It was a bad year to be any kind of socialist in Europe. The decline has been long and agonizing for a once-dominant force, but in 2019 falling popularity reached new depths and raised questions over whether reinvention can lead to a revival.

A decade ago, the prime ministers of Britain, Spain, Greece and even Hungary were from the centre-left. Many went on to swiftly lose power, but then socialist governments emerged in France and Italy. Now the political brand looks like an anachronism.

Populism has tested the ability of mainstream parties to adapt and some on the centre-right are regaining their footing. That cannot be said of the traditional left. It gravitated towards the middle ground in the 1990s, and then paid a price for selling out. But a pendulum swing to 1970s-style radical ideology has been shown to be just as out of sync with the times.

This year ends with the humiliation of the Labour Party in the UK’s 12 December election and Germany’s Social Democrats more unpopular than at any time in living memory. In Italy and Spain, the centre-left are in government only thanks to precarious alliances with the anti-establishment groups that grew from the 2008 financial crisis.

For Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, the malaise runs deep, indeed as far back as the Cold War era of the early 1970s. “There has not been a charismatic and genuine left-wing leader who made a true difference in Europe since Willy Brandt”, who won a Nobel prize for building bridges between east and west and paving the way for German reunification.

READ THE REST AT THE INDEPENDENT.

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