Thursday, 16 March 2017

Dutch Election - Wilders Falters, Labour Crash, Green Left Gain

The political establishment across Europe are celebrating yesterday’s Dutch general election result, where Gert Wilders' party, PVV, did not make the large gains that opinion polling have been suggesting. The turn-out, at 80%, was unusually large.

The PVV stood on an unambiguous platform of anti-EU, anti-Muslim immigration policies, and it was thought would follow the right wing popularist trend of Brexit and Trump in recent protest votes. Well done to the Dutch people for rejecting this type of divisive politics.

The high turnout and spread of votes amongst several parties, played a part in halting PVV's advance, but perhaps more significantly, the centre right VVD party, stole some of the anti-immigration rhetoric from PVV, and the public row with Turkey probably helped as well.

Echoes of the UK, where the Tories are playing the same game, and thereby gaining former UKIP voters with anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric. It is a widely held view that the rise of the National Front in the UK in the 1970’s was halted by the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government, which was big on patriotism.

The Labour Party, PvdA, were the big losers, after participating in a coalition government with the centre right party VVD, with further echoes of the Lib Dems, this time, in the UK, and a continuing slide by social democrat parties in Europe that have embraced neo-liberalism. PvdA went from 38 seats to just 9.VVD won the most seats, with 33, down 8.

Smaller parties were the main gainers, with the Dutch GreenLeft Party (GroenLinks in Dutch) gaining 10 seats, going from 4 to 14. As the name suggests the party is a left wing environmental one, and describes itself as "green", "social" and "tolerant." Not explicitly ecosocialist, it is after all a reformist party, but certainly heading in an ecosocialist direction.

The result demonstrates that a Green Left party can take significant votes off social democratic parties, particularly in the bigger cities. GreenLeft topped the poll in Amsterdam.

A coalition government will have to be built between at least 4 parties, but GreenLeft have said all along that they will not participate in a right or centre right government. It would be wise to stick to that after what happened to the PvdA at this election.

This is an English translation of a statement by GreenLeft about yesterday’s Dutch general election. 

From their website GroenLinks:

Thank you for voting, thank you for your commitment to the campaign. We have shown along that ideals do matter in politics. We showed together that we can get the country moving. We have written history.

Together we form a great new movement, which connects green and leftist values together. A movement for change. We go on.

Join us so we can listen to you. We need you, to share concerns with each other. To exchange new ideas. To discuss how we proceed not only from The Hague, but also in the country to bring real change in the Netherlands.

Let's change the Netherlands together.

Congratulations to GroenLinks from Green Left in London.  


  1. I'm surprised that the GPEW has not tried to make more of the success of the Dutch Green Left in their recent national elections. True, Molly Scott Cato had an article in the Guardian where she pushed the case for proportional representation and argued the elections demonstrated that the 'populist tendency' could be defeated. But it would appear that the GPEW leadership is not quite so impressed - possibly perhaps because it was a Green Left party that made gains that the GPEW can only dream of.

    But here I would like to float the idea that the GroenLinks success should be subjected to some serious scrutiny for clues on how Green Left can help to improve the political traction of GPEW, even though Brexit would seem to be paralysing political debate.(Ralph Behr in the Guardian has just written very convincingly on this theme.) My counter-argument here is that I think that nobody can rule out the prospects of a General Election before Brexit is implemented - it could be argued that two bites of the cherry are totally warranted over such a huge transformative decision: and shouldn't the electorate be given the chance to nod its approval or not of the deal that Mrs May secures on our behalf?
    So given my assumption that something like a return to normal politics will progressively become more likely, what might be the underlying strategy that starts to re-invigorate the GPEW and on which Green Left can be instrumental - and what might be the political elements of that strategy that can be lifted from Groenink - for they will not be identical!

    On the first half of that double-question I am clear in my mind that the only way we can maximise our prospects of defeating the Tories in an election is through a pact with Labour and other "progressive parties"!!!! If the GPEW doesn't pursue this road then it will either have to mute its left tendencies (something I couldn't imagine Caroline Lucas tolerating for a second) - or end up in effect dividing the left vote between the GPEW and Labour (and other parties), thereby virtually ensuring the return of the Tories in this posited election.
    Within a pact, Green Left could push hard for its principles to be taken up by the GPEW on the grounds that most left-leaning voters will not have much in the way of appealing choices.
    On the question of what lessons might the GroenLinks provide it is clear that environmental issues do continue to have significant traction, and this includes quite categorically climate change. The other salient feature of the GroenLinks appeal was their insistence that Wilders, along with other EU populist political leaders, not immigration, was the essence of the political difficulties that Holland and most EU countries were facing.

  2. A quick PS to my last comment: -

    A very insightful analysis!

  3. Well, I did support a progressive alliance in principle, with the promise of PR elections in the future. But Labour has officially ruled it out, and other than us standing down everywhere for them, so have the Lib Dems. There will be no progressive alliance, however good an idea it is. We a new strategy, unless you think we just not anywhere other Brighton Pavilion?

    It is a dead idea.

  4. Thank you for your reply Mike. I think a clear difference between us would seem to be you are not addressing the 'once in a century situation' posed by Brexit in your reply. To raise the 'red line' issue of PR elections seems to be mooting a fundamental 'permanent' way of conducting UK General Elections: a longer term strategic goal that in my view needs to be pushed aside while we focus on Brexit - because of its imminence as well as all its truly massive long-term implications.

    So, at the risk of repeating myself, the corner-stone of my thinking is the 'inevitability'??? of a General Election to 'sign off' the Brexit deal. Parliament has secured its democratic right to 'sign off' the deal, but how likely is it that this juncture will be reached in two years i.e. before a General Election becomes mandatory.
    In this General Election scenario with the massive stakes involved it behoves all 'progressive' parties to do everything they can to ensure it is not the Tories that are in power when the 'agreed Brexit deal' is signed off. If the 'agreed Brexit deal' is too reflective of Tory interests it could, quite properly, be blocked by the 'progressive parties', particularly if they cooperated to maximum effect. If - difficult to imagine - Mrs May ends up agreeing a considerably more 'progressive' deal than appears to be her current intentions (politics is not a game!) then a new Parliament might be prepared to sign off such a deal using its renewed authority bequeathed by the electorate.
    In this scenario the idea that the 'progressive' parties won't be engaged in long and intense discussion seems to me laughable.

    The key question here is: "What is the likelihood that events will lead to a pre-Brexit General Election?" For the present my hopes are largely predicated on that possibility!

  5. Well important though Brexit is, I don't see everything through that vortex and as I say, a pa is not on offer, other than just not standing, which I think would be a big mistake.

  6. Dubious argumentation Mike. It tries a) to deflect the undoubtedly immense importance of Brexit for the UK and b) it seems to reduce the possibilities for the Green Party of establishing a pact with 'other progressive parties' (including sine qua non the Labour Party) to that of agreeing not to stand.

    While my view might in extremis be expanded to concede the field to Labour if they agreed to fight tooth-and-nail for the best possible deal for progressives because I honestly don't think Labour would demean themselves by seeking to put their electoral advantage above obtaining the best deal for the people of the UK in these extraordinary times.
    But once again I stress my argument largely rests on my analysis that we will have a General Election before the UK??? signs its Brexit deal and your views and others on the likelihood of this happening would be appreciated.

    Brian Orr

  7. Personally I think it unlikely that there will be a general election before 2020.