With Labour wedded to 70s style socialism and the Tories stealing Miliband’s policies, who will emerge to champion small government?
This article originally appeared on Blasting News.
On Tuesday Jeremy Corbyn unveiled the Socialist Worker’s Party manifesto and was followed by Theresa May launching New Labour’s on Thursday, at least that’s what it feels like reading them. Despite the narrative from the left that our current PM is ‘the new Thatcher’, Theresa May is far less the resurrected Iron Lady as she is the Walking Ed.
Taking the Milibandian policies voters rejected at the last election for being too left wing, May hasn’t exactly resisted Corbyn’s shifting of the Overton window. Instead, in an attempt to finish off Labour as an electoral force, May has gleefully skipped leftwards. An energy price cap, £9 minimum wage, workers on company boards, a clampdown on executive pay; all things advocated by Red Ed that the Tories proclaimed represented a Marxist nightmare two years ago, are now cornerstones of the Conservative manifesto.
Nor can the Tories any longer claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility. George Osborne’s initial target for eliminating the deficit passed two years ago, and it has now been extended to 2025 at the earliest. Seventeen years after the financial crash and we still won’t have balanced the books, with the national debt forecasted to stand at over £2 trillion by that point. Hardly austere.
Gone too are the pledges not to raise income tax or National Insurance, something even Corbyn’s Labour managed to promise. It’s a bizarre day when the hard left are making better pledges on income tax than the Conservatives.
But none of this should really come as a surprise. Tory paternalism has been on the march since David Cameron first took office with Nick Clegg swinging from his coat-tails, much of it instigated by May herself during her time at the Home Office. Nor is it only in the realm of economics where the dead hand of the state has gotten weightier.
Whether it be opting us back into the egregious European Arrest Warrant – something yet to be ruled out of Brexit talks – the introduction of the Data Retention Investigatory Powers Act, later deemed to be unlawful, which sought to restrict internet freedom, or the horrendous Snooper’s Charter, the affronts to individual liberties are numerous. Moreover, the vast expansion of internet regulation the Tories are proposing in their manifesto are dangerously Orwellian in their scope.
Throw in Extremism Disruption Orders, which are so vague and poorly thought out they represent a real threat to freedom of speech, punishment for treating yourself to a bottle of pop via the sugar tax, and the changes to pornography laws, for example, banning certain acts being depicted in films produced in the UK, and it’s clear that the current Conservative party believes it knows what’s best for you, and it should be able to make sure you’re doing what it says.
There is no doubt that Labour in it’s current form needs to be hammered squarely into the ground, lest we start eating the zoo animals, but it’s a shame this is being done by the most centre-left Conservative party there’s arguably ever been. Parking Tory tanks on Labour’s lawn might make electoral sense, but the policies were the incorrect prescription for the nation’s ailments when they were in Ed Miliband’s manifesto. A blue cover in place of a red one doesn’t make them any more effective.
All of this means there is a gaping hole in British politics that badly needs to be filled. Voters who want to see the size and scope of government exponentially reduced, with low taxes and an emphasis on personal responsibility, currently have nowhere to turn. UKIP are an electoral collapse away from folding, and the Lib Dems are neither liberal nor democratic these days. What emerges from this election shall be more interesting to watch than the election itself.
Bar a retreat into full blown communism, Labour have nowhere to go, and it’s entirely possible Jeremy Corbyn might cling on as leader even in the event of a heavy defeat. The Lib Dem fightback lasted all of one, not exactly representative, by-election, with some analysts suggesting both Nick Clegg and Tim Farron could find themselves without a seat on the morning of June 9.
In the wake of a trouncing of left wing politics, the Tories will be left with no credible opposition. Given that they have taken up the mantle of New Labour, any future opposition must come not from the left of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but from the right.
Should Corbyn opt to remain as leader after the election, we may well see the split that has been whispered about over the past couple of years come to fruition. A bloodied Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell may well tear in two, with the current leader and shadow chancellor reading freely from the Marxist play book, and a new centre-left party comprised of the Blairites. If the Lib Dems also take the battering they’re expected to, many of the social democrats currently sporting yellow rosettes may opt to join them.
This could leave a core of classical liberals well poised to tap into a well of political thought that has been all but abandoned by the main parties. A party championing civil liberties, low taxation, free trade, and a strong national defence (something else uncharacteristically missing from the Tory manifesto) could provide a truly alternate voice to the Keynsian authoritarianism currently championed by our political establishment.
Never mind Labour, opposition during the next parliament is just as likely to come from Tory backbenchers who take exception to the authoritarian Mayism the next Government will likely espouse. Foreign policy may have split the Tory party in recent years, but now that the European question is settled, we’re much more likely to see ruptures along domestic lines. A new liberal party, with the right leadership and operation, could well tempt a few defections.
Forgetting all else, Brexit is a catalyst for change. As Britain tackles the biggest political challenge the country has seen in years, we’re seeing just how much our politics has atrophied over the last forty years, and just how out of the loop our current crop of politicians are. There’s something in the air that suggests a major realignment of British politics is on the horizon, and the one two punch of the general election and Brexit could well be the catalyst for it.