June 25, 2022

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Starmer can learn from centre-left success stories across Europe

2 min read

The writer is a political strategist and former adviser to Tony Blair and Julia Gillard

Gradually and with little fanfare, progressive governments have been taking power all over Europe. But here in Britain, the centre left remains fractured and rather reticent about what it would do in power.

Keir Starmer has made it absolutely clear that the UK would not rejoin the EU if the Labour party form a government after the next general election. But it is time that he and his Shadow Cabinet get over to the EU and speak to the growing number of governments led by fellow-travellers.

When Tony Blair was at his peak of popularity in Britain, France had a socialist prime minister in Lionel Jospin, Germany had a Social Democrat chancellor in Gerhard Schröder and the centre-left “Third Way”, bolstered by Bill Clinton’s tenure of the White House, briefly looked like a dominant political pattern.

All this was swept aside by populist parties after the 2008 financial crisis and the worldwide recession and austerity that followed. The 2015 wipeout of the Greek socialists led to the coining of a new term, “Pasokification”, to describe the electoral destruction of once powerful mainstream left and centre-left parties.

Yet last year’s victory for Germany’s Social Democrats means that more than half the population of the EU currently live under a centrist or centre-left government. How these parties have won and retained power has big lessons for Starmer if he’s willing to listen.

Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, should be top of the list. His election campaign was a masterclass. First, he turned his stolid character into a strength — a man with a plan and the capabilities to deliver it. A similar pitch would provide Labour with a distinctive offering to British voters, and a contrast to Boris Johnson and his record.

Then, Scholz managed to find a new language for decarbonising the German economy. It was, he said, a great re-industrialisation. This…

2022-04-02 13:00:31

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