Opinion writer in Amsterdam, formerly Barcelona and New York. Specializes in the politics of the Netherlands and Spain, including Catalonia. Founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel. Also writes for EUobserver, Never Was and World Politics Review.
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are out in force arguing his successor, Keir Starmer, must surely resign after losing the Hartlepool constituency, a Labour bulwark since 1974, to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Corbyn lost all seven elections (local, national and European) during his five-year leadership and still his supporters refused to accept he might be damaging the party, but Starmer loses one seat and it’s all the proof they need to conclude that he can’t defeat the Conservatives?
Scotland’s will be the most closely watched election, but voters across the UK go to the polls on Thursday.
In addition to the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, all sixty seats in the Welsh Assembly, all 25 seats in the London Assembly, thirteen mayoralties and thousands of seats in 143 English councils are contested.
There is also a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool, which has voted Labour since the constituency was created in 1974.
Polls opened at 7 AM local time and will close at 10 PM. Due to coronavirus restrictions, many localities won’t start counting votes until Friday. Full results aren’t expected until the weekend.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso triumphed in Madrid’s regional election on Wednesday. The conservative People’s Party (PP) leader vanquished her erstwhile coalition partners, the liberal-nationalist Citizens, and fell just four seats short of an absolute majority.
The expectation is that the far-right Vox (Voice), with thirteen seats, will give Díaz Ayus a second term.
Scotland’s ruling National Party (SNP) has staked a second independence referendum on the outcome of Thursday’s election. If separatists defend their majority in the Scottish Parliament — in addition to the SNP, the Greens favor independence — they propose to hold another vote even over the objections of London.
Scots voted 55 to 45 percent against dissolving the United Kingdom in 2014. Nationalists argue Brexit has changed the calculation. 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the EU in 2016. They were overruled by majorities in England and Wales. Polls found majorities in Scotland for leaving the UK and rejoining the EU through 2020 and early 2021. Unionists have recently closed the gap. But the SNP is still faraway in first place in election polls with up to 50 percent support.
Spanish conservatives hope the third time will be the charm.
In 2018, spooked by the return of the far right, they chose the reactionary Pablo Casado as their leader over the center-right Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. Casado pulled the People’s Party to the right, arguing for a clampdown on Catalan nationalism, lower immigration and tighter abortion laws. Voters didn’t approve. The party fell from 33 to 17 percent support in the election and lost over half its seats in Congress.
In the next election, seven months later, Casado doubled down. He refused to attack far-right leader Santiago Abascal and proposed to criminalize Catalan separatism. The conservatives did better, going up to 21 percent, but they still failed to defeat the Socialists. Abascal’s Vox also increased its vote share, to 15 percent.
The lesson from other European countries is that center-right parties can never outbid the far right, which is always willing to go a step further. Moving to the right in order to shrink the distance between mainstream and far right isn’t a winning strategy either. It makes it easier for conservative voters to switch.
French president Emmanuel Macron has proposed to hire an additional 10,000 cops before his term expires in a year, tighten laws against online hate speech and revise laws on criminal responsibility that allowed the killer of an elderly Jewish woman to go free.
In an interview with the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, the liberal head of state warns that “everyday violence” is on the rise and vows to “push back delinquency everywhere.”
Revelations that his outgoing government deliberately withheld information from parliament have made it even harder for Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in power since 2010, to form a new government in the Netherlands.
Cabinet minutes, normally kept secret for 25 years but released after they had leaked to RTL Nieuws, reveal that ministers agreed not to share all relevant files in the so-called child benefits scandal, which caused Rutte’s four-party government to resign in January.
Between 2013 and 2019, some 26,000 parents were wrongly accused of benefit fraud. Many were financially ruined by demands to pay back tens of thousands of euros in child support.
Pieter Omtzigt, at the time a backbencher for the ruling Christian Democrats, had requested internal documents from the tax agency that would disclose when civil servants had first advised ministers of the mistakes.
Withholding information from parliament is a capital offensive in Dutch politics, but Omtzigt’s request was unusual. Ministers are politically responsible for their departments. Parliamentarians have long accepted that civil servants need to be able to make their recommendations in confidence.
Omtzigt argued for an exception. The minutes reveal Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, the Christian Democratic party leader, tried to “talk sense” into Omtzigt, who would not relent.
In the election in March, Omtzigt won a third of all votes for the Christian Democrats. His persistence in bringing the child benefits scandal to light has made him one of the most popular politicians in the country — but not necessarily in The Hague, where even some in his own party consider him a loose cannon. Read more “Revelations in Benefits Scandal Make Rutte’s Job Even Harder”
Germany’s Greens have for the first time in two years overtaken the ruling Christian Democrats in the polls. Two surveys in the last week gave them 28 percent support for the election in September against 21 to 27 percent for the center-right.
Those polls are still outliers, but the gap between the parties has been narrowing across surveys for months.