Wednesday 26 June 2024

Can The Two Main Parties Continue?


There are a lot of reasons why political parties are vital, but the one that I want to concentrate on is that they allow people to participate in the political process without becoming political geeks. The average man in the street can choose a party that more or less reflects his views and then leave matters to that party as he gets on with his life.

Labour had its affiliated industrial unions, so could keep its finger on the pulse of popular opinion, or at least the opinions of its voting core which was the industrial working class. The Tories had a very large membership that was not expected to do very much, but it came in handy for mothers who were looking for suitable suitors for their elegible daughters. Amidst the social whirl, the MP and party chairman could take soundings from the middle class in general, so an organic link existed for both main parties to ordinary people rather than just unrepresentative activists.

Those links have now been broken. Labour because industrial Britain and its unions no longer exists and the Tories because they introduced that democracy thingie to their internal workings which meant that a political party that was largely made up of people who were not really interested in politics has now become, like Labour, something for political anoraks to fight over.

The end result of all this is that people have disengaged from politics and turnout at elections drops. Occasionally there is an upsurge, such as the fact that Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader lost in 2017 and 2019 with more votes than Tony Blair won with in 2005, but it was a false dawn. Both main parties seem to be content tootling along, competing for votes amongst the diminishing pool of people who are willing to vote.

Voter apathy is one marker that a political realignment is needed, or may be about to start. The division in Britain is very clear, but that division is not represented by the parties in any clear way. On the one hand we have people who are rooted in the areas where they live, and who did not go to university. Many are council tenants and claimants, but many have skills that gives them decent wages in the private sector. As a group, they voted from Brexit and are mostly opposed to immigration.

On the other side, we have people with degrees, often from the former polys and colleges of higher education that are now allowed to degrade the name university. They work in the public sector, if such activity can even be called work, as it is neither productive of any finished good and is subsidised by the taxes levied on the private sector workers. Many of these people have no connection or loyality to the areas where they live, and were likely to have voted for the European Union and high immigration in 2016.

As things stand, Labour is the voice of that second group, and Boris Johnson created an alliance of the first which gave him a magnificent victory in 2019. That victory was frittered away, which is why the Tories are about to receive a kicking of note next week.

If the new Tory leader can rebuild the Borisian coalition, then the Tories may find that they can rebound at the next election. If he can't, then the realignment will be delayed, turnout will continue to fall and the country will mark time until eventually either a new party emerges to take over from the Tories, or that party finally comes to its senses and starts to aggregate the votes of the anti-Labour section of the electorate.

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