NOW for some good news. While the pandemic shows no sign of going away, the popular response to the crisis around the globe seems to be shifting leftwards. Progressive parties in many countries are making an electoral comeback. Which suggests the next decade could see populism in decline and an upsurge in collective solidarity. We’re not there yet but keep your fingers crossed.

Let’s start with America. We are barely two weeks from the presidential election on Tuesday, November 3. National polls have Biden on 52% and Trump on 48%. Of course, the US election is not a single national vote but 50 separate contests. Yet, broken down by state, the odds are still on Sleepy Joe. One indication that Trump is under pressure is the fact he is running out of money.

From July to September, Trump’s campaign spent only $44 million on buying TV and radio spots, compared to $130m by Biden. More significantly, Trump has been forced to stop television advertising completely in swing states such as Iowa and Nevada, and reduce spending in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Certainly, The Donald is outspending Biden on social media, but that suggests a defensive campaign which is reduced to protecting its own narrow base.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Labour Party under the charismatic Jacinda Ardern has pulled off a coup, taking an absolute majority in Saturday’s election – the first time this has occurred under the country’s proportional system. A close inspection of Labour’s actual manifesto (OK, I’m a geek) suggests Ardern is more of a centrist than a left-winger, but I suspect the New Zealand electorate were not interested in the small print. Ardern projects a caring, collectivist, green agenda, which is what people want in a time of plague.

In France, the Greens were the big winners in the June local elections, conquering cities including Strasbourg and Lyon. In Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the incumbent socialist mayor, took 50%of the vote. Support for President Macron has cratered in recent months, as public discontent builds against his handling of the pandemic.

This may explain Macron’s hard line on EU negotiations with the UK, as he plays the nationalist card on fishing rights, in order to divert attention from the Covid crisis. Nobody expects Macron to be re-elected in 2022.

Here in Scotland, the SNP and the national cause are riding to historic highs in the polls, with a record 58% supporting independence. The First Minister has a net positive rating of 49% compared to Boris Johnson’s net negative of 58%. Johnson is coming under increased criticism from with his own party for bungling the response to the pandemic.

Labour and Tories are now polling neck-and-neck at a UK level, at around 40%. Add up Labour, SNP, Plaid and Greens, and the progressive vote is now more than 50% in Great Britain.

Of course, the swing against populists and towards progressives is by no means even. In Brazil, the popularity of right-wing nutter Jair Bolsonaro has been dented by his ignoring of the pandemic – he’s down roughly from 40% to 30% in the polls. Unfortunately, the potential opposition remains deeply fragmented. The former president (and slightly tarnished) Lula da Silva could conceivably win against Bolsonaro in 2022 in theory but he is ineligible to stand.

In bellwether Germany, Angela Merkel has defied the odds and seen her administration’s poll rating rise since March. However, the politically long-lived Merkel (she’s been Chancellor since 2005) is retiring next year with no obvious successor. Meanwhile, her CDU party’s eastern wing is flirting with the rabid racists of the AfD party. One scenario is that the post-Merkel CDU could splinter, allowing the Greens (currently on 20%) to ally with the socialists and left-wing De Linke to form a coalition government, after next year’s election.

ALL this is going on against the background of Covid-19. If one thing is certain, in an uncertain world, it is that the pandemic is likely to be with us for a long time to come. Even if a vaccine is forthcoming it will take years for it to immunise enough people to beat the virus into submission.

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Which means normal life is going to be disrupted at least till the middle of the decade. That has huge implications for jobs and the economy. Some sectors (Big Pharma, the new internet retail and logistics markets) will gain. But the mass employment sectors (hospitality, tourism, high street retail) are effectively doomed for the duration. And that means a massive rise in joblessness, especially for the young.

This scenario will, I predict, further destabilise political establishments everywhere and drive a swing to the anti-capitalist left. Of course, there is still an option that populists on the right will try and capitalise on the crisis. But right-wing populists such as Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro have little practical to offer in terms of concrete solutions to the pandemic and economic crisis.

Trump’s economic policy was to slash taxes, print money and protect the domestic US economy from cheap Chinese imports. At best, that could only work for a short while before the trade wars turned into hot wars and the US economy exploded in an inflationary bonfire.

What of a President Biden? He represents the interests of the US high-tech monopolies and their globalist investment banks, versus Trump’s support for domestic manufacturers and service companies. Biden has no particular strategy (bar getting elected) and will muddle along until he is engulfed by events.

The real game starts in 2024 when Kamala Harris takes on Donald Junior for the White House. In the interim, America’s youth will be increasingly unemployed and discontented. Might we see a third party candidate of the left finally emerge?

Here in the UK, once whatever deal with the EU has been cobbled together, the economic prognosis is equally dark. Boris and Chancellor Sunak can only print money for so long. By next summer they will start to panic (under pressure from the bankers and hedge fund jockeys) and start to reduce financial support for the economy.

Will they raise taxes and return to austerity? On the contrary, I suspect their libertarian instincts will kick in for one last throw of the Thatcherite dice. Expect more tax cuts, free ports and deregulation. If that fails (and it will) then the conservative and libertarian wings of the Tory Party will descend into civil war.

What of Scotland? In other countries, politicians are starting to listen to the mood music of progressive change: a return to public ownership, the rich paying their fair share, a universal basic income, and putting the environment above market imperatives.

In Scotland, these ideas are already mainstream. But ideas have to be put into practice. If the subtext of the 2014 referendum was battling austerity, then the subtext of indyref2 will be about “building back better” – and meaning it.

The Yes camp won’t win next time by being moderate but by being radical, because – after years of the pandemic – only genuinely transformative policies will get the young, the unemployed and the dispossessed to the polls.