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Democracy under stress - Populism, extremism and the mainstream

21 March 2013

Time: 6:30pm
Venue: Fogg Lecture Theatre, Mile End Campus

Policy Network, in partnership with the Barrow Cadbury Trust and Queen Mary, University of London, cordially invite you to a public debate on how mainstream parties should respond to the rise of populism and extremism.

Welcome
Sara Llewellin, chief executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust

Presentation
Anthony Painter, associate researcher and project leader for the Policy Network / Barrow Cadbury Trust project on “Populism, extremism and the mainstream”

Respondents
Tim Bale, professor and chair in politics, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary, University of London
Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central
David Aaronovitch, author, columnist at The Times and broadcaster
Rupa Huq, senior lecturer in sociology, Kingston University and author of On the Edge: The contested cultures of English suburbia (chair)

Context
The most successful new family of parties in Europe over the last quarter of a century has been the populist radical right. In country after country, new right wing populist parties have established themselves as significant players for office, power, and public voice.

This phenomenon, the populist right as a challenger brand within and to liberal democracy, says something very significant about the state of modern democracy – and requires a robust response from the political mainstream.

This public lecture will mark the launch of a significant new Policy Network/Barrow Cadbury Trust report entitled “Democratic stress, the populist signal and extremist threat”. The report, based on a cross-comparative European research project, sets out a strategic evaluation of how the antagonistic and corrosive aspects of identity politics can be resisted and defeated – and identifies where mainstream politics has failed.

The panel will consider and debate the following questions:

  • In the context of another decade of austerity and the detrimental legacy of the financial crisis, will mainstream parties respond effectively in a democracy facing stresses from cultural angst, political scepticism, and economic anxiety? Or will populism and extremism increasingly gain traction?
  • What are the distinguishing features of mainstream, populist and extremist political movements?
  • What are the conditions – political, constitutional, cultural or economic - in which populism/extremism is able to thrive?
  • Where are there good examples of campaigns, political strategies and policy responses at a community and national level which have successfully neutralized antagonistic political forces?
  • How have parties been able to accommodate and absorb populist or even extremist symbols and arguments? What are the limits of absorption from both a political and ethical standpoint?

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