The defection of seven Labour and three Tory MP’s (as of writing) to a new ‘centrist’ grouping in Parliament has shook the political world in Britain. Even if is not immediately electorally significant, it does show that a path back to the centre ground of British politics has been opened in a country increasingly dominated by fringe opinions on both Left and Right. Labour and Tory alike at all levels should take note.
The immediate electoral impact would be to keep the Conservatives in power for another decade. This is according to the latest polls. While memories of the unsuccessful SDP experiment of the 1980’s comes to mind, this new political development spells some electoral danger for the Conservatives as well, especially in an environment where the Tory right flank is being threatened by a resurgent pro-Brexit nationalist sentiment. Theresa May now has an important decision to make. Does she carry on positioning the Conservative Party to the right of an increasingly youthful, diverse and socially liberal urban Great Britain? Or does she try to appease the Right of her Party, the more traditional Shire Tories who are avowedly pro- Brexit, to the point of supporting an economically risky and damaging ‘’no-deal Brexit’’?
It is probably tiring for readers to keep hearing about Brexit, but it is in reality a strategic issue at the heart of questions over the future of Britain itself, rather than Europe per se. There are a series of questions posed by Brexit, on Britain’s sense of identity, direction and future. The convulsions in British politics really reflect that sense of uncertainty. An uncertainty that is increased significantly by the return of an anti-Semitic hard left and a right wing that is ever more at odds with urban liberal Britain.
The evidence of the past twenty years suggests that Conservative economic policies in tandem with a socially liberal face are the best way to grab and hold the centre ground in Great Britain. That is why David Cameron’s modernisation project was so important. The alternative is that the Conservatives can become as toxic as their Labour counterparts.
British politics is at a major crossroads.