As we tip, headlong, towards the General Election in May the political landscape appears to be set for some changes. It seems unlikely that either of the two main parties, Labour or Conservative, will be able to achieve a majority and talk is of coalitions. In the background to this are the machines of the big hitters that haven’t been able to adjust or reform quickly enough to accommodate to the shifting landscape. My feeling is that, not only has this shift been a long time in the making, it is the very nature of the two largest parties that has created the seeds of their own destruction.
Voter numbers have been steadily dropping off for some time now and, despite noises to the contrary, lower voter turnout has suited Labour and the Conservatives. Labour voters turned out and Conservative voters turned out and the majority of those voters whose interests were not represented by either party stayed at home. Labour and the Conservatives were in a two horse race for first past the post and it suited them because it was simple to understand and simple to control and try and influence. The problem came in 2010, when not enough Labour or Conservative voters turned out and, suddenly, the LibDems were cast into the fray as the deciding vote and they gave their nod towards the Conservatives. Three party politics was born and Hades followed close behind.
What screamed out of 2010 was that a minority party could hold the balance of power, could be the deciding vote, and you don’t have to aim to win a majority, you just need to win a decisive number of seats. The impact of that was banked.
Next up, the Scottish Independence Referendum. The only voters for independence would be SNP voters and they would not represent a significant enough percentage to worry anyone in Westminster … then the Yes campaign took the lead in a poll and Westminster started refitting trains as hospitals and shipping shock troops up to Scotland to desperately try and turn the tide. Neither of the main parties had a plan and neither did the LibDems but the Westminster machine went into action and stamped out a largely grassroots movement through fear and lies or straw men and candour, depending on how charitable you would want to be with the conduct demonstrated. My suspicions are that Scotland was never expected to vote for independence and a Conservative Prime Minister simply would not have been able to adhere to the pre-referendum agreement. Cameron would have reneged rather than lose the leadership of his party; Scotland voting No saved Cameron the embarrassment of duplicity.
Just as the Conservatives have been able to exploit the LibDems as whipping boys of their coalition, the Conservatives have been able to exploit Labour as whipping boys for Scotland. Scotland voting Yes would have seen Cameron renege and Scottish voters would have backed Labour to the hilt, along with most every other non-Conservative voter, to remove the duplicitous scoundrel. Instead, by voting No and then watching the Conservatives Conservate, Scottish voters have rued at their leisure and the SNP have capitalised on the fact that no other significant party in Scotland is representing the interests of Scottish people. The result is that Labour are expected to take a pounding in Scotland because they don’t represent Scottish voters’ interests and this will undermine any chance Labour might have as a reactionary Govt to the Conservatives Conservatising.
The LibDems self destructed the moment they accepted the nettle branch from the Conservatives in 2010. Political naive at best, the LibDems have simply not been effective enough as a coalition partner in holding back the excesses of Conservatism and it is predicted that Labour’s smackdown in Scotland will be matched by the LibDems’ smackdown across the country. It’s a shame but they blew it and don’t deserve a second chance this time around. The LibDems have not represented their voters interests and their voters are looking like they’ll vote elsewhere like the the Greens.
Having successfully exploited the own goals of Labour and the LibDems you would think the Conservatives would be a shoe in to take a majority in May but then you have to factor in UKip. All those voters that were marginally Conservative have been swept up by UKip. As many people on the margins of Conservation have woken up to the fact that the Conservatives don’t actually represent their interests. It is this complacency by the larger parties that has been their potential undoing.
Will the current uncertainty see the end of politics as we have known it? In this upcoming election? Possibly/probably not. The two major parties are trotting out the scare tactics, trying to frighten their old marginal voters that a vote for the smaller parties will increase the chances of the other bogey party winning. That may work this May, it could wring out the remaining fear in the electorate but I predict that, if it does, the reaction of Scottish voters to having the scales removed following the Independence referendum will go viral with the British electorate.
The next Govt will not last five years if the leading party in the inevitable coalition attempts to do what the Conservatives have done in the past five years. Where Labour and the Conservatives currently see the Greens, SNP, UKip et al as irritating snappers at their table, trying to steal bits of their power they are missing the point. The smaller parties represent voter interests; voters not represented by Labour or the Conservatives. The parties might be currently smaller but the number of voters they represent is large and growing. Ruling/governing power is not the sole domain of Labour and the Conservatives and British voters are waking up to that. For a long time, voters that weren’t represented by LabCon voted LibDems or Screaming Raving Loonies but now there are parties that are mobilising those voters by, at the least, sounding like they will represent their interests and LabCon need to learn how to listen to more than their own voices. The country can’t afford to lose the political experience that sits within the LabCons but government should be for the people, not just minority interests.