Europe where austerity, unemployment and low growth are taking a heavy toll on living standards.
The inability of centre-right governments to deliver adds to the sense that social democrats have a new opportunity to be heard. In particular, the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone has opened up a new space for the centre-left to advocate a different, more credible and effective way out of the current mess. But this call for “responsible opposition”, especially in countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, France and Italy, speaks to the tightrope that all political parties must now walk: balancing long-term credibility with popular politics in straightened economic times.
The Swedish social democrats have begun the year by appointing a new leader for this tricky balancing act. 2012 will reveal whether this new found buoyancy is indeed a sign of a great awakening on the centre-left.
The same content with pertinent links can be found online at the moment here.