How Can the Centre-Left Reinvent Itself?

New "Talking Progress" Podcast episode with Tim Bale, André Krouwel and Ania Skrzypek

What does the future hold for social democratic parties and the centre-left? Political scientists Tim Bale and André Krouwel discuss how overarching narratives and a sharpened ideological compass can help progressive big-tent parties regain much-needed trust. Tune in as these experts debate and recommend paths forward for centre-left parties across Europe.

As the world in many ways is becoming more niche, traditional large tent parties have begun to struggle. In response, there is a temptation to appeal to certain segments of society. Both Bale and Krouwel advise that social democratic parties do not narrow their messaging and instead find ways to communicate in overarching narratives.

Find this podcast episode on Podigee, Spotify, Apple Podcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Our guests are political scientists Tim Bale and André Krouwel. Ania Skrzypek is moderating this session. Ania Skrzypek is Director for Research and Training at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies. She is in charge of the Next Left Research Programme and coordinates FEPS Young Academics Network.

Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, researching European political parties and their electorate. André Krouwel teaches political science and communication at the Fee University of Amsterdam and focuses on political parties, elections, populism, extremism and conspiracies.

The time of catch-all politics is over

The two guests discuss the challenges of social democracy and understanding the current electorate. Against common misconceptions, Krouwel states that the majority of voters are not leaving social democratic parties for far-right parties. Instead, they vote green, liberal or centre-right. Developing a right-wing agenda or imitating certain aspects of other moderate and centre-left parties is not a path forward, according to Krouwel: Social democratic parties should focus on their traditional strength as a big-tent movement unified around social justice and progress.

centre-left„Did voters leave the party or did the party leave the voters?“
André Krouwel


How can social democrats revive themselves?

Regaining trust by constantly demonstrating a visible moral compass is a good place to start. Bale and Krouwel debate exactly how much policy details parties should communicate, but both argue strong and personable leadership should have a higher premium. Relatable leadership can help communicate several signature policies that accurately represent the underlying morality of the party.

centre-left„People need to see themselves reflected in the leadership.“
Tim Bale



 Right-Wing Populist

This episode is the second part of our Progressive Governance series. We recorded this session as part of the Progressive Governance Digital Summit that took place from June 9th to 11th 2021.


Post-production and additional recordings done by Annika Hoffmann and Das Progressive Zentrum. This session was designed in cooperation with the Foundation For European Progressive Studies.



Listen to more episodes of Talking Progress