Friday, May 04, 2007

Local Elections: The Minor Parties

First, the UKIP. I have no idea what happened to them. Their website seems proud of the races where they've come second which is hardly inspirational. I can't find any reporting about them by searching Google News. Unless DK corrects me I'll assume they've gone nowhere. Some of them are literally going nowhere after getting kicked off a train for being unpleasant and rather racist.

The BNP appear to have had a genuinely mixed bag. They are making advances in some new areas but suffering where they already had seats. It's nice to think that people do at least learn some kind of lesson about what they get in a BNP councillor. It isn't the Labour Party their grandparents voted for.

I'm not going to comment on the Scottish and Welsh elections as there are people better qualified to do so.

The big news on the minor party front in England is the Green Party. Just looking at where they've gained councillors, Brighton for example, underestimates their impact. I was at the count in North Herts and Green voters were being found everywhere in large numbers. In one seat they got over six hundred votes. They appear to really be going places. I don't think it has yet sunk in that they are going to be big news in future elections, possibly at the next General Election.

The big question is who they will take the most votes from. Conventional wisdom would be that the Liberal Democrats will suffer, that would fit with what has happened this election. However, we had a lot of multiple vote wards and I was able to watch who people were mixing Green candidates with. It wasn't always the Liberals. Quite a few Labour and Conservative voters were also flirting with the Green Party. The Greens are the minority party to watch.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats have confirmed their status as a minor party in this election. We don't have three-party politics in the sense of three potential governments and this election has demonstrated that. For the Liberal Democrats to lose so many candidates at this stage says dismal things about their chances at the General Election. I can see a few possible reasons for this. First, and probably most importantly, there is the classic squeeze when one of the main two parties has their act together as the Conservatives do at the moment. Second, the Greens may be hurting them more than the other parties. Third, they are an absolute shambles at the moment and it isn't all Menzies Campbell's fault. A new leader can give them dynamism but it can't resolve the immense tension at the heart of a party trying to be a libertarian alternative to the Conservatives and a social democrat alternative to Labour.

I see no prospect of any serious challenge, in England, to the two-party system. While other parties can affect the chances of Labour or the Conservatives they cannot aspire to government themselves.

1 comment:

Muttley said...

Don't put too much money on the two party system remaining for eternity, Matthew. I'm not arguing the Lib Dems had a good election and don't dipute most of your analysis. But ponder this: If the SNP govern effectively in Scotland and the poll numbers for independence start to rise, PR might start to look pretty attractive to English Labour MPs. And then the bets are off.