This week the German centre left Social Democratic Party will open preliminary talks with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU on the formation of a Grand Coalition government in which it would be the decidedly junior partner. Squeezed between a dominant centre right and a relatively resilient far left, the SDP has only two plausible ways to access government: moving leftwards to try to rebuild a left-wing governing majority or political accommodation with the centre right. There are interesting parallels with the Dutch Labour party, which struck a similar pact with the centre right in September last year. Both the PvdA and the SPD have resisted moving sharply left, but if the numbers continue to count against them, could this change? And given their key role in anchoring the European mainstream left in fiscal austerity, open markets and the reform of European welfare systems, what might this mean?
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