The UK General Election is forthcoming. A celebration of spin and lies that is hard to escape. If you’re mind has been made up, it presents an interesting study in how propaganda works. In British party political terms this one is perhaps interesting. Especially if you analyse people politics with the traditional left to right wing spectrum.
I became interested in politics as a teenager. My political views swung around across the spectrum, until they began to coalesce about what became my political standpoint. I am a Social Democrat. Having a settled standpoint for the most part makes it easy to predict what my view on any political question is, though on some specific issues i diverge.
UK elections are very odd, utilising the first past the post (FPTP) system electing ‘representatives’ for the 650 odd constituencies that make up the UK. Essentially the system hasn’t changed from the Victorian era, it worked well when there was a two party parliamentary democracy, but the UK no longer is a two party parliamentary democracy. So, often instead of voting for the party or individual you most want to represent you, you vote for the lesser of two evils, to attempt to keep the party you dislike more out. This makes it very difficult for new parties to emerge, as a large percentage of votes is required to get any representation at all.
Prior to 1997, i found myself in the UK political centre, positioned between the two major parties; the moderate right wing Conservatives and the moderate left wing Labour party. The Conservatives had been in majority power for a long time, had set the political agenda. An agenda I was hostile towards.
Labour elected a new leader in Tony Blair and New Labour/ Blairism was born. Blairism was essential an electoral strategy, to shift the party close to the dominant party and have a set of policies that were a slightly more left wing, lighter version of the predominant Conservative doctrine, appealing to the centre right and taking traditional left wing support for granted. As essentially a centrist, I now found myself, in party political terms to the left of all the major parties, even though my views had not changed. New Labour gained power until the financial crash of 2008 (arguably the result of economic policy (neo-liberalism) for the last 30 years).
After a coalition government, which was effectively a Conservative majority, we come to the 2015 election. We now have 5 or 6 significant parties and opinion polls suggest another hung parliament (where no single party has >50% of seats), where >1/3 of the electorate are likely to not vote for the two major parties.
What has happened over the last 30 years is neo-liberal government. Government almost solely for the advantage of big businesses. corporations and those with huge amounts of capital. It is surprising to me that many people are only now waking up to this fact. The traditional Labour and Conservative parties are no more. In Wales and Scotland, there has always been the ‘nationalist’ parties as an alternative. It is only now that the Labour party is no longer viewed as advocating progressive change, England are only just wakign up to the fact they there is no moderate left party in England.
On the right are UKIP, a new party appealing perhaps particularly the right wing thinking working classes and the traditional Conservative voter, which were so crucial to the Conservatives holding power in the 1980s and 1990s. Labour appear to be slowly drifting back to the left, but they are saddled with the problem and perception of retaining the centre right vote, whilst not losing disgruntled left wing people, fed up with neo-liberalism and seeking an alternative. In England, there is no major left wing party apart from the Green party, who have a slightly different agenda to a more traditional left wing party and little chance of gaining significant electoral success with a non-proportional system.
In some regions of England, notably the South-East there is the perception of a tacet acceptance of neo-liberalism. To me there seems this blindness to the economic problems such policies have induced; the population are in service jobs, no-one really produced anything or contributes to productivity growth anymore.
What is interesting about this election is how all this will play out. Both on the right and the centre are two very similar parties, whilst on the left there is a vacuum in England, as the Greens are not fully established. Whilst in Wales and Scotland, there is a battle between Labour and devolutionist parties for the left wing vote.