It was not such a long time ago that people are talking about the end of two-party politics as a way of demanding proportional representation. Well, two party politics is back.
The United Kingdom effectively had a two-party political system last during the Wilson/Callaghan government of 1974 to 1979. However, it was breaking down at that time as Labour was a minority government, and needed to be propped up by various smaller parties as it lost MPs in by-elections.
The two-party system completely broke down during the first Conservative term of office as the Labour Party split. The Social Democratic Party formed an alliance with the Liberals and polled almost as many votes as Labour in the 1983 election. But the distribution of votes was insufficient for this political alliance to get little more than two dozen seats.
The effect of popular third parties in a first-past-the-post election system is to divide opposition in any seat that is contested. An example I have referred to on numerous occasions is how the vote for the Greens in Morley and Outwood in 2015 cost Ed Balls his seat.
The Green Party vote collapsed in 2017 for a couple of reasons. First, it did not contest every constituency. This may be because it had not raised enough money to do so. The second reason is that the Green Party is actually a neo-communist formation. While this was not clear in its 2017 manifesto, in the 2015 manifesto it is blatant. Now that the Labour Party has shifted to the left, and substantially so, there really was no reason for people to vote Green when they could get almost exactly the same policies under Labour. Green voters may have always been Labour supporters disaffected by Blairite centrism.
Similarly, now that both Labour and the Conservatives support Brexit, there is no reason to vote for Ukip. The hope that Ukip was a gateway party for Labour voters to move to the Conservatives has been proved a myth. Voting Ukip was the only way to oppose the pro-EU consensus of all the major parties in Great Britain.
In 2015, Labour marketed itself with a milder form of the Conservatives’ austerity policies. In 2017, it is now the party of anti-austerity. There has been a final rejection of Blairite social democracy as the Blairites exiled themselves to the back benches. The Conservatives’ bid to capture new territory as Labour shifted to the left has failed. But we are in a situation where the gulf between the two parties is wider than it has been. People now have a clear choice.
In truth, the small parties in the multiparty system we had the last two or three decades were always anti-Tory formations of one kind or another. The SDP followed policies of Callaghan-era socialism, in contrast to the Bennite socialism that dominated Labour in the 1980s. The Green Party picked up the socialist torch when Blair’s Labour dropped it. Ukip opposed the consistent policy of the Conservative and Labour leaderships to remain in the European Union. The SNP have always been anti-Conservative due to the explicit purpose of the party to preserve the union.
The Conservatives benefited in England from this split in opposing votes in the 1980s, most of the 1990s, and also from 2010 until last Thursday. There is as much reason to vote Liberal Democrat today as there was to vote liberal in the 1970s, when the strongest sentiment to do so was ” a plague on both your houses”, or as a tactical anti-Conservative vote. There is no reason to vote Ukip, or for the Green Party; their main policies have been more or less absorbed by the Conservatives and Labour respectively.
The minority government of the Wilson/Callaghan years soldiered on for half a decade, demonstrating that it is possible to have a functioning government even if it has problems commanding a majority. The 1970s were not the best decade for this country. Coincidentally, it was the decade that Britain joined the European Economic Community, which we are now leaving.
The return of two-party politics includes the return of full-blooded socialism in the Labour party after an absence of over two decades. It is now more important than ever for Conservatives to be able to articulate to the voting public the evil history of socialism to warn them that an ideology consisting of warm words in a manifesto is actually a recipe for disaster.
More needs to be done to educate people about the damage that can be done when socialism dominates an economy. I try and do my bit by pointing out the historic evils of Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela in numerous articles posted here. The public and especially the young have few places where they can learn about how this ideology has devastated humanity and how it damaged the enjoyment of life in this country. Based on this ignorance, there is a red tidal wave coming.
Public-spirited Conservatives and their supporters interested in the future of the party and conservatism in general should consider how this can be done, perhaps through a series of lectures, roadshows, and a permanent online repository of multimedia resources. These should also highlight how capitalism has a successful history of delivering the greatest good for everybody.
Capitalism needs to be defended, not just celebrated. People need to be convinced by strong arguments. Socialist and Marxist ideas need to be challenged. Resting on laurels based on the observable evidence of comparative wealth, safety and freedom may result in finding these leaves devoured by a swarm of rapacious insects.
Time may be running out. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.