The Labour party is a coalition between the left-wing Momentum group and the centre-left Progress. The tensions between them have become unbearable after the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader .
The Conservatives is similarly a coalition between the right and the centre-right. The centre-right are against Brexit, grammar schools and other right-wing policies that were not in the 2015 Conservative manifesto. Bitter divisions are expected to surface at the Tory conference shortly.
So the following could happen to the main national parties, creating a new moderate centrist party with sufficient backing to form a government:
WHY COULD THIS HAPPEN?
- Tory moderates on the centre right no longer want to be in coalition with the right, but do not want to split off into obscurity. A new coalition is required. The 2010 coalition showed in principle that a centre-right Conservative party could govern in coalition with the centre-left, in the form of the LibDems
- But a merger between centre-right Tories and LibDems is not on the cards.
- The Labour party needs to split into two, as described above. The moderates in the centre-left have a choice of joining the LibDems or the Tories. But many wouldn't want to do either. Better to join a new moderate centrist party with sufficient size to form a government.
- In terms of electability, the electorate regard themselves primarily as moderates in the centre. A new moderate centrist party would therefore have policies that would appeal directly to the majority of the electorate. This graph is based on data from a ComRes survey in late 2014, but also reflects other studies:
WHY SHOULD THIS HAPPEN?
It is an odd aspect of UK politics that although the vast majority of voters are moderates in the centre or centre-right, there is no dedicated centre-right party. "New Labour" and Cameron's Tories filled that void.
It is about time a new party was in place to better serve the electorate. All too often voters have had to vote AGAINST the party they liked least. This shouldn't be necessary. You should be able to vote FOR a party that represents your values and wishes.
HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?
Starting a new party under the 'First Past the Post' system is not a trivial matter.
The Social Democrats were formed by four prominent Labour MPs. But the party didn't have a sufficient breadth of support. It had to merge with the Liberal Democrats that broadly occupied the same political space.
UKIP took off when Conservative MP Douglas Carswell had sufficient personal support to be re-elected for his new party. Mark Reckless then tried the same trick in Rochester, but only just beat a new Tory candidate in the by-election. No other Tory MP was brave enough to follow suit. Quite right. Reckless lost the subsequent general election to the same Tory candidate.
Far better for the new party to start under four or more key MPs who believe they can be re-elected in by-elections.
WHEN COULD THIS HAPPEN?
WHEN COULD THIS HAPPEN?
The new constituency boundaries for 2018, when MP numbers will reduce from 650 to 600, will potentially provide the opportunity. Some moderate MPs whose constituency is changing may well find themselves not selected by the Labour or Tory parties. They will need a new party home.
But before then there is the distinct possibility of a general election in 2017. Theresa May's majority is slender, and it may be too tempting to use Labour's weakness go for a larger majority. That majority needs to be stopped. There needs to be moderate challengers.
Indeed a series of by-elections by those opposed to new Tory policy, including those opposed to Brexit, could make a general election a necessity if enough seats are taken from the Tories to eliminate their majority.
All is possible.
BUT WHO WILL MAKE THIS HAPPEN?
This is not a theoretical idea. This was apparently being floated in the tearooms of Westminster in July when this article was published in the Observer:
Perhaps you would like to suggest by commenting below who you think could lead the formation of this new party?
And who would fund it? Lots of small donations? Or who might provide significant funds? Both presumably.
Let's make it happen!