Ongoing realignments

If the Great Realignment is coming, it is interesting to attempt to date its appearance on the horizon and chart its trajectory.

Ostensibly politics are aligned on a left-right axis with the left being opposed to economic freedom and the right being opposed to personal freedom. However this may not have been true since Thatcher and Kinnock were replaced by the likes of Blair and Cameron. Since then, both parties have become increasingly authoritarian, with ever less to choose between them.

It does not seem so long ago that the Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, and how we all laughed that it meant the end of the Labour Party. The new axis of alignment would be revealed by the nature of their replacement.

Then the referendum happened, and Theresa May happened, and it does not seem so long ago that we were worried that if the Conservatives made a mess of Brexit, we would end up with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Should that occur, politics might realign along a comrade-traitor axis.

Today the end of the Labour Party may be in sight again, though this time around I am less certain. For now, politics seems aligned mostly along a leave-remain axis. The two main parties ought to be the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. But realignment takes time and we are stuck for the moment with Conservatives and Labour sort of wanting to leave but not really.

Soon Boris will be Prime Minister and it will be November 1st. If we are still in the EU on that day, it may not be long until the two main parties are the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. If remain (or a remain-like version of leave) ultimately wins, some combination of the old three parties will likely remain, the Great Realignment will be cancelled, and ever ratcheting authoritarianism will return.

If somehow we leave the European Union decisively, how quickly can we move on? Will the argument be between those who want to protect industry from trade and keep out immigrants, and those who want to keep regulations and taxes in line with the EU?

Or will one of the sides be tempted by the growth to be had by freeing trade and attracting investment with easy movement of people and goods across borders, fewer regulations and lower taxes?

I would like to think that having discarded EU authoritarians, we can get to work on Westminster authoritarians, and that British political debate can centre around discussion of the role of the state, along an authoritarian-libertarian axis. A debate which, of course, the good guys will win.

Updated: 11th July 2019 — 6:20 pm


  1. It is very difficult to organise a political party and to win elections at a local (let alone national) level. Certainly it has to be a “bottom up” not “top down” affair – one needs a large number of local councillors and so on. One-man-band political parties do not work.

    If the Conservative Party does not deliver real independence at the end of October this year we will indeed have destroyed ourselves. But I doubt that the Conservative Party would be replaced by the “Brexit Party” (which is not actually a political party – it is a registered company) – unless the “Brexit Party” radically changes, becomes a real locally based political party (not a one man band).

    What is more likely to happen, if the Conservatives fail to deliver real independence from the European Union, is that politics will be matter of the Liberal Democrats and a Labour Party led by Tom Watson (or someone like him) and other groups – all of which will be aligned with the international establishment (of which the European Union is only part).

    There would be no point in voting – as the international “liberal” establishment would rule, regardless of how one voted.

    After all such things as Freedom of Speech are already going – and there has been only limited protest.

  2. The Brexit Party is building local infrastructure at a breathtaking rate, with such energy and dynamism it almost beggars belief. And you’re mistaken that a political party has to look like they have always looked, Farage & the people around him (of whom I know several) have some very different ideas about what the future will look like & how they intend to get there.

    If Boris screws up Brexit (& to be fair to Boris, it will be his party that screws it up rather than him really), I expect after the next election, the two main parties will be LibDems and Brexit Party.

  3. I cannot see the Labour Party dying any time soon, it got 12,400,000 or so votes at the last GE. Nothing put them off despite all the essential facts about Mr Corbyn being known to any who cared to find out. Perhaps 2-3% of their vote will be put off by the latest scandal, if they haven’t already given up now, what has really changed

    And their postal vote always holds up well.

  4. “I cannot see the Labour Party dying any time soon, it got 12,400,000 or so votes at the last GE”

    A lot has changed since the last GE, and the potential for even more dramatic developments in the time leading up to the next GE is mind-boggling. And if Brexit goes sideways, we are truly in unknown territory.

  5. ” And if Brexit goes sideways, we are truly in unknown territory.”

    Is this where I offer to come over and do seminars on rifle-building?

  6. Thomas F: “Farage & the people around him (of whom I know several) have some very different ideas about what the future will look like & how they intend to get there.”

    This is what puzzles the outsider — Where is the vigorous discussion about the reformed UK which hopefully emerges from Brexit, because a return to the status quo ante seems like a complete waste of time. And after the dog’s breakfast of Brexit, who would want to trust a slightly reshuffled set of the same old Davoise Metropolitans to get things right next time?

    For example, the Political Class is planning to spend untold gold redoing the Palace of Westminster. Where is the debate about instead spending the money to build a new parliament in York or Newcastle, and selling the Houses of Parliament to a developer as a prime tourist attraction? Where is the debate about how to replace the House of Lords with a genuinely useful upper chamber? The silence about the day after Brexit is deafening!

  7. Political intelligence

    Do you find the shifting political landscape baffling? Perhaps you are stuck in a one dimensional universe. That is, one with just a Left Wing -v- Right Wing (LR) dimension. A sadly one-dimensional model of political psychology, and still the only one persistently used by a huge percentage of mainstream media pundits and commentators. Even when it fails to explain things adequately.

    The next available dimension is the Libertarian — Authoritarian (LA) dimension. For the sake of a simplistic model let’s suppose it crosses the LR dimension at right-angles like an X-Y axis (realities might vary).

    In mainstream UK media, the LA dimension is largely ignored or hardly mentioned. Perhaps because we’ve largely forgotten the periods in UK history when the LA dimension was really active and important. Most of the UK parties are sitting on a similar part of the LA spectrum i.e. somewhere blandly in the middle. But other countries like Russia and Iran have a much more recent and visceral memory of LA issues. Or France during their Revolution; many British politicians at that time regarded the Revolution as a ghastly foreign invention that they were very glad never got imported. Especially the Libertarian part.

    It’s then just a matter of coincidence when and where a belief (or statement) on the LR dimension crosses the LA dimension. It’s predictable that there will also be some misunderstanding and miscommunication when we assume the belief (or statement) in LR-space actually means the same to the other person in LA-space.

    This issue of misunderstanding and miscommunication is quite fundamental. As we almost all have a partial view of the world, based on our partial psychology. Our partial world view seems normal to us. We accept others who seem the same, and tend to be reactive towards others with different world views, or different behaviours.

  8. Rudolph Hucker: agreed. Especially in the UK. When I visit the USA I notice that discussion about the role of the state does happen. In the UK, the discussion is about whether or not the new role the state is taking upon itself goes far enough.

  9. It is possible that the “Brexit Party” will change – and replace a Conservative Party that fails to deliver independence at the end of October.

    But to do that the the B. Party would actually have to become a political party – not a registered company with no members (just subscribers) and all power concentrated in the hands of one man (no matter how noble a man he may be).

    The Conservative Party has long been denounced by critics (such as the Conservative Party Democracy Campaign – full disclosure, I have been associated with that group) for its lack of internal democracy. But compared to the “Brexit Party” it is very democratic – the leader does not actually own it (and is elected – and can be peacefully removed). The B.P. seems to the basing itself on the Ottoman Empire (everything under the power of one man) – and that needs to change. I am NOT saying that Nigel Farage is morally like an Ottoman Sultan (most certainly not) – but he does have a position with similar unlimited powers in relation to the B. “party”, and that needs to change.

    Also the word independence must be used (one can not deliver independence – if one will not even use the word independence) – the word “Brexit” may have been a useful marketing “buzz word” (I do not know – I am not a London person), but it is time to get serious and actually use the word independence. One reason that I knew that Mrs May was not to be trusted is that she always used the word “Brexit” rather than the word independence – for example her infamous “Brexit means Brexit” (i.e. a meaningless word means a meaningless word – as soon as Mrs May said that, I knew there was no chance at all that the lady would deliver independence).

    The trouble is that there already is an independence party – UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) and Nigel Farage was quite correct in his prediction that it would implode without him.

    Mr Farage would argue that if he turned the “Brexit Party” into a political party (with an actual membership – and elections for the leader and so on) the UKIP failure would repeat itself – but the present one-man-band system can not be left as it is.

    As for the Conservative Party – the next Prime Minister faces a clear choice. “Prorogue” Parliament and deliver independence – or watch as the Conservative Party is utterly destroyed by the betrayal of not delivering independence.

    I repeat that I think it unlikely that a “Brexit Party” will replace a Conservative Party that destroys itself.

    I think if far more likely that British politics would become a matter of the Liberal Democrats and a Labour Party under new leadership.

    The corporations and Europe wide government coming-together – and thus removing any reason for people to vote in elections.

  10. Paul — You seem to be predicting an “independence” in which the UK Political Class simply become non-voting associate members of the EU, with full Davoise privileges for the top guys at Westminster and no beneficial changes for the UK peons. What is the point of that kind of “independence”?

    Looking in from the outside, this is the part of the whole debacle that I cannot understand. Back when the UK was “independent”, the Westminster crew dragged the people of the UK into “ever closer union” without any mandate. They drove the car into the ditch. Now people like you have been working hard to get the car back out of the ditch. And as soon as the car is back on the road, the plan is to hand the keys to the same kind of guys who drove into the ditch before? It simply does not make sense!

    Following separation from the EU, there have to be changes in the governance of the UK or the whole thing will turn out to have been a waste of time. Yet no-one in the UK seems to be out there trying to build consensus in that highly-divided population on what those changes need to be. It is long past time for people to get busy!

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