Talking of the decline of the Left and the Right has become commonplace in European politics. The message is the same: they are are “old” categories which make little sense nowadays. If we accept as true the common knowledge of the convergence of the Left and the Right, there are two questions to be asked about it: the first is “why could this have happened” while the second is “is there anything that can be done about it?”
Thatcher’s TINA-Principle (“There is no alternative”) seems to apply in the European fabric of austerity measures. Economic refugees, downright cuts in public spending for welfare, health, pension and educational systems are their severe consequences. These are policy issues that traditionally concern the Left that leaves the policy room yet untrodden. How come?
In many European nation-states, traditional left and right-wing parties are increasingly challenged, by voters who express their dissatisfaction by not going to the polls or voting for newly emerged and/or extremist parties, and by these parties, which present themselves as an alternative. But neither of these challenges has fundamentally threatened neither the left-right cleavage nor the existence of traditional left and right wing parties in any member state.
After 5 long years of recession (which included a change in Westminster from a Labour to the first coalition government since WWII of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats), dissatisfaction with politics is high, populism thrives and identity politics is ripe - not only in Scotland that may leave the UK after the referendum this summer.
In days gone by, the Social democrats were seen as the natural rulers of Sweden. But in the past few years the center-right coalition has managed to hold on to power by drawing votes from the middle-class. Does it mean the Swedes are rejecting the traditional, strong Nordic welfare state? Or is it rather a sign of a more European-wide malaise about social-democracy?
And here we go again, we're back the Major years. It has been 38 years, 9 months and 24 days since the United Kingdom of Great Britain joined the EEC. But originally a meaningless debate triggered only through petition, the issue of Britain's membership has erupted into a full-scale Conservative rebellion defying the Prime Minister while 70% of Britons are demanding a referendum. Just like John Major did, David Cameron's leadership is under heavy threat. What did Major face ? What are the stakes and what does it mean about the current state of mind of politicians and public opinion ?
For a large part of European citizens and tens of millions of spectators around the globe, the 29th of April was a day to remember. Yet, while the royal wedding triggered worldwide excitement, the European Union struggles to assert its legitimacy and gain citizens’ support.
Euro-scepticism is said to be widely spread among British public. A quick look at the press seems to confirm it : virulent (and sometimes vulgar) frontpages against the EU help sell big newspapers by millions. But to what extent does it reflect the British public opinion ? Does it mean that trust in the EU is lower than trust in national political institutions ?
Currently, David Cameron is the new face on the diplomatic stage in Europe – at the World Economic Forum in Davos, at the European Council Summits in Brussels, at the Security Conference in Munich. If the coalition government plays an active role on the European stage, who are its partners? The analysis of a summit that took place in London in late January, called “UK-Nordic-Baltic”, reveals that British foreign policy has developed a new strategic priority: Northern Europe.
In the wake of last week's article, this one follows a conference which took place at Westminster on February 1rst and gathered Members of Parliament from the three main British parties – the Conservative Party, the Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The debate helped us answer these questions: how can we characterize the British new stance towards the EU? And how does the growing division between euro-pragmatists and euro-sceptics affect the UK’s position in the EU?