After the recession in 2008, the UK and Europe as a whole turned to its right-leaning parties and appealed to them to put their economies back on track. To name a few, the CDU in Germany, the Partido Popular in Spain, the far-right Jobbik in Hungary, as well as the Conservative Party in the UK all arguably gained popularity on the back of the recession. In the case of Germany and Spain, while the right was in power prior to the recession, the parties’ support was bolstered and they won clearer majorities post-2008. The result of this was austerity. Now, 7 years on, the recession is still ongoing and austerity has brought parts of Europe to its knees. It has resulted in a situation likened to a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Greece, along with youth unemployment hovering around 50% in Spain, Greece and Italy. People are poorer and recovery is weak. Against this background, voter sentiment is turning. The Greeks voted in the left party Syriza on 25th January, a party that wants an end to austerity and has already begun moves to that effect, outlining plans to end mass layoffs and restore the minimum wage to pre-austerity levels. Podemos, in Spain, is storming the polls and has reached second place in popularity. These left-wing parties are both recently formed and experiencing massive surges in support.
Meanwhile in the UK, the Green party has recently seen a steady increase in popularity, coming fourth in the European elections last year. The party is also up double in the polls from where it was 4 years ago (see the figures from the Polling Observatory here). While it is yet unclear how this will translate to actual seats at the General Election in May, the Greens have the ‘lefty protest’ vote and that has proven to be a powerful force in Greece, and may yet be so in Spain in the elections later this year as well. What does this mean for the austerity programme implemented EU-wide? In Greece and in Spain, it is rapidly losing the support of the electorate and they are turning to the newly revived left in protest. In the UK, while the Tories and Labour are continuing to push the austerity agenda, the Liberal Democrats have recently promised to end austerity within three years and the Greens are committed to find creative alternatives against austerity. The austerity narrative is no longer convincing to a sizeable part of the electorate, as a YouGov poll found that ‘voters are tired of public services being cut, and instead they want more spending’. It seems that the bell could be ringing for austerity in Europe and the UK. With the upcoming elections in the UK, Spain and Portugal this year, and the recent election in Greece, it is clear that big changes could well be on the horizon. By Alex Campbell, Junior Writer for Daily Political View. Twitter: (@aj_Campbell)