What’s Left of the Left? Reflections on the 2019 European Parliament Elections

Among the stories that emerged from what was in many ways a historic European Parliament Elections, one I felt particularly attached to was Laura Parker’s campaign. There were many reasons for this, her campaign was socialist, environmentally conscious which lead to her signing up to the European Green New Deal, she’s a high-ranking member of Momentum  and she was running in Islington traditionally a Labour heartland however these things appeared to be superseded by Brexit which lead to the election of the Liberal Democrat candidate.

This I felt was symptomatic of the current effect that Brexit has on the British political landscape as Labour’s attempts to try and pull together the leave and remain factions appear to falter against what appeared to be a reluctance to take up a truly internationalist position this can be seen in party by their abandonment of freedom of movement. This left a space for both the Liberal Democrats and Green Party, who uncompromisingly rejected the nativist premise of at least part of the Brexit debate in favour of reaffirming their commitment to transnational collaboration, to occupy and as the results showed both improved their representation considerably. On the other side of the political spectrum, those who held onto a strong nativist position also did well and one of the runaway successes was Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party which had the greatest number of seats for a single party.

A similar picture emerged across Europe as the Alliance for European Liberals and Democrats saw numerous successes in Denmark with Venstre and the Danish Social Liberal Party gaining seats alongside increases by the Green European Free Alliance representatives the Socialist People’s Party and in Germany where Alliance 90/The Greens gained 9 seats alongside similar rises by the Free Democratic Party. Again the nationalist-populist parties also had a number of successes with The Brothers Of Italy picking up a number of seats over the reticent centre-right Forza Italia. The exceptions to this appear to be also marked by the same politics as the Danish Social Democrats, traditionally aligned with the left have in recent years taken up more critical anti-immigration, nationalist stances and appeared to gain, perhaps as a result of this, some seats.

The choice appears to be becoming increasingly stark, either embrace and navigate a truly internationalist vision for Europe or regress into an increasingly nationalist, fragmentary one. However, what is perhaps even more concerning, aside from this, is the European apparatus being turned toward increasingly exclusionary aims. In 2018 Jean Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission announced in a speech that the EU would be deploying around 10,000 armed border guards to “protect against illegal immigration” despite a significant drop in numbers of people seeking asylum. This not only puts in place further barriers for potential refugees alongside the already prolific detention centers and border fences but also plays into the hand of those who would say there’s already an issue with attempting to control immigration. 

The Green New Deal, allows for potential cross-party collaboration signaling the way for investments to create jobs, redistribute wealth and develop a truly cohesive picture for the future of the European economy. Crucially it paves the way for the kind of transnational collaboration that such a venture would require alongside a clear motivation. The left is well placed to take up this struggle with Portugal’s Partido Socialista showing perhaps a glimpse of what a fight against austerity alongside a clear desire for change and collaboration could look like as following the 2015 election, the coalition of far-left and centre-left parties nicknamed the geringonça has reduced unemployment to single figures, whilst increasing state pensions and reducing the budget deficit to the lowest level in over forty years. 

Amidst the fragmenting of the largest blocs and the possibility for new unforeseen coalitions, it’s important to remain clear on what the left in Europe stands for and to commit to developing a brighter, more democratic, inclusive and economically sustainable and socially just vision to rally around. 







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