Two Party Politics After The Revolution

British politics is settling down. The Conservative Party has a Leader who is twice as popular in the country as it is.

The Leader of the Labour Party may not be popular in the country or with his own colleagues but he has received a second and improved mandate and is unassailable for a few years yet. UKIP has descended into fisticuffs and chaos. Since the other parties are either regional or desperately trying to claw themselves up from insignificance, we seem to have returned to the model of Left and Right competing but now for the votes of a new and very different centre ground.

We might call this the consolidation of the 'Revolution of June 23rd' - a decision, largely of the English, to abstract themselves from an increasingly troubled European Union. What June 23rd did was to change the class base of the centre well downwards of the southern middle classes. Theresa May has revolutionised the ideology of her Party in an open pitch for the working class vote at the expense of urban middle class voters, based in the media, the universities and service sector businesses, who had become engaged out of interest and high emotion in the Remain position.

The problem for the latter is they have nowhere to go. Their sympathisers in the Conservative Party have not gone away but are reduced to ameliorating revolutionary changes rather than overturning them. Labour has decisively turned its back on Blairite public-private partnership and is out of power until 2020 by all likelihood. The pundits (usually the ones who got it wrong on Brexit) say that, even in 2020, it will be unelectable (we are not so sure). Relying on the House of Lords and the Liberal Democrats to reverse history is scarcely a strategy.

But while it would be a little stupid to discount the ability of Labour to score a few goals against the Home Team and even defeat it on occasions, Corbyn is playing a risky game in moving in such an uncompromising way towards the neo-socialist Left. He is not necessarily wrong in his assessment of British needs (certainly as a possible alternative to the patriotic communitarianism of the Tories) but an entire elite political culture has been telling people that he is wrong from inside and outside the Left alike as if it were a biblical truth. Will this 'mainstream matrix' or he be more trusted?

His task is to take the energy of his internal party machine Momentum and transfer it to a bureaucratic and sclerotic party which has become used to governing from the top down through 'fixes' and 'deals'. He must then reach out to sufficient numbers of those affected adversely by continuing austerity economics that they will revolt against any anticipated failure of conservatism to deliver on May's populist policies which are claiming to administer the country with more fairness. Europe is not the issue here - the matter will be done and dusted by the time of the next General Election.

In effect, Corbyn is competing for the same political market as May, outside the Labour Party's comfort zone of the public sector, just as one faction of UKIP would also like to have done, that is, the same struggling working and lower middle class that Trump has made his own. Unfortunately, while McDonnell's economic policies might achieve this, Corbyn's ideological commitments create problems for him in two areas - migration and national defence. It is in these two areas that some pretty sharp finessing is going to be required if he is to out-compete the popular May.