The global picture over the last twelve months has been mixed and it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions on the future direction of travel.
Key elections since summer 2021 do not show any general global trends emerging.
- the Canadian federal election in September 2021
- the Chilean general election in November 2021
- the French presidential and Hungarian parliamentary elections in April 2022
- the Australian general election in May 2022
- the French legislative elections and Colombian presidential elections in June 2022
- the Swedish and Italian elections in September 2022
- the Brazilian presidential elections in October 2022
- the Israeli general election in November 2022
- the mid-term US elections in November 2022
- Colombia, Chile, Australia and Brazil saw left-wing governments replace right-wing ones
- Canada, Denmark and France saw centrist/centre-left parties remain in power
- Hungary saw its right-wing populist party win again
- Sweden, Israel and Italy showed increased support for the far right and right-wing coalitions won power
- The US saw centre-left Democrats do better than expected and hold control of the US Senate
The US mid-terms failed to deliver the “red wave” some were predicting (in the US the right-wing Republicans use the colour red and the more left-wing Democrats use blue the opposite of most other places). Nonetheless, control of the House of Representatives passed to the Republicans, albeit very narrowly.
A further complicating factor is understanding what is now meant by the “left”. In politics in many countries, the left/right divide is becoming driven by culture and beliefs as much as by economics.
An August 2022 YouGov poll on voting intention in the UK showed that 35% of social grade C2DE (traditionally the working classes) would vote Conservative whereas only 24% of social grades ABC1 (traditionally the middle classes) would vote that way, reversing the historic position of the Conservatives as the party of the middle classes.
The political divide in the UK is now one of age. In the 2019 UK general election, the under 25s were more than three times as likely to vote Labour than Conservative and the 25- to 34-year-olds nearly twice as likely. On the other hand, the over 65s were nearly four times as likely to vote Conservative than Labour and the 55- to 64-year olds nearly twice as likely. Particularly among the younger age groups, there was much less difference nine years earlier in the 2010 election.
This clear age divide is not reflected to the same extent in other countries such as France or the US (though this may be changing in light of the strong support from the Gen Z age group for Democrats in the recent US mid-term elections). In France, in the second round of the presidential election, the age group which showed the highest support for the extreme right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen was the 50 to 59 year olds, whereas the 70+ year olds showed little enthusiasm.
Any prediction that right-wing populism may have seen its day looks premature with increased support for Marie Le Pen in France’s elections earlier in 2022; the continued popularity in the US for populists like Donald Trump and his successors such as Ron DeSantis; and the success of the far-right in elections in Sweden and Italy.
It seems to be the centre right which is fading away (e.g. the French Republican party, the One Nation Conservatives in the UK, moderate Republicans and the centre right parties in Sweden who lost seats to the far-rights Swedish Democrats) leading to the realignment of politics along the progressive/international/liberal vs traditional/nationalist/authoritarian divide.
In the UK, Liz Truss’s government’s move towards a low tax, small state, de-regulated society was short-lived. Not only were the unfunded tax cuts economically tumultuous but the approach did not appear to reflect the emerging values and priorities in the public at large. This failed experiment is likely to accelerate the predicted leftward move in British politics.