It has been another bad week for the countries two leading political parties. The Conservative Party lost over 1,300 seats at last weeks local elections, whilst the official opposition failed to capitalise, down by 80 seats and losing control of six councils.
The narrative around the results last week was heavily spun by Brexiters to suggest that Labour and Tories had been punished for failing to deliver Brexit. However, parties supporting remaining in the EU performed well. The Liberal Democrats made more gains than any other party, whilst the Greens also did well, picking up the largest percentage growth. Pro-Leave UKIP was down by 145 seats.
If the electorate was using the local elections to send a message about Brexit, then it certainly wasn’t good news for Leavers. It should also be remembered, particularly by Labour, that London and Scotland didn’t go to the polls – both are heavily in favour of remaining in the EU, so Jeremy Corbyn should be concerned about losing ground in the capital and north of the border at the next General Election if he and his colleagues continue to prevaricate over the EU question.
The fact is though, people were not simply expressing their views on Brexit last week. They were delivering their verdict on the performance of our Westminster leaders across a whole range of policies. And the message is ‘Plague on both your houses’.
I am not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn. I think he is all over the place on Europe, weak on foreign policy, with an economic programme that will struggle to survive the robust scrutiny it didn’t have to endure at the last election, but most certainly will the next time around.
That he has not made progress against the worst performing government in post-war Britain tells me that I am not the only Labour supporter who just does not think that Corbyn or his manifesto is the right answer for the country. There is little evidence that Labour will shift its position on any of the big policy areas that matter and so its chances of forming a government anytime soon is unlikely.
Unlikely, but not impossible, because, as I say, the Conservatives are, if anything, in an even worse state. Whilst Labour has an economic strategy that can’t be paid for, the government is continuing with austerity which continues to deliver misery for millions, whilst failing to deliver the economic growth that we were promised.
A change of leadership for the Tories is inevitable, but will it bring a change of direction? More importantly, can a new prime minister unite the party after a fractious three years? I’d suggest that the answer to both of those questions is no.
The two-party domination of British politics has been written off several times over the past fifty years, but the resources of the ‘big two’ alongside the traditional voting intentions of many, has always seen the old Labour and Tory hegemony survive.
This time things could be different and for a number of reasons.
It seems to me people are genuinely fed up with Labour and Conservatives. The old tribalism doesn’t exist to the extent it once did, with younger voters particularly looking for an alternative brand of politics. Corbyn may have seemed to offer that in 2015 – he won’t be the new ‘kid’ on the block in 2020. The Tories were once seen as the safe option and the party of business. Their performance over the past few years has robbed them of that reputation and rightly so.
There is far more appetite among the electorate now for new parties and even Independents. On the Right, UKIP and more recently the Brexit Party provide blue-blooded Tories with genuine alternatives. On the centre and left, the Liberal Democrats may just be seeing the first signs of voters forgiving them for their part in the coalition ‘sell out’ in 2010. The Greens are punching above their weight and have the climate change agenda to campaign on with public awareness of environmental issues higher than ever before. We will have a better understanding of where Change UK is in all this following the forthcoming EU elections.
There is still time for one or both of the main parties to get their act together before the next General Election. But looking at things as they stand today, you wouldn’t put money on it. The end of Britain’s two-party system could well be nigh.
“Never never never give up”
The famous Winston Churchill quote hangs as a plaque on one of my walls at home. It is a reminder that, no matter what the challenge, you cannot and must not throw in the towel. This is particularly true in times of adversity and as all entrepreneurs and business owners know, there will always be times when you have mountains to climb. It is your ability to overcome those challenges, to climb those mountains that divides the most successful from the rest.
This week, two of England’s football clubs faced such a challenge. Even as an Evertonian, I could not be anything other than impressed by Liverpool’s incredible comeback against Barcelona on Tuesday evening. I was sat on a runway in Vegas ready to come home as passengers, a number of them Reds, watched the final minutes of the game on iPhones. When the fourth goal went in, I wanted to get off the plane and get back to the strip! Nonetheless, it was a hell of an achievement and it would be churlish not to congratulate Jurgen Klopp and his team on a fantastic victory.
If that wasn’t enough, the following evening Spurs were performing their own Houdini act to ensure an all-English Champions League final. Three-nil down away at Ajax, a sensational second-half turnaround saw the Londoners score three and go through on the away-goals rule. It sets us up for an almighty clash on June 1st in Madrid that all football supporters will be looking forward to.
Has anyone got a Spurs shirt I can borrow on cup final day?