The Left is retreating around the world. The Great Recession has produced a landscape so favourable for right-wing parties, their opponents can only feel sorry for themselves as they watch support drain away from them.
At least, so goes the popular narrative. At the last Labour Conference, Douglas Alexander said: “for a decade around 1997, the centre left was defeating the right. Now the centre right is beating the left”. Fraser Nelson agreed, with the assertion “across Europe centre-Left parties are in electoral retreat”.
But an analysis of elections over the last 12 months doesn’t bear out the argument that the Left is on a losing streak.
What we see instead is that while the main centre-left parties have indeed lost some ground to the main centre-right parties, left and centre-left parties have generally done slightly better than parties of the right and centre-right.
The results come from all country-wide parliamentary general elections held in Europe, North America and Australasia in the last 12 months, totalling eight elections. See here for the full methodology.
If we look just at the performance of the main centre-left party in each country, and compare it with the result for the main party of the centre-right, we do indeed see a drop for the centre-left.
In six of the eight elections, the main centre-left party lost support; only in Ireland did it gain, and that was at the expense of the centre rather than of the right. The average swing is about 2pts to the main centre-right party.
But that’s only part of the picture. If we count all parties of the left and centre-left, and compare them with all parties of the right and centre-right, the result is reversed.