Europe: From right to left

Article published on Nov. 8, 2013
Article published on Nov. 8, 2013

It's not unusual for left-wing politicians to - shall we say - experience ‘a little change of heart’. The French interior minister, Manuel Valls hit the headlines recently, and no-one could forget Nick Clegg's infamous pledge. But these men aren't alone. All over Europe, it's 'no' to the left and 'aye' to the right

Italy : Matteo Renzi 

People had high hopes for Matteo Renzi, one of the youngest left-wing politicians in office when he became mayor of Florence in 2009. A pure product of the Democratic Party, he was the poster-boy for a better future, and, at 38, perhaps even someone who can speak to the bamboccione, Italy's 'big babies' who still live with their parents. The only thing is that the man who everyone tipped for great things - he will almost certainly be the next leader of the Democrats - seems to be more and more confused about which party he's in. In theory, Renzi supports left-wing values. In practice, however, he has shown more than a few characteristics of the right: his close links with bankers, his presence on idiotic television shows, and, last but not least, his private meetings with none other than Silvio Berlusconi. Certainly enough to justify this mocking tumblr; "Renzi does it right". A.D.R.

Germany : Thilo Sarrazin

If we are to believe this left-wing politician and former banker ,Germany is heading to its doom.. In his 2010 book, the man so often compared to the xenophobe Geert Wilders labels "the Muslim invasion" an integration policy which has failed Germany completely. It was an unprecedented success. Indeed it was such a success that the SPD (Social Democratic Party) was duty-bound to intervene. They tried to expel him twice, but to no avail. To drive the point home, Thilo will speak on 23 November in Leipzig at a conference on national sovereignty. A third expulsion letter is already in the post. 

K.K.

Spain : José Bono

Even with politicians, you sometimes have to rely on someone who wouldn't have been your first choice. A bit like when you're picking football teams at school. José Bono, the son of a Falangista (a member of the Phalanx, a Spanish fascist party - Ed.), had to work hard to be taken seriously as a key player in the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). Now he can breathe easy. Having been president of the Junta of Communities of Castile-La Mancha, president of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, and minister of defence under Zapatero, José has become a socialist baron. The problem is, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. A good Catholic, Bono has attended several anti-gay marriage protests, and he is fighting tooth and nail to defend the church's plan to ban abortion. And the right are, well, right behind him: Bono is "uno de nosotros". M.T.

United Kingdom : Nick Clegg

Who could forget? May 2010. The general election. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, became David Cameron's deputy PM in the first coalition government since 1945. But Nick was elected on the back of a promise - a promise not to raise tuition fees. He'd hardly sat down on the frontbench next to his new Tory colleagues when he made a dramatic U-turn and threw his support behind the trebling of tuition fees. Take a moment to admire the man's genius in this video from September 2012. Clegg apologises not for supporting the fee hike, but for having made a promise. "Most importantly, you've gotta learn from your mistakes", he says. Wink wink nod nod.J.L.

France : Manuel Valls

Since he became interior minister (and even before, for that matter) he’s been called all sorts of things. He's been called "a rule-breaker", "the right's socialist", and, what's more, "the vice-president", a role which doesn't even exist in France. The German newspaper Der Spiegel added to this list, calling him "the Leftist Sarko". Valls, a native of Barcelona, certainly isn’t afraid of stealing policies from the right. Until recently, people used to blame his realist approach to security on a lack of ambition. But ever since the incident that has become known as the ‘Leonarda affair’ – the arrest and consequent deportation of a 15-year-old Roma girl who was on a school trip - the Socialist Party has been trying to get him to tone it down a bit. However, unlike his Socialist colleagues, Valls has never been more popular, and his repressive policies make the Sarkozy years seem like a holiday. M.A.