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A return to two-party politics

Thursday, April 20, 2017 23:17
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Will the June 2017 election be the one in which Britain (in the strictest sense, in which we can pretend there is no Nicola Sturgeon) returns to two-party politics? The Great Trend of the post-war era has been a fragmentation of viewpoints, an ever-increasing diversity of political offers and tribes. This seems to have been a long-term change, rather than being prompted by any particular party’s stance on any single issue or short-term electoral strategy. Similar diversification has been seen in other mature democracies: in the Netherlands the two main parties use to get the lion’s share of the vote, now they struggle to form grand coalitions; France used to have the Gaullists and the Socialists, but this time around nobody knows who will reach the second round of the presidential elections.

But could this be about to change? If so, it could be the political earthquake which people have been anticipating for many years. It could herald a brief but long-lasting shifting of the kaleidoscope (Copyright T. Blair) in Westminster politics.

In the General Election of 2017 we have a very simple choice to make, as voters. Do we support Theresa May’s Tories, or do we Not?

In case we were under any illusion of a range of choices at the election, the smaller parties have been scrabbling around seeking electoral pacts with each other. The Greens and the LibDems are doing a deal in Devon. Caroline Lucas has called on Labour to co-operate with the Greens in some constituencies (presumably the gloriously mad bits of SE London, in particular). Gina Miller is raising money to campaign for particular candidates who might vote to stop Brexit. There are already tactical-vote sheets floating about on the internet.

So when we reach the ballot box on 8th June we can expect to be asked to choose, straightforwardly between the Tories and the Not Tories.

Even if we ignore the current polls for a moment, it might be difficult to muster much enthusiasm for a Not party. What does a Not party stand for? Not Eating Babies? Not Crushing The Poor? Not Slashing Public Services? Not Leaving the EU?

Opposing the Nasty Tories might seem like a grand crusade to some people, but it isn’t a platform to form a majority in Parliament and a government for the next few years. 

To his credit, Jeremy Corbyn has immediately stated that he is not interested in pacts and coalitions. Ed Miliband, of course, dithered and came a cropper. Corbyn has also hit the ground running with a policy platform. Whether or not Capitalists agree with that platform is a separate matter, but at least it is Something rather than Not.

So in the end, voting in the June 2017 election will come down to a binary choice. 


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