Rudd was right – sort of…

So Kevin Rudd was right after all. The 2008-9 financial crisis really was “of truly seismic significance.” It was not an epoch-changing moment for capitalism, however, but for the Left.

Support for established centre-left parties has tanked across most of Europe since 2009 while populist socialist movements and independents are on the rise.

The collapse of the old two-party political system is striking in Ireland where support for Fianna Fáil and Labour has hit rock bottom. Sinn Fein is now the preferred party for voters under 35 and second overall, according to a November 2015 poll by The Irish Times/Ipsos-MRBI.

This chart shows what has happened in Irish politics since 2006:

Ireland reshapedThere is a pronounced “bunching” of support for the parties in the 20-30 per cent range, suggesting that the days of one-party government are over.

As I wrote in The Australian yesterday, the crisis for old-school social democracy is not confined to Ireland. It has taken hold across Europe, notably in Spain and Greece.

The centre-right also faces the challenge of democratic disaggregation. Yet Fine Gael is surviving the new environment much better. Its primary support (like that of the Coalition in Australia incidentally) has remained relatively steady over the tumultuous ten years.

So much for Rudd’s brave boost in his February 2009 article in The Monthly:

“Not for the first time in history, the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself.”

In reality it is social democracy that needs saving before it is consumed by the politics of grievance and populist socialism.

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