Labor's Loves Lost? Lessons From Around The World

These are challenging times to be a center-left labor party. Economic and technological shifts have eroded their traditional blue collar voter bases, and political appeals based on national identity are more vigorous these days than those based on class affiliation.


But the news for labor parties isn’t all bad. Here are Gabe’s snapshots of four labor parties and the lessons they tell us about the outlook for the center-left:

Identity Crisis, UK Labour Party: Rescued from the political doldrums after Prime Minister May’s ill-advised 2017 snap election, the Labour Party has been polling neck-and-neck with the Tories over the past year. But party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a divisive figure: his past communist sympathies and pledges to nationalize industries have put off many within the party’s old guard. Moreover, Labour suffers from the same internal splits over Brexit as their Tory rivals, leaving little room for them to attack the current government on that issue. Caught between past and present, and with no clear position on the biggest issue of the day, the UK Labour Party has a new lease on life, but is still grasping for a new identity with no easy resolution in sight.

The Only Alternative, Australian Labor Party: When your opponents go through three prime ministers in five years, you don’t have to do much more than sit back and watch if you’re the Australian Labor Party. Dysfunction within the ruling Liberal Party has benefited Labor, which is now polling 12 points ahead of their center-right opponents in government. All they have to do is hold on until the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, decides to call for new elections, most likely mid-next year. The bad news is that the forces that are pulling apart the Liberals – increasing right-wing populism – may tug at Labor’s supporters before long as well.

Steadily Losing Ground, Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party: In Sweden, the Social Democrats, who’ve rung up first place in every single election since 1917, face their biggest challenge in decades. The far-right Sweden Democrats, who have origins in the country's neo-Nazi movement, are poised to become the largest opposition party in a national election on Sunday, capitalizing on increasing backlash against Sweden’s generous asylum and immigration policies. At the same time, support for the center-left Social Democrats has nearly halved over the past 25 years.

Making Room For A New Face, Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT): In Brazil, the major center-left party, the PT, is still hugely popular, but it faces a crisis of leadership. After their favored candidate, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (whom Obama once called “the most popular politician on earth”), was jailed on corruption charges and disqualified from running in next month’s presidential election, they’ve turned to Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of Sao Paulo. Polls show that support for Lula is twice that of the next closest candidate, right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro. But Mr. Haddad has been polling in single digits. The challenge for the PT is one many parties face: how to establish loyalty beyond a single transformational figure.

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The world's climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach "net zero" emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year.

While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That's why last week we announced an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.

Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.