Tuesday 21 April 2015

Election 2015: Can the right respond to left-wing populism?

One of the most significant things to emerge from this election campaign has been the rise of the smaller parties and in particular the rise of parties that are firmly on the left of the political spectrum.

In last week's leaders debate we had three of them in The Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. All are campaigning for an end to austerity, higher taxation for the rich and further government spending and borrowing.

Last week I read an article in the Spectator magazine talking about this rise of left-wing populism: Left-wing populism is on the rise – and may take Ed Miliband to No10

Being a centre-right political magazine, the Spectator obviously did not hide its concerns about this growing left-wing support but it got me thinking about a number of issues.

Conservative politicians, business leaders, and political commentators can complain all they like about left wing anti austerity parties with their irresponsible and naive economic plans but they need to ask the question why are people turning to the left?

It's not just here in the UK either. We've seen similar left-wing anti-austerity parties in Europe with Syriza winning last year's elections in Greece and the rise of Podemos in Spain.

People are fed up with austerity, government cuts and declining living standards. Here in the UK, the Conservatives can argue how they've got the economy back on track, brought a return to growth, created more jobs and reduced unemployment but they're not pulling away in the polls. The truth is many people don't feel as if the recovery has had any great affect on them.

This is the problem the right has in this election and across Europe. What are they offering as an alternative to the populist left apart from more austerity and cuts?

The left has grown in popularity because the current economic system appears to be failing so many people. Greedy bankers, the financial crisis, austerity who is benefiting from this?

Those on the right of the political spectrum have to respond to this and explain why and how capitalism and the free market can benefit the many and not just the few.

Thinking about this it reminded me of a blog I wrote back in 2011 entitled: Are you part of the 99%

I wrote it in response to the Occupy Wall St protests, which along with the 99% movement protested against wealth inequality and corporate greed. Many of those themes are still prevalent today and have been taken on by many of the left wing parties in the UK and across Europe.

Since the financial crash in 2008, capitalism has been in crisis. If capitalism and free markets are only going to benefit a small elite what is it for? It's no surprise we're seeing the growth of populist left-wing movements - this is the backlash!

It's up to the right to start coming up with a response to this.

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