9th May 2021
Party support comes and goes.
It was not too long ago that an electorate very similar to the current one returned a hung parliament.
It was also not too long ago that the Conservatives had consistently failed to get an overall majority from 1997 to 2015.
And now the conventional wisdom is that the Conservatives are now so dominant that they will not easily be displaced.
That populist Conservatism from time to time does well is not unusual – like Benjamin Disraeli, Boris Johnson irks the liberals and progressives and attracts political support from those who political scientists tell us should be voting for the Left.
If it is now the case that, given our electoral and parliamentary system, there is no viable alternative national government then that would be significant.
It it becomes politically impossible for any one opposition party to form an overall majority then this means either the Conservatives will continue to dominate Westminster or the opposition parties have to work together rather than compete with each other.
For the growing Green party (for which I voted, finally at fifty aligning my voting preference with my surname), this cross-party approach should come easily – as it does for Green parties elsewhere in Europe.
For the Liberal Democrats, however, perhaps the last thing they would want is the experience of coalition – for it was participating in the last coalition that seems to have effectively to have destroyed the credibility of the Liberal Democrats.
And for the Labour Party, it would seem that they are more than most parties already a coalition, though one which appears to be at the beginning of a civil war.
Our constitutional and electoral arrangements, therefore, make it difficult to see how the current governing party can be dislodged.
As I averred in my quick and short post on Friday, there are two liberal points to make about the recent elections.
First, a decline in tribal partisan voting is a good thing – and people who have changed their vote once can change it again.
And second, the impact of regionalism is stronger now than for any time maybe since world war two.
Regional mayors now have followings and power bases in a way that Joseph Chamberlain and Herbert Morrison the other politicians whose power bases were in the regions would recognise.
Regional power bases are as much of a practical check and a balance to central government excess as much as the judiciary and the legislature, if not more so.
Just a final note about the unexpected legacy of Tony Blair and his governments in all this.
The Good Friday Agreement and Scottish and Welsh devolution and the first steps towards English regionalism unintentionally provided an extraordinary matrix for post-Brexit politics to play out in.
There is a non-trivial chance that both Scotland and Northern Ireland may leave the Union, not only because of Brexit but also because of policies and changes made a decade or so before in a different context.
Those changes, to a large extent, were intended by many at the time to strengthen the Union – as they may well have done, had it not been for Brexit.
But the unexpected addition of Brexit as an active agent may have the opposite effect to that first intended.
It is never easy to make solid forecasts about politics and constitutional affairs – the significance of the elections last week may seem very different in a few years or they may completely forgotten.
But there is a possibility, if not a probability, that the prospect of continued Conservative dominance will have an equal and opposite political and constitutional reaction.
And one day in hindsight, that reaction will no doubt be seen as having been inevitable all along.
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