Europe has been moving right in legislative elections all across the Continent. Fellow instablogger, Tom Lindmark, is surprised at this. We aren't, given what we know about the differences between American and European liberalism.
Most American liberals grew up with the secure feeling that "bad things would never happen to them." Quite laudably, they push for a world in which "bad things won't happen to others." They are liberal in good times and bad, and if anything, more so in bad times, when there is greater need.
European liberals are somewhat different. Unlike Americans, they've mostly experienced both good and bad times. Unlike their more conservative counterparts, they are more willing to "share"--but only in good times. For them, a push for bigger government is a symbol of prosperity, not a palliative for bad times.
Unlike Americans, Europeans (at least the ones we know) don't believe in shared misery. Governments are least trusted during bad times (the opposite of the American experience). Instead, when times are hard, individuals will "circle the wagons." Look out for yourself, and let others do the same. Liberals will become "conservatives" and "sauve qui peut," (save what you can), becomes the order of the day.
The last time Europe moved so decisively rightward was the 1930s. The reason it is moving right now, is because these are the modern 1930s.