Since the EU Referendum in 2016, and more recently the 2017 General Election, the sentiment coming from many in the UK is one of dissatisfaction in the two main political parties – the Conservatives and Labour. In a political system in which there is consensus of a two-party state, if neither party satisfies your ideology and ideas for Britain, representation of your views is difficult to come by. However, why are so many dissatisfied in both the governing Conservatives and the Opposition, The Labour Party?
Firstly, the idea that the main political parties in the UK are dissatisfactory is not opinion. Take the 2015 Audit for Political Engagement as an example: they suggested that just 30% of the UK had a strong belief and attachment to a political party, furthermore, partisan dealignment has been on the up for a long time because of the increase in ‘floating voters’ and electoral volatility.
Now, why do so many voters feel alienated at this moment in time?
First, the governing party. After the UK had voted to leave the EU and Prime Minister David Cameron had resigned, Theresa May won the leadership election for the party. However, despite calling for party unity, the Conservatives have been divided more than ever.
Ideologically, there is a growing split between the right of the party and the left. The rapid growth in popularity for politicians such as Jacob Rees Mogg and Kwasi Kwarteng has increased the support for politics on the right of the Conservative Party, posing a threat to the supposed One-Nation Tories like Theresa May and Boris Johnson. The lack of consensus in the Conservative Party as a result of this ideological split has led to bitter divisions within the party and a less effective government, which becomes a prominent issue when you are a government in a coalition with the DUP. In addition, with 185 Conservative MPs voting to remain in the European Union and 138 voting to leave, the Conservatives are also split on Brexit. The likes of Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry (often referred to simply as, ‘Remoaners’), advocating staying in the single market and essentially betraying the Brexit vote with a proposed ‘Soft Brexit’, has further led to a divided party, and thus a less effective government in fulfilling Brexit, due to the government’s small majority, only propped up by the DUP.
Although it is more evident that this government is struggling merely from its failures after just less than a year of governing: the Windrush scandal, the implementation of the disastrous Universal Credit, the lack of clarity on the Brexit negotiations with the EU, Theresa May’s failed cabinet reshuffle, her U-turn on her grammar schools policy, the limits on NHS spending despite cross-party support for increases in this area and the lack of success in the Conservatives’ plan to eradicate the deficit. These failures and many more means that many citizens lack faith in this government.
However, in order to change the governing party of the UK, there must be credible opposition. Yet Labour are so far from government. Their policy on Brexit is again, like the Conservative ‘Remoaners’ plan for Brexit, a betrayal of the referendum result, with a customs agreement proposed by Labour not giving Britain the freedom to create its own trade deals with the rest of the world. In fact, Labour’s lack of Brexit ambition in general has turned off the 3-4 million Labour voters who voted for Brexit, despite current leader Jeremy Corbyn being an old Bennite, Eurosceptic from top to bottom, who voted to leave in the 1975 EEC Referendum, against the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, against the 2007 Lisbon Treaty (the constitutional basis for the EU) and, writing about the Greek crisis in 2015, said that, “There is no future for a Europe that turns its smaller nations into colonies of debt peonage“, yet Corbyn voted to remain in the EU in 2016. This has affected Labour in the polls, as well as the detail that 218 Labour MPs voted remain, with just 10 voting leave. In fact, YouGov, a polling site, suggests that,
‘Despite the government being widely seen as doing badly in the negotiations, the Conservatives are still seen as being more likely to do a better job than Labour. A third (34%) of people trust Theresa May more to negotiate Brexit, 14% prefer Jeremy Corbyn.
Overall, Labour appears to be struggling to win public support on Brexit. Only 16% of people think that the party’s position on the issue is clear, and only 17% say they support the position Jeremy Corbyn has taken over Brexit. For the Conservatives the position is better, but even so only a minority think their policy on Brexit is clear (30%) and support May’s approach (36%).’
In addition to this lack of clarity on Brexit, Labour has also had failures: the party’s inability to stamp out antisemitism, Corbyn’s indecisiveness on trident and nuclear weapons in general and the party’s economic plan being perceived by the public as disastrous have all been problems the Labour Party has experienced.
However, the main reason why the Labour Party has not been elected into government is because of the party’s inability to connect with their traditional voter base – the working classes. The working classes are, in general, Eurosceptic. The whole of Yorkshire, with the exception of the Golden Triangle, had majorities which voted leave, whilst the vast majority of Labour MPs voted remain. Yet Yorkshire is supposed to be a Labour heartland. This is a similar story in Labour dominated areas such as Wales and the Midlands and highlights the disconnect between party and voter base.
Clearly, Labour is not exactly the best alternative to this governing Conservative Party, yet, on the other hand, the Tories are hardly doing a fantastic job. This leaves hundreds of people in a state of no-man’s land.
In fact, I believe that a radical leader, such as a Margaret Thatcher or a Tony Blair, will have to become leader in order to win and retain a large majority. At this moment in time, the most likely candidate on the right is Jacob Rees-Mogg, and on the left, a candidate could possibly be Shami Chakrabarti, although not an MP but an appointed Labour peer in the House of Lords, she has performed well in recent BBC Question Times and is a member of the Shadow Cabinet.
However, as it stands, there clearly is no party for any party.