Monday, March 19, 2007

 

Time for a Third Force Again in British Politics?

Reading about Francois Bayrou today,(see picture) now pushing both Royal and Sarkozy in the French presidential race, made me wonder if there isn't a potential for a similar shooting star in our own jaded politics. We saw Berlusconi invent his Forza Italia party out of nothing except money and a national malaise and rule as premier for much longer, perhaps, than he should have.

We had our own third force moment, of course, in the early eighties but the SDP lacked any roots in major social groups and as soon as the media tired of it, it faded. But now we have a situation where we have a national disenchantment with politicians and politics and a surfeit of traditional politicos trying to bend our ears. Fertile soil, I would have reckoned, for a new force, offering itself as 'anti' system, to make some alternative political hay. To some extent we have alternatives with the SNP looking to become the biggest party in the Scottish Parliament after the may elections with their very alternative message of an independent Scotland.

There are also other fringe alternatives, like the BNP's unwholesome message which one sincerely hopes will remain locked in the cage in which voters have chosen to place it for the last few decades. What is needed is a political movement which is alternative, yet mainstream, appealing to all classes with a basically centrist programme and with access to some substantial political funding. 'The Lib Dems!', I hear you cry, but they are perhaps too 'traditionally alternative' with their leader who looks like a Conservative Cabinet minister, to fill the Bayrou slot to any degree. It would seem we are waiting for that third force and will probably remain so, perhaps indefinitely, short of the political earthquake which the amiable, tractor driving farmer seems to be causing in France.

Comments:
Ken winning the London mayoralty first time round is probably the best recent example of an "outsider" succeeding against the establishment. Can't see it at national level.
 
Bill,
I am not a BNP member but I do support them 100% as you will see if you visit my blog.

I have met many BNP members in South Wales and I have found them to be decent, caring people. Which I am sure we all aspire to be.

Check out my profile. Am I a thug? Of course not. I am just another person who cares about the country he leaves behind for his children and grandchildren.
 
Green Arrow
I've visited your blog and agree you are no thug. I was also horrified by the video of the brainwashed Palestinian kids whose mother had been a suicide bomber. But I'm still not convinced BNP offers anything worthwhile to the nation. All the research on the early years of the BNP show a marked anti semitic foundation of belief and everything I've seen and read about Nick Griffin suggests that even though he may not be a thug, he is closely supported by people who are- you only have to see pictures of them ('brutes in suits' I recall one paper calling them) to realise that.

I'm sure there are decent, caring people in the BNP but I rather think those relying on the innate tendency of people to suspect, dislike and/or hate those who are different in colour and country is a stronger more dominant group.
 
You highlighted the problem yourself in pointing out that the SDP's ultimate downfall was their lack of "any roots in major social groups".

When New Labour (with it's 80 years of history and well-established links to a working & lower-middle class electorate) came along and basically adopted their entire policy platform (a generalisation granted but you know what I mean) they were history.

There is no significant, cohesive group of politically active people in the UK who feel sufficiently disenfranchised in the current system to support a third party with a serious chance of winning.
 
Liam
Re SDP I think it did play an important part in shifting Labour to the centre and I'm sure Blair was tempted to join as he weighed up the options- Michael Foot said as much one. But agree with you re no 'cohesive group'; France must be in a different place politically compared to us right now.
 
As France isn't FPTP many more parties can continue as niche operators. The list system means that the political environment is even more incestuous than the UK. Put these together and the Presidency elections can always provide a window of opportunity for the "outsider" candidate.
 
In order for it to happen at national level, you would need a hugely popular, probably fairly centrist figure operating from outside of the existing party structures. Had the Labour Party overthrown Blair pre-Iraq, I could have seen him forming a third force a la Berlusconi. But it's too late for that now.
 
Having posed the question, I have to admit I agree with most of the answers: that a 'third force' in our politics cannot be sighted even on distant horizons, despite some of the favourable conditions. That's an interesting scenario suggested by Paul but even Blair would have had great difficulty in heading up such a movement post Iraq.
 
I think you under estimate the differences in the anglo-celtic and european worlds. Don't forget that jean marie le pen came FIRST (not second) in the last french presidential election and would have won if it weren't for the run off electoral system. If britain was a republic I certainly couldn't see nick griffin winning the election and I think that can only be a good thing. The fptp system may not be perfect but it keeps extremists out of parliament.
 
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