More than a month ago, 11 April, I predicted the present situation (which had basically “already happened”).
Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.
Yesterday I wrote:
Update is that Tories are closer to being “wiped out” than just “severely damaged” and Brexit party is doing even better than I expected, well ahead of Labour and Tories combined, not just ahead of Tories.
A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!
1. Brexit 34%
2. Labour 16%
3. Liberal Democrats 15%
4. Greens 11%
5. Tories 10%
That is because the pro-Brexit wing of Labour, led by Corbyn, has so far NOT run a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum.
So as well as losing 12% of all Labour voters to the Brexit party, Corbyn is also losing another 57% of Labour “Remain” voters to other “Remain” parties (Liberal Democrats et al) leaving it with only 40% of the “Remain” voters it had at the last general election.
Actually the Labour party is following these tactics in the correct belief that humiliation by the Brexit party and minor “Remain” parties in the EU elections based on proportional representation is a small price to pay for the damage done to the Tories at the next general election under the current electoral system. I am surprised that they have been able to stick to this stand for so long, but if they are able to sustain it they are more likely to form a government after the next general election than if they do not.
Today’s news is that Labour has not been able to stick to this stand and have now broken of negotiations with the Tories the same day as they dropped to third place behind the LibDems. So they still have a week in which to campaign for a “Final Say” referendum and recover some of the votes lost to the LibDems.
Whether Labour succeeds in the EU elections or not it looks like the Tories have no hope of preventing a Labour led government in the next general election. The best they can do is hope it will be a minority government, which Labour is now trying to avoid by clawing back some of its supporters.
Either way, under the present electoral system the Tory party is in real danger of being replaced by the Brexit party. But the Labour party is in no real danger of being displaced by the LibDems and others as Brexit will be over by the next general election and Labour will have delivered a “Final Say” without losing as many of its “Leave” supporters as the Tories have lost.
But will the present electoral system survive the collapse of mainstream politics?
The two party system is the inevitable result of anachronistic single member electorates that remained for centuries after national parties had developed because the UK Parliament was formed centuries before democracy was established, when politics was still a matter of representating local rather than national “constituencies”. Other english speaking countries like Australia have inherited the same anachronism. Throughout Europe national elections, as well as those for the European Parliament, are held on a system of representing national parties proportionately that was established together with democracy.
The current mess creates a real opportunity. It is always hard to get rid of an electoral system because the politicians elected under it consider it delivers a satisfactory outcome while those excluded cannot just vote to change it.
Right now in the UK we have a major national decision about to be resolved decisively by the fact that the supporters of Brexit will get less than 40% of the vote in a proportional system. The failed attempt at Brexit has now produced the only significant mass movement in support of the EU in Europe!
At the same time more than half the members of the current Parliament have a direct stake in getting rid of the anachronistic two party system. The Tory party currently has nearly half the seats and faces being replaced by the Brexit party and becoming just another minor rump party under the present electoral system.
No matter how inept they are they will have plenty of time to contemplate their predicament between the EU elections this month and the next British general election. Nothing concentrates the mind so much as imminent non-existance!
The minor parties naturally already support PR. Together with the Brexit party they now represent not only far more voters than the old “two parties” combined, but also a large absolute majority. (Today’s YouGov poll, Labour 15%, Tories 9% total 24% others THREE TIMES their total!).
Only the Labour party has a direct interest in retaining the present system. As well as having only a minority of MPs they are in fact badly split and would have real difficulty uniting against PR.
Even if the minor parties are all total wimps there should be little need to even get insurrectionary about it. Just huffing and puffing should be enough for a 75% majority to bring the two party system down in the UK.
There has to be either a referendum or a general election decided on before the next EU deadline of October 31.
In other recent news, Prime Minister May won’t discuss a timetable for electing a replacement Tory leader until after vote on Withdrawal Agreement Bill in early June. But that is presumably when an amendment will be proposed to call a referendum which should aim for a decision before the end of October. So there would be little time for a membership vote to elect a replacement leader for that campaign so it might just be necessary for Tory MPs to take the decision entirely themselves.
Then there is the problem of a possible switch to Proportional Representation. This could also come up when discussing whether a general election could resolve a parliamentary deadlock. If that occurs it ought to be followed by an immediate general election, even more urgently requiring a replacement leader.
If there is an orderly timetable for a membership vote, the charlatan Boris Johnson would be likely to win whereas Tory MPs would reject him. So my guess is that May is not likely to facilitate an orderly timetable and more likely to resign for a snap election after establishing at least a referendum and/or PR.
Things will drag on for a bit longer in Australia but the voters are already treating tomorrow’s national elections with an equanimity bordering on contempt.
It’s way past time for another campaign to vote for “Neither”.