23 May 2007

British Party Politics

This short piece is a snapshot of the political situation following the municipal and Celtic assembly elections in May 2007. In some ways it has proved prophetic, but in other ways not.

The assumption of office of the minority SNP administration in Scotland and the likely rainbow coalition in Wales of Plaid, Tories and the Liberal Democrats (very damaging for Plaid in my view) creates a strange set up across Britain: Labour out of office in Edinburgh and Cardiff, but still holding the fort in London.

Labour’s position is contradictory and precarious. In the local election in May its vote fell to 27 percent (less than for Foot in the 1983 general election). New Labour for all its centre right polices was driven back to its urban heartlands north of the Severn Walsh line. Middle England for whom New Labour was designed wasn’t voting for it. In the so-called ‘sink estates’ whose interests Labour has abandoned, it wasn’t socialists who were chipping away at Labour, but the fascist BNP.

Cameron, now dressing up Toryism as an up-market version of Blairism, did well in the south and rural England, but made no headway in the English cities or in the Celtic countries. He may win in 2010 but only with difficulty. The fragmentation and ghetoisation of British party politics, which has accelerated since the 1980s (masked by Labour landslides in 1997 and 2003,) is very much evident, all of which makes the outcome of Westminster first-past-the-post elections somewhat arbitrary. But with the Liberal Democrats moving rightwards and jettisoning affinity with Labour, and with Celtic nationalism strengthening, the long term prospects for Gordon Brown’s Party geared towards the interests of people who don’t vote for it appears more and more precarious.

N. B. The rainbow coalition in Wales did not happen.

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