Two weeks ago, Canada went to the polls and ended ten years of Conservative rule, voting in Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party to replace outgoing prime minister, Stephen Harper.
Trudeau and his Liberal Party have joined Greece’s radical-left Syriza Party as one of a number of left-wing major world governments to be elected in recent months. Correspondingly, there has been a somewhat simultaneous rejection of the right, with Australia ousting its right-wing prime minister, Tony Abbott, and the UK Labour party electing the ardently left-wing Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition.
To say for certain, however, that the world is renouncing the right is simply naïve. Only a small number influential nations, those who hold and maintain economic and diplomatic clout, have actually displayed some sort of attraction to left-wing politics in favour of those of the right. Whilst Canada has clearly turned away from conservatism for something ‘new’, countries such as Switzerland, Poland, and even the UK have turned toward right-wing policy. The rise of the left almost comes across as more anti-establishment than anti right.
On the 25th October, Poland’s electorate voted to give an outright majority to the country’s Law and Justice Party. Formed in 2001, the favour towards this relatively young “National Conservative” party has consolidated the nation’s ideological shift to the right that has been bubbling away since last decade’s economic downturn. The people explicitly voted in favour of right-wing policy, giving firm support to a Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party that favours stricter controls on welfare spending and has threatened to outlaw abortion.
In addition, when Switzerland went to the polls just a week prior to Poland, it too voted in favour of right-wing policy. The ultra-conservative Swiss People’s Party secured almost 30% of the vote; whilst not enough to secure power, this signified yet another shift to the right within Europe. The strengthening support for the party, and particularly its anti-immigration policies, has been deemed by many political commentators as an early indication of the results of the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis.
These two recent political results ultimately challenge the suggestion that there is a widespread rejection of the right.
Interestingly, if we look at the politics of the UK, we can see the divide that is currently characterising European and world politics. Just as Syrzia swept to victory with an overwhelming majority, Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide leadership win signifies an ardent shift to the left in Britain. However, during May’s general election, the so-called ‘silent majority’ helped the Conservative party to increase its number of seats in Parliament and win an outright majority. A clear display that, in comparison to Miliband’s Labour, right-wing policy measures were more desirable.
To compound the attractiveness of right wing politics to the electorate, Ukip, despite not making any gains on their Clacton seat, they did win around three million votes, a huge increase on 2010. The prominent issues surrounding the 2015 general election were the economy, the EU, and immigration. The Conservative voter would assert that these are all policy areas in which there should be more faith in right-wing politics than left.
These same issues have also been the top priorities to other nations in the European Union, such as Switzerland and Poland.
Results like these could in fact be an omen of rising support for the far-right parties in Europe, which would suggest the continent is far from a rejection of right-wing ideas.
Is this ‘growth of the left’ merely a case of minority groups merely making a lot of noise, with, apparently little substance to challenge the established conservative policies?