In his book Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics, academic Matthew Goodwin predicts the rise of an innovative form of populism in the UK. A combination of Right-wing social values and Left-wing economic theory, he says this new movement would attract large swathes of the voter base, possibly leading to substantial electoral success.
No such choice is currently available to British voters – other than the still microscopic, re-founded Social Democratic Party (although now £1 million richer due to a single donation earlier this month).
But we now have evidence that Goodwin’s theory could be correct, at least within the European Union.
Its coming launch officially announced last week, Sahra Wagenknecht’s new political party in Germany is something very different from what Western Europe has seen before. Combining almost GDR-sounding economic policy (perhaps not surprising as Wagenknecht started out as a teenage member of East Germany’s ruling SED) with harsh opposition to modern progressivism and liberal immigration policies, her rather vainly named Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) group is unlike anything Germany has seen since the fall of the Berlin wall.
Will such an approach win over the country’s electorate? Pollsters think so. If a vote was held tomorrow, Wagenknecht’s new alliance would likely rake up 14 per cent of the vote, coming fourth behind the CDU, AfD and SPD.
By contrast, the Greens would end up in fifth place, only getting 12 per cent of the total tally.
Wagenknecht does not seem to be an isolated phenomenon. Slovakia’s Smer party has positioned itself somewhat similarly, being overtly critical of modern progressive ideology and European support for Ukraine. The result? It won the country’s general election last month, with its leader, Robert Fico, now serving as Slovakia’s Prime Minister.
Is this the beginning of a trend? It is hard to tell. Nevertheless, the veritable grab-bag nature of this new populism does give cause for concern. Europe is struggling with overregulation and overspending as is without the injection of economic populism into the mix.
Will these new groups push Europe’s bad economic habits to new heights?
Only time will tell.