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I don't understand the recent elections in Europe (no surprise there).

How can Britain all of a sudden be radically left, but at the same time France all of a sudden goes radically right. Is there some kind of link between these two trends?

UPDATE: Oh wait, the left just had huge election victories in France today, so never mind, everything is as it should be :-/

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    Continental drift.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 6 at 21:03
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    Describing Starmer's Labour as "radically left" feels like a stretch, to say the least.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 6 at 21:14
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    Britain has experienced a long time of right-wing rule and it's shit, so people want the alternative. France has experienced a long time of not-right-wing rule and it's shit, so people want the alternative. People (to within a rounding error) do not vote based on principles but on the weight of their wallets and who is currently in power. Commented Jul 7 at 16:28
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    Why must/should France and the U.K. move in the same direction politically?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 7 at 19:27
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    It would appear from the exit polls that you asked this question prematurely. In France as in the UK, the left-wing has (probably) won the election, probably with a similar share of the vote, which will translate into a far less decisive victory due to the difference in voting systems.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jul 7 at 19:51

7 Answers 7

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The question suggests confusion about two basic points.

First, there's no reason to expect neighboring countries to automatically move rightward or leftwards at the same time. Why would they? While there are sometimes regional ideological currents, domestic dynamics usually matter way more.

Second, as a comment pointed out, claiming the UK has shifted "radically left" is clearly false. The rise of Corbyn was seen that way but he's out. Labour has shown itself to be a fundamentally centrist party.

If there is any general pattern in politics, it's that incumbents have an advantage when things are going well and a disadvantage when things are going poorly. Things in general are going bad for incumbents right now. What unites these two election results is that, very unsurprisingly, the incumbents lost.

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Wrong question.

In the UK, there's no leftward move. Labor got 33.9% of the vote, but 2/3 of the seats, due to FPTP: https://news.sky.com/story/general-election-who-won-the-popular-vote-a-breakdown-of-the-main-parties-13171045. This is actually much worse than the 40% Labor got in 2017(when they lost): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_United_Kingdom_general_election, but the FPTP breakdown favored the Tories in that one.

In France, National Rally got 33% of the vote in the first round, but because of the runoff electoral system, they maaaay get a bare majority after the second round(but probably just no majority for anyone). The New Popular Front, meaning the left got 28%, only marginally less than the left in the UK.

EDIT: Now (07/07/2024) with everyone strategically voting against them, National Rally placed 3rd in the second round and Popular front placed first. So, the premise of the question is completely wrong, in both countries.

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    Very nice, if you look at the actual votes, the difference between France and UK is fairly minor.
    – quarague
    Commented Jul 7 at 7:44
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    Likewise one can claim there was no "rightward move" in Britain when BoJo won, because he only got an extra measly 1.2pp of the popular vote compared to the prior election, but that actually translated into 48 extra seats! Such is the way of FPTP. Commented Jul 8 at 13:51
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The basic situation is there are real problems the liberal parties don’t have solutions for in either nation. The populist movement on the right criticizes those issues, and if they get enough support, they get elected. Then they find that governing is hard. They don’t solve the problems. They get voted out.

The populist movement gained traction in the UK first. Great improvements didn’t follow, Brexit wasn’t a winner. Now they’re getting voted out. Likely both nations are experiencing the same cycle, France is just several years behind the UK.

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Britain isn't moving left. It's just that Britain has two dominant parties, and most Britons wanted the Conservative party (the "right-wing party") out, so they have to vote the other party (which is "left"). Britons have no enthusiasm for Labour's policies, they just absolutely, thoroughly, unequivocally want the Conservatives out. I remember this interview where the voter said they'd almost consider voting Greens, except they wouldn't take the risk that the Conservatives win.

Because Britain isn't really moving left, the question of why they aren't seeing a right-wing shift doesn't make sense. All other things equal they really might favor a right-wing party, but absolutely not the traditional right-wing party. Anything to get the Tories out.

Why a disillusioned, angry Britain voted for change

For this is not a story of Britain lurching to the left. This is a story about something deeper — about broken promises and broken trust; about failing public services and household bills you can’t pay; a collective lust for change. It’s about a deep disillusionment with politics.

...

Debs voted Conservative only five years ago — as did the other eight Aldershot residents in this online focus group. Another, an admin officer named Daniel, said: “Infrastructure’s destroyed, local councils are stripped out, education’s been put on the back foot … It’s an utter and total unrivaled disaster.”

Yet these voters said they also had little faith in Labour’s “bland” plan for government. Conleth Burns of the More in Common think tank, which convened the group, said their pessimism chimed with 50 similar sessions his group has conducted across Britain.

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  • I'd add that while they may favour a right-wing party, but not the traditional right-wing party; it could be argued that they simply don't want to go further right-wing either. Commented Jul 7 at 21:35
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France moved both left and [far-]right. What shrunk was the center[-right].

enter image description here

Also, the NFP is a coalition, inside that France Unbound [which is regarded as more far-left] gained more seats (78) than the 'traditional' Socialists (65). (The Greens, which are also part of NFP got 33. The self-labeled Communists--9.) And yeah, one can probably say that Macron's plan (thus) largely backfired.

It's pretty normal for the ruling party (or parties) to experience vote share erosion at some point. This process is similar in the UK, by the way. The exact party ideologies matter less (IMHO) than said process of erosion, in this particular discussion.

And the UK has also experienced is a 'syphoning' of the votes from the Conservatives by Reform party, which got 14.3% of the popular vote. And in a FPTP system that has had dramatic consequences in terms of seats. (Something that was in fact predicted by some observers even before the vote took place.) While Labour didn't increase their popular vote share much (just 1.7pp compared to the previous election) Conservatives' popular vote share tanked by 19.9pp!

However, unlike in France where RN saw a large increase in seats, in the UK's FPTP system, Reform was among the most disadvantaged, getting only 1% of seats.

enter image description here

So votes for them (Reform) essentially turned into seats for Labour or the Lib Dems, which also experienced a dramatic seat gain (+64) with just 0.6pp increase in their popular vote share.

enter image description here

And for a bit of [comparative] history, unlike in 2019 when Farage's party (of then, the Brexit Party) didn't contest the seats where pro-Brexit Conservatives were running, in late 2023 Farage announced that his (new = Reform) party was going to contest every seat. This was nominally motivated by criticism that Conservatives (incl. Johnson) had "governed as a Green [would]".

Due to party name/focus changes etc., Wikipedia doesn't compare Reform with the results of the Brexit Party, but al-Jazeera does mention that

This is a rise of 12.3 percentage points since the last election, when it was known as the Brexit Party.

And yeah, concurring with the idea of erosion I mentioned:

“In many ways, this looks more like an election the Conservatives have lost than one Labour has won,” wrote John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, for the BBC.

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I don't think that the UK parties had real differences in really important matters (important is for which you get "labels" on the spot on the Internet).

They just switch, because they are bored on the PM. France is different, in France the goal is to replace, or at least seriously "beat" the whole political elite, so they vote for their most outcast party.

In general, I believe, "left" and "right" are not really important or useful terminologies. What is important, that is "up" and "down". (more details here)

As the "left" and "right" labels are mostly arbitrarily, there is no need for "close" countries to correlate in their current direction.

In general, if there is a PM replacement, that is the consequence of a general unsatisfiedness also with the political elite, and not only with the ruling party.

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    I don't understand the downvotes, maybe the answer needs to be rephrased. It is obvious that what is moving the votes in both countries are protest votes against each of the current governments. Commented Jul 7 at 20:24
  • @ThomasKoelle Thanks. There is also a spam/offensive flagged deleted answer below, I can not see any spam/offensive content in it.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jul 7 at 22:21
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The implication seems to be that the election of Starmer in Britain is a "move left", but he is extremely hostile to the left and to the interests of working people, he is known to be a right-wing liberal, is an open Zionist in support of the apartheid politics of Israel, and has really only barely won by default due to the utter collapse of support for the Tories in government and the vagaries of the (non-proportional) electoral system under these circumstances.

Turnout was amongst the lowest in decades, and the number of votes for Starmer was at a nadir for Labour in recent years. Meanwhile, votes for other parties besides the Tories have surged, most notably Reform.

I would argue the common pattern is that people are becoming increasingly sick of their politics being run by thoroughly mendacious, right-wing, pro-capitalist liberals who fawn over the demands of the international rich.

They are instead increasing their support for illiberal politics, which the rich-controlled media dubs either "far-left" or "far-right" so as to create division and promote artificial enmity between those who would be united in their opposition to liberals.

This is demonstrated by the smashing rejection of Sunak, who was clearly the most conventional right-wing liberal leader the Tories had had for some time.

It is also shown by what looks like is going to be a significant defeat for Macron in France.

And it is demonstrated by how poorly Joe Biden is faring against Trump in America.

There are also larger geopolitical shifts occurring rejecting the malicious global influence of liberals. Russia has drawn a line to their activity in Ukraine. China has drawn a line to their activity in Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.

So I think the idea that populations are bifurcating to both the "left" and "right" is unsupported by the evidence.

They are moving clearly in the direction of reasserting the power of states and politics which represent the national interests of their people, and against governance by rich liberals using global market forces to inflict economic violence everywhere, and the difference between the so-called "far-left" and "far-right" is but a matter of style of how this more fundamental force manifests.

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