So why have voters deserted social democrats and how could they be won back? At a Civitas talk on Friday, Labour Leaver and avowed social democrat John Mills had some suggestions:
It is a peculiar trend in today’s politics that as the Tories move to the Left on borrowing and spending, what remains of the centre-Left is running to the Right on the same issue. Indeed, John Mills’ talk of economic growth, deficit reduction and the 1970s sound more like something out of the 2015 Conservative Manifesto than any kind of social democratic platform.
But if social democrats want to go trawling for policies on the Right, they would do better to tackle the issue of immigration instead. As the case of Denmark shows, one of few examples of a centre-Left party in power, the success of the Social Democrats followed on from a tough stance on immigration. Not only did this position take the sting out of the Right-wing parties, it allowed the party to re-capture its working-class base. As Paul Collier writes in the New Statesman:
In the UK, there is very little appetite for this on the Left— see the Labour Party’s commitment to extending freedom of movement if it came to power.
So you’re left wondering: what is the closest thing to a modern social democrat party in the UK? With their commitments to increase spending on public services, reduce the tax burden for those worst off and ‘level up’ regional inequality around the country, it is starting to look distinctly like Boris Johnson’s Conservatives — something that neither the Tory Right nor exiled New Labour would want to hear.