Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hollande will either save or sink the European left

A socialist arguing with Thatcher
It is ironic that one of the poorest French presidential campaigns for many years should also be of capital importance for socialist parties across Europe. 

If François Hollande wins he will have given them hope and inspiration for their own campaigns, but if he loses, particularly against an extremely unpopular president and after enjoying a substantial lead since the start, the European left could be condemned to years spent out in the cold.

Britain, Spain and Portugal are among a list of socialist-run countries who were paradoxically thrown out of office at least partially because of the economic crisis which began with the sub-prime scandal, all of which shows that there is no such thing as ‘fair’ in politics.

But things are as they are, and socialist parties are today in the unenviable position of having to stand by ineffectually as conservative governments all over Europe vote draconian belt-tightening measures into law, thus condemning their citizens to several years of relative hardship.

Now however, the electoral calendar dictates that Nicolas Sarkozy has to place his faith and future in the ballot box. It’s the last thing he would have wanted of course, given that even before the campaign began it was being widely accepted on all sides that his immense unpopularity would give Hollande a substantial advantage.

And so it has proved, with Hollande still maintaining a sizeable second-round lead, albeit reduced from its initial size, of five to six points, depending on which poll you read. This is good news for him of course, and he must be hoping that anti-Sarkozy voting intentions will hold up, even if they aren’t necessarily indicative of a positive vote for his own policies. 

This is why other European socialist parties who are themselves awaiting elections at one time or another are watching this contest anxiously. They, like Hollande, are being lambasted by conservative governments and presidents who allege that they simply would not be able to implement spending policies based on taxing the rich and spending the proceeds, as this would not in itself do much to reduce deficits. But if they win power they will be in a position to change the many drastic debt-reducing measures introduced by Europe and the CEB. And if Hollande is elected they will take heart from the assumption that the much dreamed of voter backlash against conservative leaders and policies may have begun and will help them too.

However, although Hollande could hardly have wished for better circumstances in which to launch an election campaign it is also true that if he fails to win he will be the second French socialist candidate in five years to lose an apparently unloseable election.

And if Sarkozy is re-elected it will have become clear that although he is immensely unpopular, voters will have decided that Hollande’s alternative policies on the economy were not credible despite their apparent attractions.

This nightmare scenario is everything that other socialist parties are currently dreading. After all, if Hollande cannot win this election, what possible hope could they - and European socialism itself - have for the future?


  1. Part one

    Sorry no blog. I like the ease of contact that the internet can give but I can’t shake some darker thoughts (paranoia) about being too out there. I have in fact got over 40 email addresses all with their own names and little histories. It’s not that I have some deep dark secret to hide, well not at the moment anyway, but the way things can change who knows who might have reason to be somebody else next year or the year after.
    John by the way is not one of the fake names.
    I wonder if you might be missing a general trend with you piece on Hollande and Sarkozy. Do you not feel (rather than know) that there is a general shift to the right in Europe over the last (say) three or four years? In some ways the Left seems to have lost a great deal of its credibility with its core supporters. And on top of that the nasty end of the Right seem to have been taking lessons in how to look good to the voters, add to that the usual immigration fears that they can always inflame which the Left seem unwilling to even talk about and I fear that you are going to get Sarkozy back in office again.
    Japanese politics would be comic if it weren’t so serious, it gets both frustrating and sad just watching how incredibly corrupt and predictable it all is. The same families or braches of those families run not only the country but also any large business of any consequence.
    Europe is perhaps sitting on the edge of far more important happenings around the world while Japan would love to close the doors again for another 250 plus years it can’t and it really is trapped between a rock and a hard place. China and the US. I have no love for the US, but unlike many Europeans I see China as something that we should all have a real fear of. China has already started the invasion of both the US and Europe but nobody seems overly worried about it. Small-scale manufacturing in Europe has been decimated in Europe by cheap poorly made Chinese imports that are not being controlled. I construct buildings from the ground to occupancy and I have to check every single part of the job to be sure that no Chinese products get used. Racist? No, we have a reputation to maintain and we would lose it in no time if we used the rubbish China produces.

  2. Part two
    It parallels something else we do, buy local, not just for the quality but because we have a policy of trying to support the local people. My wife and I even go out of our way to buy from small local shops rather than the big supermarket chains. Maybe if we all made this effort there might be a few more people with jobs. I know that it sounds horribly racist to be so anti Chinese and with a base in Japan that is how we are often judged. But when you have to buy materials ranging from steel girders to marble to extremely sophisticated electronics and then find that you can’t even buy a hammer in the local shops that isn’t made in China, that’s worrying. I also have to travel to places around the world and when, for example in Africa, you find that Chinese businesses only employ Chinese workers (by the thousand) many of whom are left behind when these businesses finish what they are doing you begin to get a picture of China that really is quite malevolent
    To a very large degree the US and China are responsible for the economic chaos the world (Europe in particular) is in at the moment. Granted it is self inflicted in that the capitalist system meant that most big business jumped in with both feet but it might have been a good idea if European governments held to one of the founding principles of the “common market” and at least tried to support their own markets rather than allow big business to move jobs out where the costs were low and the profits were both high and un-taxable. Protectionism might be a dirty word but is it any dirtier than unemployment?
    Sorry for the rant but I have to deal with governments and it drives crazy seeing how totally stupid these people are, I may even profit from that stupidity, but it still leaves me fearing for the people they are supposed to be working for.
    The US creates money out of thin air and the Chinese create cheap rubbish and we wonder why the world is in a mess?
    I can go home to protectionist Japan, where are you going to go?
    I’m in a very negative mood today, after a not nice little holiday in Segovia (it snowed!) I have come back to Spanish lawyers (my side) against Spanish lawyers (the governments side). The holiday is beginning to seem like a long time ago and I really do want to go home.

    1. Ah, so part 2's here. Hello John, and I hope you're keeping your morale's head above water despite your recent misfortunes. Spanish lawyers? That sounds 'orrible.

      Anyways, to your comments. Concerning the general shift to the right in Europe, I am well aware of that of course - to the point where I got an article on it published somewhere about a year or so ago. In it I offered the view that most of this was due not to economic factors, but immigration into Europe. The reason I didn't include that element here though was because I didn't want to stray too much off subject, which was European socialists.

      I have good news for you on the Japan front however, as I read just a couple of days ago that the Japanese economy is about to rebound spectacularly, as is its capacity for innovative research due to the knock-on factor of the possibility of more investment. The effort will not be centred upon nails and steel girders, which are pretty much a Chinese monopoly in many sectors, but future technologies which will put the ball firmly back in their competitors' court. Best of luck....

      And concerning China and the USA, oh yeah, this unreal - almost frightening - relationship they have has nothing good going for it. Reduce this to a business level, where one country is helping to bail out a particular industry in another country in order to keep the orders flowing, and it's absurd. It doesn't stand up and that is why we badly need to take a long hard look at how the world's economy is organised. I'm no anti-capitalist, but I have no problem with accepting that capitalism needs an overhaul.

      But you know, all this stuff is something I try to relativise as much as possible and I don't get as angry about it as I was before I started blogging years ago. That's when it became apparent to me that categoric put-downs of this that or the other are no more than rants in many instances. So I decided to write with a more measured approach and, if I'm writing an opinion piece, try to give both sides of the story despite my conclusions. And, funnily enough, that approach has also affected the way I see issues in general, not just those I'm writing about.

      And upon those words, I hope things are okay and that even if the holiday wasn't brilliant the pix were good..