Lord Bruce of Bennachie to move that this House takes note of challenges to the liberal international order posed by the development of populism and nationalism around the world.


Baroness Stroud of Fulham "In 5 minutes, it is impossible to do justice to this hugely important topic so I am just going to focus on one aspect of it - the development of populism -  and try and ask the question “why” and “where” has this threat come from?

If we can answer the question “why”, then we can go some way to taking the steps to address this issue.

If we look up a definition of populism we will find it defined as:

  1. support for the concerns of ordinary people OR
  2. the quality of appealing to, or being aimed at, ordinary people.

This has surely got to be the desire and responsibility of every politician and leader – to support and address the concerns of ordinary people -  and yet when we see the rise of populism around us, we should ask ourselves the question  - how effective have we been.

 Key statistics on the rise of populism:

  • Across Europe, populist parties’ average share of the vote in national and European parliamentary elections has more than doubled since the 1960s, from around 5% to 13%, at the expense of centre parties.[1]
  • Since the 1960s populist parties’ share of seats has tripled, from nearly 4% to nearly 13%[2]
  • In most recent polling, Marine Le Pen’s Front National party is at 26.5 per cent, a lead of 1.5 per cent over former Conservative Prime Minister Fillon.[3]


Ordinary people are voting for and identifying with parties that are communicating in a way that taps into their major concerns, enabling them to feel as though they have been heard. This is a challenge to us as mainstream parties – to the liberal international order. Why are we not meeting that need?

In a joint piece of work undertaken recently by the Legatum Institute and the Centre for Social Justice - I refer to my entry in the Members Register of Interests - called 48:52 Healing a Divided Nation, we looked at what some identify as populism – what motivated some of the 52% to vote the way they did in the Brexit vote.

The story of 48:52 is not just a story of the rise of populism. The decision to leave the European Union was a bold and unequivocal statement for millions of people who wanted to change the political, economic, and social status quo. It was a moment in time, a rational choice, when those who had not felt heard by the establishment expressed their desire to take back control—control of their wages and of their public services.

As we have sought to research and analyse the underlying issues a number of well know themes have emerged such as:

  • concern about immigration
  • a desire for sovereignty
  • and a sense of community alienation

But there are also some more deeply embedded themes  - whole swathes of British society who are concerned about:

  • their wages and their job security- the impact of globalisation and technological changes to the nature of employment itself
  • the security of their home and access to housing for the next generation
  • pressure on public services particularly schools and health

This is the deeper malaise the PM identified when she made her speech on the doorsteps of No 10. In my view, these are some of the deep social issues that lie at the heart of the rise of populism.

In light of this it is perhaps no surprise that the vote disregarded the dire warnings of the establishment including the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, the Bank of England, the World Bank, the IMF, and President Obama! Their threats and warnings showed that the establishment understood little of the lives of the 52 percent.

But there is one other factor at play here in the rise of populism. When those who feel that the establishment does not understand their concerns do look for leadership to our great institutions we need to be aware of what it is they have seen.

Instead of seeing a leadership that is there to take responsibility and to serve, they have:

  • Looked at the finance sector and seen the banking crisis
  • They have looked at the media and seen the hacking scandal followed by Leveson
  • They have looked at politicians and seen the expenses scandal
  • They have even looked at top sportsmen and women and seen the doping and bribery scandals

There is a challenge to the liberal order but it is one that should lead us to address the social issues that have been highlighted by the rise of populism and should lead us to ensure that the historic institutions of this nation are led with integrity, for the benefit of the many and not just the few"


[1] Harvard research - file:///C:/Users/colmanl/Downloads/RWP16-026_Norris%20(1).pdf

[2] Ibid

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/marine-le-pen-far-right-leader-front-national-french-election-poll-fran-ois-fillon-a7524056.html