Our place in the ‘new politics’….
Matthew Engel has an interesting article in today’s Financial Times saying, quite rightly, that talk of a new politics is a horrid cliche which gets trotted by every leader who feels that conveniently they represent this new divine paradigm. However, looking at the Norwich North result Engel feels we are effectively in an ‘Eight party system’. While this has an aspect of truth to it one big factor that mitigates against this new kind of politics taking hold is the electoral system which simply doesn’t allow the space for such a system to exist in terms of Westminster representation.
Try and try UKIP and the Green’s will but the likelihood of them gaining a single MP is still slim and the odds are stacked heavily against them. Were the system to be changed even to AV+ however this would change and Engel’s eight-party system might finally manifest at Westminster. As I have said before this new reality needs us as a party to come to terms with some uncomfortable home truths; we are no longer a protest party and will likely see our protest vote slip-slide away gradually. So, our campaigning has to change to recognise that there are not going to be anymore shock by-election victories and it actually has to reflect a serious desire to build the party into one that one day will challenge for government.
Policy-wise we have to however maintain our distinctiveness of value driven commitmentsand priorities. Nick Clegg wants to solve the policy dilemma negatively and move our party to his own brand of ‘realpolitik’ or else in the instance of Afghanistan commit us to policies which reflect the wrong values and priorities and ironically are not very realistic when it comes to an on-the-ground assessment. Every year our conferenceends with an upbeat ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ kind of rousing speech which in the actual situation is pretty meaningless because we are nowhere near the leavers of power; it is more said for psychological reinforcement.
However, while in the ‘new politics’ we are going to lose our place as a protest party it does also present us with an opportunity to redefine ourselves in that direction; whether it will be taken or not remains to be seen.