May 15, 2017


Germany's Ideas-Deficit Opposition (JUDY DEMPSEY, May 15, 2017, Strategic Europe)

The Social Democrats and the Greens have so far been unable to persuade Germans to change course. These two parties support Merkel's refugee policy. They support Germany's switch from nuclear energy to renewables. They support the EU. They support Europe having strong security and defense policies. And, despite some misgiving from sections of the Social Democrats, they support Merkel's policies toward Russia and the EU's sanctions that were imposed in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea.

But as left-wing parties--a term that is increasingly losing its meaning--the Social Democrats and Greens have been unable to enunciate policies about how to deal with the social, political, and economic consequences of globalization.

The populist approach articulated by Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, which is in effect the country's main opposition party, played on the politics of fear and hopelessness. She did not offer a coherent economic and social agenda to meet the challenges of globalization and France's low growth and high unemployment.

Germany's Left party has tried to home in on these issues, but the party failed to get reelected to North Rhine-Westphalia's regional legislature. In short, the established center-left parties have, as yet, no platform to challenge Merkel's Christian Democrats. Unless they explain what they really stand for between now and Germany's federal election in September, they could go the way of other left-wing parties in Europe.

Tory plans for workers' rights deliver golden headlines at knockdown prices (Chaminda Jayanetti, 5/15/17,

"Workers offered new deal by Tories", proclaims the i. "Workers get leave to care for elderly", declares the Telegraph. "May gives all workers new rights to time off", shouts the Times. The Mail bills it "a revolution in the workplace", presumably having been assured it's not a Marxist one.

The Tories couldn't have secured better front page coverage had they bought wraparound ads. No longer are the Conservatives the bosses' party, the narrative goes. They will now defend the rights of hard-working people rather than just banging on about them. [...]

Labour's draft manifesto was a heaving raft of workers' rights, designed to bolster their bargaining power when dealing with employers. The Conservatives have adopted a fundamentally different strategy - legal rights above collective might. One of the Tories' better measures - statutory time off for training - sums up this difference in approach between individual and collective advancement.

There is a lesson here for Labour, however. Limited though the plan for carers' leave is, it constitutes something largely absent from Jeremy Corbyn's wide-ranging manifesto - a policy for people who feel they don't need the state. A policy aimed at the 'private individual'.

Just as the number of people who claim benefits is larger than the number who think they do, the number of people who feel they are wholly self-reliant will be larger than the number who actually are. Labour's policy levers always involve providing benefits and services. That's fine - those work. But if it is ever to return to power, it will need to win the votes of those who don't feel they need benefits or means tested public services. Universalising these services is expensive and not necessarily a voter priority - so then what? Labour currently has no system of thinking that addresses this blind spot in its agenda.

As for the Conservatives, this is a dream scenario. A policy that costs the government little and mostly helps natural Conservative voters - middle class families with two earners and savings - is sold as a revolutionary new pro-worker agenda. New rights that need money to enforce sound like rights for those without the money to enforce them. The Tories are now the workers' party - as long as those workers don't get ideas above their station.

The greatest danger to any party is letting its opponent steal the Third Way mantle.
Posted by at May 15, 2017 7:14 AM


« BUBBLE BOY: | Main | THANKS, UR: »