The battle against the austerity agenda is raging across Europe. Currently, the main theatres are the streets of southern European capitalist, principally Athens, Lisbon and Madrid. However, in Northern Europe a new arena of decisive struggle has opened up in France. The French Presidential Election could be a watershed moment, especially if Francois Hollande can beat Nicolas Sarkozy. The Franco-German austerity alliance would then be shattered. This is why the whole European centre-right, including David Cameron, the man Sarkozy likened to a petulant child, are desperately rallying behind Nico. Indeed, the current love-in between Cameron and Sarkozy is becoming rather nauseating in its own way.
The right appreciate the strategic importance of the French election but the left seems to be largely unappreciative. Labour in Britain is, as Andrew Harrop writes on LabourList, slipping into what he calls ‘pragmatic Euroscepticism’ and I call lazy and opportunist politics, precisely at the moment when a strong Labour case needs to be articulated for a different kind of Europe.
Hollande is a standard-bearer for that Europe. He has rightly targeted the finance sector, not the state, as the cause of the current economic crisis. Also, he wants to raise the tax bracket for the highest earners favoured under Sarkozy and invest the money raised in jobs for the young and helping small enterprises. In other words, it’s a pretty classical social democratic platform. No doubt the radical left won’t be appeased but a victory for classical social democracy in the current climate is a stinging blow against the constant TINA mantra deployed to defend austerity. It also proves a point that many on the Labour left oft have to make to Ed Miliband; that you can be left-wing and win elections.
So, his reticence when it comes to interacting and backing Hollande is a bit baffling. Strategically it might well provide a good up wind in the sails of his ‘responsible capitalism’ sally. I suspect it is ultimately however down to his desire to pander to Eurosceptic sentiment. However, this is Ed at his worst, and most opportunist, not his radical insurgent best. Harrop concludes his piece by saying;
It is simply not credible for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to propose their economic alternative in the UK, while ignoring the wider European context. Sooner or later, they will have to get off the fence.
He is right. Both the Ed’s and Labour need to get off the fence and join this battle because it has all the hallmarks of being a decisive one in the contest to shape a new, more democratic and socially just Europe, one that finally fulfills the idealistic promise of the European dream.