In Britain we have what is called a representative democracy, where each and every voter has a specific MP to look after their interests. Voting is in a simple first past the post (FPTP) system which favours two strong candidates and thus two strong parties. Long history around the world tells us that third parties have no long term future.
In Britain our two parties have for a long time been one of the left, the Conservatives and one of the even more left, the Labour party. Once one of these is in power they tend to stay there until they have annoyed the British public a lot. As James Callaghan, John Major and Gordon Brown found out. Third parties campaign for scraps with strong local candidates, single issue politics and by appealing to protest votes. Mostly they are politically insignificant. But just now British politics is going through a very strange phase, which could turn out to be transforming. Simultaneously we have two strong third parties, the SNP in Scotland and UKIP in England. This situation is very unstable, so it cannot last too long. It will finish with us back in a two party system, it is just a matter of which parties those are and if the Scottish ones are different to the English ones.
Interestingly very many professional commentators haven’t got their heads round this, they still have Swingometers embedded in their brains. Though someone in the Conservatives was very incisive when they came up with their “vote UKIP get Labour” slogan because that really is the crux of where we now stand. Say a constituency is 60% centrist and 40% leftist. If two strong centrist candidates split their vote evenly at 30% each then the less popular lefty candidate wins. But even though the Conservatives were bright enough to realise this first it is Labour who could well be the biggest victims.
Labour’s problems are that they are very badly led by a deeply unpopular person and that they have a treasury team that is always wrong and which has no credible ideas to make Britain a better place. Labour’s advantages are embedded tribal attitudes in constituencies where voting habits are handed down from father to son and where critical faculties are never engaged. If they put a chimp up as their candidate in every seat they would still win a lot of them, as any examination of the Labour Commons benches proves. Labour have further weakened themselves with a sexist policy of girlies only constituencies, so they don’t even get the best chimps. Having trade union placemen parachuted into very many constituencies further weakens their intellectual pool.
Now let’s look at the constituency of Heywood and Middleton and their recent by-election. (Yes I know how unreliable by-election results are). This is a prime “chimp” seat in the North of England. And sure enough a trade union girlie was parachuted in to be the next chimp. So unsurprisingly Labour won and unsurprisingly the Conservatives came nowhere. What was the immense surprise was the immense 36% swing to UKIP. They only just lost with 11,016 votes to 11,633. So if just 309 more Labour voters had switched Miliband would have been out of a job. Luckily, for Britain’s sake, Miliband remains to fight and lose the 2015 General Election.
Then there is the Clacton by election where Conservative turncoat, Douglas Carswell, took most of that parties’ vote. But also Labour crashed from 25% to 11% of the vote. They lost more than half of their support.
UKIP are a very long way away from national breakthrough. My favourite pollsters are YouGov and their latest findings are for 30th Oct – Con 33%, Lab 32%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%. And for who would be the best Prime Minister (perhaps more important on polling day) Cameron 39, Miliband 16, Clegg 5.
Scotland is a different story. The recent referendum has massively politicised the Scottish population. Politics has gone from a background hum in people’s lives to becoming the main event. And as the scales have been pulled back from their eyes they have realised that they have been voting for chimps. For over 50 years. They are very determined not to do so any more. Last week there was a Ipsos Mori poll in Scotland. It gave SNP 52%, Labour 23%, Conservatives 10%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 6% and others 3%. Extrapolate this across the constituencies and Scottish Labour go from 40 Westminster seats to 4. Wipeout. And if you go over to YouGov and drill down you will find that just 31 per cent of Scots who voted Labour in 2010 now think the party “represents the views and interests of Scotland today” very or fairly well. 59 per cent think Labour does this job very or fairly badly.
With a lot of hard work and money Labour can pull back a bit from the 4 seats, but not much. Their rich London metropolitan elite shadow cabinet really are very lost once they get north of Watford and have no idea what the issues in Scotland are. What could be interesting is the potential of a Conservative revival, in Ruth Davidson they have their first exceptional leader for very many years. She is the only person who can consistently lay gloves on Alex Salmond in the Scottish Parliament. If the Scots really are applying critical thinking they will see that Conservative policies and the successes of the current government really do provide a superior political solution for everyone. After all it was Cameron who decided to have the referendum.
Then we come to Wales, where is doesn’t even take a chimp to get elected, a wooden rocking horse with a red rosette will win a seat. After Gordon Brown trashed the British economy you would have thought that the Welsh might have employed their critical faculties. But no, they unbelievably voted for a Labour government in the 2011 Assembly elections. This really was Turkeys voting for Christmas. Mass cognitive dissonance. And now they are reaping the rewards of their tribalism. Welsh Labour think that the answer to every problem is a bigger public sector. When countless economies around the world have proven the converse. So they are suffering a spectacular train crash with major services like health and education failing abysmally. But don’t feel sorry for the Welsh people, they voted for this.
We know from the psephology that the Conservatives are going to win the 2015 General Election. What is of interest is who will occupy the opposition benches. The SNP will go from 6 seats to as many as 42, which will change the whole complexion of Parliament. The LibDems will be rewarded for their treachery with a substantial culling of their representation. The Greens are a combination of two bankrupt political philosophies, they are socialists and they are Luddites. In local government they are having a disaster in Brighton, so let’s hope they lose their one MP. It is UKIP that are the key to the full extent of the Labour meltdown and it is the North where it will happen. Labour has punished the North very badly, Blair and Brown destroyed great swathes of their industry, the NHS failed completely in Mid Staffs and other trusts, industrial scale child abuse, enabled by socialist thinking, became the norm in the cities. UKIP will take tens of Labour seats, but how many depends on how much Farage can lift the scales from the eyes of tribal voters. It also depends how tactical the Conservatives are at not opposing UKIP candidates who have a good chance of beating Labour.
The House of Commons has 650 seats. The Conservatives will win around 350 of these, leaving around 300 for the opposition. Obviously it looks like Labour should still be the biggest opposition party, but by how much? If UKIP and SNP get to 150 seats between them it will be the end of Labour. The sheer political momentum will destroy them. Let’s hope this happens.