Something incredibly strange has happened over the past 18 months. I’m not talking about the pandemic (although that has certainly had a part to play) rather, I am talking about the major shifts in the policies of the two main parties in British politics. It seems both have abandoned their base in pursuit of new ground.  

U-Turns and Volte-Faces

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, once the self-appointed champions of freedom and free expression — led by an increasingly vocal libertarian faction — have abandoned those values in the face of Covid-19. Boris Johnson, the man who once said he would eat an ID card with his cornflakes, is now leading a government that’s pushing for vaccine passports that will have the capacity to store your lifestyle choices, your entire medical history, your criminal behaviour, and alleged criminal behaviour.  

On the other side of the aisle, Keir Starmer has been rapidly abandoning the ideals he was elected on as leader. During his election campaign, Kier Starmer pledged to pursue the principles of the manifestos that had brought Labour so many new members under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. But rather than uphold these ideals — those of a social democratic party — he has used his position to purge the party of the left-wingers put into positions of power under Corbyn, and revert to pure Blairism. His handling of the Forde Report has been a particular grievance for many on the left of the Labour Party who felt betrayed and ignored by the party establishment.  

In the light of this weird reversal of fundamental policies from both the Left and the Right, the question then becomes: How are they still dominating 70 per cent+ of the potential vote? The Conservative Party, in particular,  seems like it can do no wrong. As for Labour, despite making as many U-turns as the government, Starmer’s party is still polling at upwards of 30 per cent. 

I believe there are three main reasons for this:

  1. Most people don’t truly consider their vote until nearer to the next election. 
  2. Many party members cling to the organisation that they have poured hours of campaigning and time into — one does not lightly abandon that which they have worked so hard to maintain (a.k.a. the sunk cost fallacy). 
  3. There are no alternatives that have yet broken through.  

Number three is the most intriguing to me as it begs the question: why is there not a better alternative? Most crises bring along with them a new party, but the most recent addition was UKIP/The Brexit Party (now rebranded as Reform UK) who have since faded into obscurity.  

Thankfully, we appear to have reached a breaking point for the political system and a number of new parties have emerged. 

Winning Hearts and Votes

The Reclaim Party, led by the outspoken Lawrence Fox, declare in a statement on their website: 

‘Over many years it has become clear that our politicians have lost touch with the people they represent and govern. Moreover, our public institutions now work to an agenda beyond their main purpose’.

It’s a sentiment that I, along with many others, can get on board with — the idea that politicians are out of touch and that we need institutional renewal. It’s a topic I have covered in-depth on my podcast, including my interview with economist Mark Thomas who believes that if we don’t rectify these issues now, the UK will degrade towards collapse. 

However, Fox has chosen to focus primarily on the issue of lockdowns and has failed to garner much support amongst the public thus far. He got just 1.9 per cent of the vote in the London Mayoral elections earlier this year.  

The emergence of the Workers Party led by George Galloway has been particularly interesting. They have been attempting to outflank Labour from the left (on economics at least), and their mission statement dismisses Jeremy Corbyn’s (alleged) capitulation on many key issues like Trident and NATO. Their mission statement declares that:

‘Thousands of committed and well-intentioned socialists are distraught and disillusioned with their experiences inside the Labour party’.

The Batley and Spen by-election was the party’s first real attempt to challenge the two-party system, but Galloway came up short with 22 per cent of the vote. Labour narrowly held the seat, winning by just 323 votes. This should be a wake-up call to a party that has held the seat comfortably since 1997.  

However, of all the parties now emerging to challenge the two-party system, the most likely to make an impact is the Breakthrough Party. The Breakthrough Party was launched in January 2021 by Alex Mays. Once a fan of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, Mays launched The Breakthrough Party to challenge the two-party system. Breakthrough has three main goals:  

  • Unite and empower our communities to take on the establishment & challenge the political status quo. 
  • Make local and national politics more representative. 
  • Fight for an equal, fair, and just society. 

In my conversation with Mays, he emphasised the desire to become a bottom-up party that’s focused on the grassroots. It’s a cliche, but one that could ring true and garner support if they are to actually pursue this as a way forward.  

My main point of contention came when we discussed the idea of capitalism as the problem. It’s a discussion that I have been having with a lot of young left-wingers and one that I believe many fundamentally misunderstand. Capitalism as a system has given us amazing technological advancements that we use every day. More importantly, it has allowed prosperity to flourish in Britain since 1945 and is the reason Britain became the economic powerhouse that it is today. 

However, as economist Mark Thomas points out, since the 1980s, the economy has gone from being geared towards catering to everyone and raising the living standards of the nation, to serving the rich and powerful almost exclusively. The financial sector, in particular, has become far too powerful. Journalist Nicholas Shaxson claims in his book The Finance Curse, that the outsized financial sector has cost Britain a stunning £4.5 trillion.  

Corruption has crept into every corner of British politics and the cosy relationship between government, the press, and big business means that we no longer live in a capitalist system. Instead, we live in an oligarchical state that has become increasingly ignorant of the needs of the people. The cronyism that has led every aspect of the Covid-19 response is a shocking illustration of how corrupt the system has become. In a time of crisis, the UK government chose to hand over close to £1 billion in PPE contracts to friends and donors, whilst the outsourcing nightmare of the Test & Trace programme has become one of the most expensive projects in human history.  

Young people are critical of capitalism because they have lived their entire lives in a corrupted system. It is going to take a miracle for a party to force its way into the mainstream, but if they can begin by acknowledging that capitalism is good and that we have allowed the system to become obscenely corrupted, I believe there is a way to unite the disenfranchised voters of the left and right. Only time will tell if any of these new parties can take up the mantle.  

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