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The Centre Cannot Hold: The Return of Ideology to the UK

 4 min read / 

It was announced in the press a few weeks ago that £50m has been put up to form a new centrist party in the UK. Simon Franks, the founder of the once-popular but now defunct LoveFilm, is alleged to be the primary driver and mastermind behind this plan. But does centrist politics stand a chance to the new political landscape of Britain?

Things Fall Apart

Tribal politics has become the norm across the UK. The Labour Party, once ruled by the neoliberal establishment, has shifted to the hard-left, led by a polarising figure in Jeremy Corbyn. Furthermore, the divided Conservative party is led by a robot who struggles to grasp the anger of the electorate. Both party leaders are like marmite; you either love or hate them. With the battle over austerity raging on, voters are likely to align with more extreme sides of the political spectrum than a middle ground.

The Liberal Democrats, once standard bearers for the centrist cause, are struggling to keep their heads above water. People applaud the death of neoliberalism and its perennial dominance of western politics that lasted from the 1980s to the 2010s. Tony Blair, the former centrist Prime Minister, has been vilified for his role in the Middle Eastern conflicts as well as for leaving the country in dire financial straits and the midst of a brewing housing crisis.

Surely the Second Coming Is at Hand

Tony Blair has become one of the most unpopular former prime ministers of modern times. He is frequently labelled a war criminal. Others argue that he extended Thatcherism through to the millennium, and prolonged her unpopular policies. His son, Euan Blair, is allegedly a board member of the fledgeling party. Trying to follow in his father’s footsteps may see him walk on eggshells as voters will be wary of the name, having lost all faith in Blairite politics.

Post-Blair, leftist voters have turned to socialism in large numbers. The Tories lost their majority in parliament due to Labour vigorously campaigning for a more socialist society. Similar things unfolded in the US with the popularity of Bernie Sanders, a staunch socialist, who was influential in appealing to the working-class. The socialist message is obviously on the rise.

The Best Lack All Conviction

There is no centrist icon today that can kindle widespread enthusiasm for this emerging party. Emmanuel Macron, president of France, appealed to both voters from the left and the right by creating his own centrist political movement in the 2017 elections. He is described as a moderate in times when the threat from the far-right is growing. Although Macron was hoping to bring a breath of fresh air to French politics, his approval ratings have rapidly declined since his tenure began.

The left in France is disenfranchised, and the broad support Macron won is eroding away. Macron’s reforms have seen the wealthiest 1% handed tax cuts, and his administration gave into long-term demands from investors for a flat capital gains tax. Students have taken part in protests attacking the new and complex university admissions process. Rail workers have gone on strike too across France to express their anger toward Macron’s privatisation efforts. The message is clear; with approval ratings dropping, centrism is not the answer for Britain’s moderates.

Turning and Turning

People are outraged at the continued cuts to their public services, leading to Conservative support declining. The lack of clarity and unification in Corbyn’s leadership may see it crumble, but the manifesto he proposed in the snap election of 2017 saw considerable support. With socialism, the only true opponent to an exhausted capitalism, on the rise, even the mention of centrism will see voters lose interest. In the words of Karl McDonald, a political columnist for iNews; “no-one cares about this new centrist party, and they especially don’t care about Euan Blair”.

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