The Tragedy of British Party Politics

examines the problems with traditional party politics in the run up to the 2015 election

Photo Credit: Christian Scholz

Photo Credit: Christian Scholz

This problem has two important aspects. Firstly, at the moment, the existing party leaders create their electoral basis through a regular appeal only to a certain section of the British population. For instance, David Cameron clearly appeals to the support of the rich and upper middle-class Britain, Ed Miliband is supported by the working and middle class, Nick Clegg is trying to appeal to the younger generation (yet, the support from this group was considerably weakened during Clegg’s time within the coalition government), while Nigel Farage’s support comes from people dissatisfied with the functionality of the system as a whole and who show scepticism towards existing parties.

Electorally, this strategy makes perfect sense -parties often appeal to their traditional bases and then, if possible, widen their support to the undecided voters. Yet, politically, it has considerable disadvantages. This might mean that the future party policy once in office would seek to promote the interests of their electorate at the expense of other sections of society. Moreover, since the interests of some sections of society often compete with the other sections, this might mean that the outcome of such politics will likely be the superiority of a certain group or class over the remaining parts of British society.

The problem is that a contemporary Britain has a number of problems at a domestic level and multiple challenges in the current unstable world order, which should encourage greater consensus and cooperation between different sections of society instead of the conflict.

Secondly, the problem is that the existing parties, despite their minor differences, all advance a specific policy direction. The most vivid illustration is the policy approach of the existing parties towards Europe, immigration and the economic development.  All parties seek to regulate immigration by bringing “tougher immigration” rules; all parties seek to reform Britain relations with the EU (though in different ways); all parties still support the existing neo-liberal consensus with some minor adjustments. In other words, what they seek is a modest reform of the system, rather than an evolution or radical change of the key features of the system.

The problem with a reform of the existing system is that it doesn’t ask the fundamental questions about the historical organization of the system. Simply put, instead of asking questions like: What can explain the problematic relationship between the British and EU? Or does the neo-liberal consensus reflects the will and interests of the majority of the British population? Our leaders instead ask -given that neoliberal consensus exists in Britain how we can modify its features in order to make system more effective or transparent? Given that the problematic nature of the Britain relationship with EU, how can we slightly modify the system in order to satisfy both Britain and the EU?

Thus, the subsequent answers to the questions are likely to have only short-term implications and would become even more problematic once the external conditions and internal circumstances change.

This means that elections in 2015 will have both elements of euphoria and sadness. The euphoria will certainly happen since the elections are often perceived as a potential moment for a drastic change of the future of the state; yet, the sadness will still exist because the current party leaders possess neither a distinctive policy programme nor a cohesive and unified leadership style to bring these changes.

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