A few of you have criticised me for spending a little time on opposition parties after the election. This is not a diversionary strategy, but the Conservative government is spending the next couple of weeks finalising the Queen’s speech which will then be the main topic of political debate. In the meantime it is important to consider the state of UK politics now we know more of the views of the voters. I did keep off the opposition parties unlikely to win any or many seats in the pre-election period as I could not see their relevance. I also spared you endless analysis of possible coalitions, both because everyone else was doing that and because I believed the polls which rightly predicted the total collapse of the Lib Dems as a party of MPs. Their collapse meant a victory by one of the main parties was much likelier than most thought, and it later became clear the Conservatives had moved ahead.
Many political commentators and strategists are stuck in a twentieth century time warp. They still believe elections are simple contests between Labour and the Conservatives, that they can be described by a two party swing, and that the one of the two main parties that most closely camps in the centre will win. They believe there are millions of swing voters who want something mid way between so called right wing Conservatism and so called left wing Labour.
Welcome to a twenty first century election. The last one was a contest between six parties, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat,UKIP, Green and SNP, with other nationalist parties also playing a part. There was an important battle between Conservative and Liberal Democrats in the south west and parts of London, a crucial fight between Labour and the SNP throughout all of Scotland, a battle between Labour and Liberal Democrats in some northern urban seats, and in a few seats a UKip/Conservative battle or a Green/Lib or Lab battle, as well as the traditional Lab/Con marginal seat contests.
On conventional analysis “red tories” and blue labour are the centre ground, along with the Liberal Democrats. UKIP, SNP and Green are left or right according to taste, so they should not score well or be relevant on traditional analysis. Recent results and votes shows how out of date this all is.
I have never myself seen the Liberal Democrats as centrist or moderate. They have an extreme position on the EU, welcoming any transfer of power or money to Brussels.They have views on energy that are far from the mainstream, favouring dear energy for price rationing to cut people’s usage. They tend to be anti car, when most people rely on their cars for work, shopping and the school run.
Nor do I think it helpful for these same analysts to simply see UKIP or Green as extreme, given how many people vote for them. These parties have strong views that only appeal to a minority, but as noted that is also true of the Lib Dems views on energy and Europe.
I would suggest analysts and commentators go back to the drawing board. We need models of behaviour that reflects our multi party modern democracy, and understands the passions in the politics of identity which lies behind the SNP, Plaid, UKIP and others. In a later post I will suggest a better way of analysing modern UK politics, and talk about how a party can build a strong voting base. If moving to the conventionally defined centre worked, surely the Lib Dems would have won by now?