According to a news letter I subscribe to, the latest Opinion Poll on political beliefs among the voting public in four of Europe's major nations, the UK, France, Germany and Sweden, shows that what is referred to as the Centre-Left is losing ground rapidly. The reason for this is that people no longer believe the Centre-Left Parties are any more caring, compassionate or any more likely to solve the social problems than anyone else. Significantly, in all countries, the Centre-Left are seen as the least competent to manage the economy, and they are no longer seen as representing the interests of the wider population.
The survey looked at a wide range of things, and some differences in response emerged according to age group and social status, but the trend is, generally, downward in all groups for the Centre-Left. The biggest fall in confidence toward this ideological position is in Germany, with Britain a close second and Sweden third. Even in France, the only one of the four currently governed by a socialist party, the majority of those polled feel that they are over taxed for what they receive in services or benefits, and that government is too large. In all countries there is a strong trend of opinion that governments are inefficient in the way benefits, pensions and health care is provided. A majority of those polled felt they wanted lower taxes, and smaller, more efficient governments, neither of which are hallmarks of the Centre-Left.
In Germany, the poll revealed that the Social Democratic Party (Germany's oldest political party, founded in the 1850s on socialist principles as expounded by Marx et al, is losing ground, though it remains the second largest party in the Bundestag and holds a number of key Landestags and Mayoraltys. If the poll results are accurate, there is a strong chance the Party will not achieve the required majority it needs to form the next government here. There is an added element in Germany, since the Christian Democratic Union (and its sister Party in Bavaria, the CSU) are the only Centre-Right parties, the SDP, the Green/Bundes 90 and Die Linke are Centre-Left, Left or Far Left! I would place the FDP, currently the partners of the CDU/CSU in government as 'centre' (officially they are Liberal) and as for the National Socialist Party (Yup, they're still around, despite a strong desire on the part of almost everyone to outlaw them) the less said the better. There is, however, a new Joker in play. There is a recently founded, and as yet untried, Party which is the German equivalent of Britain's UKIP. They want the same agenda as the current UK government, renegotiation of the EU and national sovereignty, vetoes for the states that are net contributors and less interference from Brussels. There stance is that the Euro must go, national sovereignty must be respected, and EU Commissioners should be elected directly by the people, not the by the relevant 'Ministers' acting as 'electors' on behalf of the electorate.
In its present form the EU is very much a reflection of the centre-left thinking of the 1950s. The idea being that the "State" should be the driving and controlling force behind solving social issues, employment problems and almost everything else. The truth is that it has failed, simply because it is far too inefficient. There are too many duplications, far too many overlaps between Brussels, National Bureaucracies, and even down to Regional and Local Government. The mechanisms of government have taken on a life of their own, and become entirely self sustaining. Ironically, as they have expanded and grown, they have also become less and less efficient at delivering what they were set up to do.
If this poll truly represents the public perception, then, as the commentator suggest, the Centre-Left will have to accept that it is no longer the 'campion of the underdog' and find a new way to win votes. All Parties will have to become far more responses to real people and real issues rather than their current modus of listening only to the loudest lobby groups and the self-interests of the civil servants who inform them. They will also have to become far more visionary in their planning and thinking - as the poll discloses, few, if any, political parties think beyond a single term of office.
Overall the Poll shows why there is such a large loss of confidence in the political system in Europe and the West. Let us hope that somewhere, is a leader capable of taking this on board, and bold enough to act on it. Otherwise, we in Europe could soon be looking at the sort of upheaval currently visible in the Middle East.