Jonathan Calder thinks nobody knows anything about British politics any more.
In April I wrote:
“That party membership is such a minority taste now suggests that the 19th-century model of political parties we still embrace is hopelessly outdated.
Yet no politician has the vision or overweening ambition to wrench it apart and allowing something more attuned to our needs today to take its place”.
Party membership is growing again, so I was wrong about that. But maybe the tectonic plates really are moving.
Already, Remain and Leave across the UK, and Yes and No in Scotland, seem more vital and more coherent identities than the old party labels.
There is a high probability of a significant realignment happening within the next few months, and not just on the left. “Left” and “Right” no longer describe the real political faultlines in England, the big divides are more cultural than economic.
Labour is fundamentally split between its middle-class activist base and its working class roots to the point where there is no reason to exoect white working-class small-c conservatives to vote for a party more concerned with middle-class identity politics. And that’s before you throw the cultish behaviour of the old-school hard-left into the mix. Do you really expect people in Rotherham to support a party who seem to care more about Palestine and Venezuela than the north of England?
The Conservatives are just as split, between neo-liberal internationalists and little-England social conservatives, with cultish Randite libertarians mirroring Labour’s Trotskyite left. It may be that Theresa May will win the leadership election and hold the party together in the short term. If Andrea Leadson wins, all bets are off, and the chances of the party splitting are high.
The Liberal Democrats are seeing a surge of membership as one party who do still have a coherent idea of what they actually stand for. But in the longer term will liberal values be served by a small dedicated party, or as a faction with one of the new parties that may emerge from the breakup of Labour and the Tories?