We live in very interesting times. On both sides of the Atlantic, the political model is changing, and the phenomenon of a "more authentic maverick politician” is emerging.
A fundamental transformation of the electorate on both sides of the Atlantic took place in the 1990’s, characterised by “moving towards the non-polarising political middle” and “triangulation”, so as not to alienate as many voters as possible. This enabled Tony Blair to score a decisive victory in 1997, but came at a cost of a collapse in public voting participation.
It appears that we are now in the early stages of the next transformative wave, which in many ways is “undoing” the previous wave.
What we are seeing now on both sides of the Atlantic, is that the “careful not to offend, politically correct middle-of-the-road” establishment candidates are being beaten by the “more authentic and more polarising” maverick candidates: in the US presidential primaries, Donald Trump is beating the Republican establishment’s favourite Jeb Bush into the low single digit territory, and a self-described socialist Bernie Sanders is beating the Democrats’ “inevitable” Hillary Clinton. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn just won 59.5% of Labour Party vote, creating enthusiasm (esp. among the young people) not seen since 1997. Only British Conservatives are not experiencing this phenomenon, because there is no appetite in the Conservative Party for a new leader.
What’s likely to happen in the next 5 years, is a wholesale reorganisation of the political forces on both sides of the UK political spectrum:
- On the left, it's quite possible that Corbyn will re-arrange the political left by (1) attracting many Greens and red UKIP’ers back into the Labour fold, and (2) energising into Labour politics the naïve idealistic youth (who’ve never voted before) and Old Labour'ers (who stopped voting in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s because they deemed New Labour to be too Tory-like), while at the same time driving the right wing of the Labour Party into the LibDems’ open arms.
- On the right, meanwhile, if the EU membership negotiations don't bring in a meaningful improvement (seemingly likely scenario), Conservative Party could be deeply split on the EU issue, driving a lot of Conservative voters (and quite a few Conservative MPs) out, either to UKIP, or to a brand-new “Eurosceptic Tories” party. With the “external threat” of a powerful Labour opponent seemingly gone, many more Conservatives will find it acceptable to split our side too.
As a result of all this, UK might end up with four national parties of comparable strength (two on each side of the political spectrum), meaning that the era of a "single party majority government" would be over and the UK would enter the era of a coalition government, something that already almost happened this May if not for the scare of the Ed Miliband government, dominated by SNP.
So, all things considered, the future (including the 2020 General Election) is actually quite wide open. If we want to keep (and increase) our parliamentary majority, continuing doing only what we’ve been doing so far, might not be sufficient.
Gintas is a CWF activist and founder of Localism 2.0 - Plan to Revitalize Great Britain www.localism2now.com
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