Some idle speculation about the future for Political Parties.
Providing the Con-Dem coalition doesn’t volcanically explode in only a few months due to falling outs and fundamental incompatibility then there is every chance that for good or for bad the coalition will re-shape, and re-mould British politics and it could end up having a profound effect on our party structure. Particularly if voting reform happens.
I am massively in favour of voting reform, I think changing “the rules of the game” will have a massive impact on how the game is played. And a proper pluralism in our Party system, where different viewpoint currently kept out of things by our party oligarchies being involved would be a good thing. I think we need disenfranchised voices from the left, from the green, even from the eurosceptic right (though not to keen on them myself) involved more in our party discourse.
But irrespective of whether or not voting reform happens here are a couple of things that are possible (if a little improbable).
A Liberal Conservative Party or List?
It is an oft stated bit of truism that the moderates, and centrists in all of our parties tend to be more comfortable with each other, than with the opposite wings of their respective parties.
One interesting outcome of the Con/Dem pact will be if the Centre and the Left of the Tory Party, in addition to the Centre and the Right of the Lib Dem parties decide they are frankly more comfortable with, and closer to, each other than they are they are to the “extreme” wings of their own parties.
In truth there is probably not a great deal of ideological difference between the Lib Dem “Orange Book” faction and the so called “Notting Hill Set” in the Tory party. Further there are some common philosophical themes through the respective “Libertarian” wings of each party.
As to how it could happen I doubt there would be a dramatic “gang of four” moment with people setting off to form a new party. More probable would be if the coalition lasts until the next election some sort of a selective no competeagreement between the two parties to keep out Labour in key marginals and to increase the proportion of pro-coalition Mps in their respective parties.
I could imagine, that after the next election if no coalition is necessary that the Tory party may well invite a number of Lib Dems to cross the floor and take the Tory whip, boosting their numbers and changing the complexion of the Parliamentary Tory Party to one that would be more instinctively behind Cameron. How the right, particularly at in constituencies would react could be interesting! More on that later….
The Labour Right and the Lib Dem Left.
So in this scenario what happens to the Left of the Lib Dem party? Worth remembering that the Lib Dem party is a coalition themselves, the result of a merger between the Liberal party and the Social Democrat Party. Now the “Orange Book” faction that seem so cosy with the Tories at the moment comes very much more from the Classical Liberal party.
The SDP was essentially a splinter faction of the Labour Party, when the “Gang of Four” (Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen William Rodgers) left the Labour Party due to concerns about its shift to the left and in their eyes it’s un-democratic nature to form a new party of the Centre Left. After failing to dislodge Labour as the party of the left the Liberal and SDP parties merged.
Now the interesting thing is that the Gang of Four probably would not have left the party that Labour became, from the expulsion of the Militant tendency in the 80s, the structural reforms in Labour Party democracy to move closer to one man one vote, and the abolition of clause IV New Labour in many ways became the centrist party the SDP dreamed of.
I think it is probably fair to say that the Right of the Labour party would welcome the disaffected left of the Lib Dems with open arms. Now further if (and I consider this very improbable) the Labour party moves a long way to the left, and the Mandlesonian clique finds themselves marginalised I can see a situation where the Labour Party free marketers might want to come together with the left of the Lib Dems… We could see the SDP reborn!
Right Tory Elements and UKIP
So let’s just assume that the “Libservative” thing happens. Where does that leave the Tory hard right? Well already in lots of places Tory traditionalists and eurosceptics probably see more in common with UKIP than they do with the Cameroon Notting Hill faction. Norman Tebbit has frequently all but come out for UKIP, particularly during the Euro elections.
I think it is probably fair to say a big recasting of the Tory party in a much more liberal “one nation Tory” mode would be manna from heaven for UKIP in terms of defections from the Conservatives. Particularly if some sort of a “no compete” list actually happened, and local associations were disgruntled at having to effectively support a Liberal Democrat in an election.
What now for the Left.
Well since the modernisers in the Labour party came to the fore where Democratic Socialists and those to the left of them fall has been a tricky topic. The Diaspora of myriad left wing parties riddled by factionalism, petty jealousies and in fighting is as shocking as it is depressing.
By my count you have:-
Respect, The Socialist Party, The Socialist Workers Party, The Socialist Labour Party, The Communist Party, Workers Power, The Communist Party of Great Britain, and The Peoples Front of Judea…. no wait a second that last one is from a film!
Now assuming that Labour don’t move drastically to the left (and I am sure they won’t, the conclusion they will reach is that the problem wasn’t that they were new labour, it was that they weren’t new labour enough!) then where will the left coalesce?
My view is that it won’t be any of the infighting fracture groups who are surely doomed to remain a marginalised irrelevance. No I think the future of genuine left wing political groupings will be the Green Party.
Even a cursory glance at recent Green Party manifestos show how in many ways they have adopted the mantle of the disaffected left. They are pro Union, in favour of redistributive tax policies, strong on Labours biggest area of weakness Civil Liberties. And of course they are the strongest on what is going to IMHO increasingly become the rallying call of the left and how the left attracts new disciples… the environment.
Further the Party is a good “brand”, they are a credible nationally organised Party (now boasting a Member of Parliament), they appeal to young people and new voters, to different demographics. Also they poll well in local and European elections giving them a perfect platform to grow particularly if electoral reform ever happens. For the disaffected the left “The future is bright, the future is Green”.
I must say that I find the idea of the Greens attractive, though their crazy mental anti science stance means at least for now they are not for me. But this really is where the left has a chance of making a difference, the plethora of vanity project left wing parties are frankly a joke and will never achieve anything.
So there we have it, much this this will probably never happen but I reckon there is a possibility of some of it taking place.