June 26, 2008

some thoughts on a possible future

Under first past the post everything tends to crystalise around two parties, with the rest squeezed out to the margins. You end up with two dominant political powers that each cover large swaths of political territory, there may be a few barbarians mounting raids from the wilderness beyond their borders but basically it is only the other major power that the main players have to worry about.

Under First Past the Post the political territory in the centre is vital, all the parties try to get as far across it and into each others territory as possible while not being cut off from their lumbering baggage trains.

In 1992 Tony Blair mounted a daring expedition from Labour's heartlands to capture as much enemy territory as he could. Confronted by a worn out and divided enemy his raid was as successful as it was audacious. He managed to capture vast swaths of formerly Tory territory sweeping all before him like an all conquering Caesar.

I like Caesar Blair was eventually stabbed in the back by those that he had once thought his closest allies, but unlike Caesar the band that he was leading was not safe in their own territory at the time. They where still deep in the enemies native territory and desperately trying to find ways to hold their position.

Labour is now under Blair's rather less able former adjutant have found themselves, un-supplied, surrounded, and cut off from their reserves. Their mercenary allies have deserted, taking most of the Labour treasury with them and the re-envigorated adversary is massing against them. Their enemy under a young Arminius has been rallying the tribes so that now from horizon to horizon is nothing but a sea of howling, blue painted, faces. The 2010 election could well prove to be Labour's Teutoburg Forest.

A tale of overreach, with hubris leading to nemesis. Labour are going to be pushed back into their own political heartland for a decade to regroup and then the cycle will repeat itself. Or maybe not.

Sitting on the strategically vital the centre of the political battlefield is a ragged band, the shattered remnants of the once proud political empire of the Liberal Party. The fact that they have managed to retain this important, if small, patch of territory when Labour swept across their former dominion is one of the reasons that they weren't swept away to become another of the minor political tribes on the fringes of the current two great power blocs. Though it has been a close run thing at times.

Labour is polling worse than at any point since scientific polling began. The only time that they have ever polled this badly before was during the 1982 general election, an election where the Liberals came very close to knocking them into third place in terms of votes cast. Today their is only 5% between them, and the Liberal's position always improves as election time grows closer and people remember that they exist. Labour have no such luxury, they cannot count on any swing to the government since that has not happened for a very long time. The polls are bad, but worse is the fact that the pollsters always overstate the support for Labour. Worse Labour have 2 more years under Gordon Brown, and a coming recession to deal. That 5% could easily shrink to nothing.

As I mentioned earlier under a First Past the Post voting system there is only space for two major parties, the rest get squeezed out. This is the reason why the Lib-Dems always include those bar charts with their literature that claim they are either in first or second place, but never third. If people believe that they can win they will vote for them, but if they don't then these votes get placed elsewhere for tactical reasons. Should the Lib-Dems ever start out polling labour then this effect will suddenly go nation wide and it will be Labour, not the Lib-Dems having to deal with the third party squeeze as people vote tactically.

Labour's natural home, unlike the Lib-Dems with their roots in the old Liberal Party, is not in the centre. It is on the 'Left' and that is where they will retreat to just as the Tories retreated back to their home territory under Hague to try and consolidate their core vote, but the Tories never had to worry about any other force coming in and positioning themselves between that last redoubt and the stratigically vital centre ground. Labour does. If they lose to badly in 2010 they could find their path back into the political centre blocked by a resurgent Liberal Democrat Party, and from that point on, unless the Liberal Democrats make a massive mistake, they are going to get squeezed further and further 'left' until they are nothing more than a powerful union lobby group fighting it out with the other fringe tribes.

There is a possibility, abet a small one, that 2010 could see the rebirth of Liberalism in the UK and the final eclipse of socialism in this country. Gordon Brown would gain a place in the history books, that like all politicians he craves, but unfortunately as the man that lead a once powerful political force into the wilderness.


The Labour presence in Henley just got so decimated that they are not only amongst the tribes on the fringes of the political landscape, they are behind the Barbarians.


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