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Corbyn tells European social democrats: 'Reject austerity and neoliberalism or voters will reject you'

Leader has stark warning for Labour's sister parties on trip to the Netherlands

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Thursday 05 July 2018 13:34 BST
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)

Jeremy Corbyn has warned his centre-left counterparts on the continent they must turn against austerity and rigged capitalism or risk being wiped off the political map by the extreme right.

On a visit to the Netherlands on Thursday the Labour leader said socialists and social democrats risked looking like another part of the establishment by “supporting a failed economic system rigged for the wealthy”.

He warned that “fake populists and migrant-baiters of the far-right” would benefit from the demise of the centre-left, which had in the past “delivered enormous advances for working people” but was now losing ground.

Mr Corbyn’s Labour has bucked the trend of many European centre-left parties, which have practically all been in apparently terminal decline. Labour increased its vote significantly at the last election in contrast to previously dominant parties like the German SPD, French Parti Socialiste and Greek Pasok, who all hit record lows.

“In election after election, voters have shown they simply don’t believe many of these parties offer real change. After a decade of austerity following the bankers’ crisis, years of stagnating living standards and rising insecurity, working class communities in particular are simply not prepared to accept more of the same,” Mr Corbyn said at an event organised by the Dutch Labour Party in the Hague.

“My message for our European sister parties is simple: reject austerity or face rejection by voters. If our parties look like just another part of the establishment, supporting a failed economic system rigged for the wealthy and the corporate elite, they will be rejected – and the fake populists and migrant-baiters of the far right will fill the gap.”

My message for our European sister parties is simple: reject austerity or face rejection by voters

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader

He called for a “new economic consensus to replace the broken neoliberal model, which has failed working class people, fuelled inequality and insecurity, and sucked wealth away from the majority to an elite few at the top” and told his allies to rediscover their “driving radical purpose”.

“It’s time for change in Europe. But Europe’s socialist parties will only lead that change if there is a clear rejection of an economic and social model that sets workers against each other, sells off our collective wealth at knockdown prices and gives one undeserved handout after another to bankers, corporate bosses and tax dodgers,” said the Labour leader.

“If we don’t lead that change, others certainly will. The broken system has provided fertile ground for the growth of xenophobic, scapegoating politics. Unless we offer a clear and radical alternative, and hope for a fairer, richer future, the politics of hate and division will continue to advance on our continent.”

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Labour party won just 5.7 per cent of the vote, down from 25 per cent in 2012 and regular results in the mid-30s percentages during the 1980s. The party’s vote has been eclipsed by radical greens, leftists and liberals, as well as the populist right and centre-right.

Looking across Western Europe, only in Portugal has another mainstream socialist party genuinely managed to significantly reverse failing electoral fortunes: on an anti-austerity platform in alliance with communists and the radical left.

The most recent result to shake Europe was in Italy, where the Democratic Party, led into elections by establishment centrist Matteo Renzi, was mauled by voters and replaced in office by far-right and anti-establishment parties.

In some countries in the continent’s east, such as Poland, there are no left wing parties left in parliament, with the choice for voters between centre-right, pro-business liberals and right wing paternalist populists.

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