Avoid power or die: the sad life of liberals in Europe

Sign displayed before the 2014 EU elections

The results of the latest general elections held in the United Kingdom seem to confirm – in my opinion – a sort of trend which has been occurring in the largest European countries over the last two years: once the liberals get into government, they are eventually wiped out.

In 2013, Mario Monti’s Civic Choice performed under the expectations at the Italian general elections and won an amount of seats which resulted in being irrelevant in the formation of the new cabinet. This and the subsequent collapse of the parliamentary groups led to the extremely poor results at the latest European elections and in opinion polls. Ironically, perhaps, Monti was assisted by David Axelrod, who also has been advising Ed Miliband during the electoral campaign we have just left behind us – and we have all seen the results; Europe is not America, or, maybe, spin doctors’ influence is overrated – I cannot really say, though.

In Germany, at the 2013 federal elections, after four years in coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the Liberals (which, previously, had been out of government since 1998) suffered a massive loss of votes, coming fifth as a party and winning zero seats – an astounding defeat.

Now, it is the turn of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats: five years of coalition (yeah, there’s that thing about tuition fees, I know) and, now, 8 mere seats left for them in Westminster.

There are exceptions, of course: in the Netherlands liberal parties did well at the 2012 general elections – but the Netherlands are the stronghold of liberalism in Europe.

Worrying is the fact that this decline occurs at the same time of the rise of populist, extreme and nationalist parties, an event which would strongly need the counterweight of rational policies and anti-nationalism (if not cosmopolitanism). Even more worrying, in my view, is the fact that more than simply electoral defeats, we see whole parties almost wiped out from the scene, making, perhaps, life for liberal ideas and policies even more difficult: they would probably still circulate, but no one would advocate them.