For the last fifty years, Britain has had a habit of letting American trends bleed in as our shared media carries them across. It is surely only natural then that, after the collapse of American bipartisanship over the last decade, British politics should soon follow suit.
The utter fallout from May’s moderate Brexit deal is the impetus for this article, but really it is part of a larger trend. Since the demise of the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 election, British centrism has undergone an alarming fall from grace. In its place has risen an era of yes or no, left or right. Politicians are either hard-right Conservatives or far-left Labourites. Brexit, of course, was both a symptom of this and a cause of the issue only worsening. Not only was the country given just two possible answers to resolve an extremely complicated question, these answers also came with a large dose of political implication. A vote to leave was a right-wing vote, a vote for free markets, closed borders and nationalism. A vote to remain was a left-wing vote, a vote for integration and social liberalism. The country was beset with a right-wing option and a left-wing option. Nothing else.
Modern politics has only continued this trend. The two options available to the country at the present time are May’s pro-Brexit Conservatives and Corbyn’s pro-socialism Old Labour. Nothing else is even remotely feasible. UKIP, for so long the ‘further-right’ option for particularly hard line Conservatives, have either collapsed into scandal or been absorbed by the new Tories. The Greens are as functionally irrelevant as ever, sitting so far on the left as to fail to attract even a small number of concentrated voters outside of Brighton Pavilion. The Liberal Democrats are now a non-event, led by an old man with none of the inspiration or vigour to return to the hopeful days of Nick Clegg’s 2010 party. David Cameron’s moderate Conservatism died on a poison of its own making. We are once again a near pure two-party state, a country of Left vs Right.
Let us not dance around it; this is a tragedy. There is a certain beauty to a conflict between two sides, as any avid sports fan like myself will tell you, but this is rather more important than a relatively meaningless game. Our democracy is supposed to be about representation, about implementing the views of the people, but instead the vast majority of us are currently the ones being forced to change and compromise due to the state of our political system. Make no mistake about it, the population is mostly made up of moderates. Yes, there are groups of very motivated, more extreme individuals, but these are a loud minority. They should not be directing the politics of the country, and yet they are.
As it stands, there is no happy vote a moderate can make. There is no party saying ‘this immigration is a problem, but let’s see what we can negotiate within the EU rather than losing all the other benefits of the organisation.’ There is no politician saying ‘yes, the NHS is in certain areas rather inefficient, but let’s put the focus on fixing that and then get back to the arguments behind cutting or increasing spending’. There is not a middle ground, and this must change. A new party must rise, or the voting system must change. Centrism cannot be allowed to die.