The UK is clearly stuck in a constitutional crisis. David Cameron promised his referendum on Europe to avoid splitting his party, which has always been divided over Europe. Theresa May is continuing that battle, trying to find common ground between the hard right, anti-Europe wing of her party, and the centrist, pro-Europeans. On top of that she is also trying to maintain the support of the DUP, with whom her party really has almost nothing in common. Indeed, the DUP has very little in common with anyone else in the UK, so that makes things even harder.
Meanwhile, the Labour party has split itself over the centrist legacy of Tony Blair and New Labour, and the new/old hard leftism of Jeremy Corbyn and the Momentum movement.
It is no wonder that nobody can agree on anything. We are seeing Unions negotiating with the Conservatives, Labour MPs voting with Tories, Tories with Labour, and MPs who are technically in opposition working together to oppose their own parties.
It is clearly time for the two main parties to come clean and break into their two respective parts. The Labour party is really two parties: the Momentum left of Jeremy Corbyn, which wants to create a socialist utopia outside Europe, and the centre left, pro-European party of Chuka Umunna and Sadiq Khan. The centre-left mainstream of the party are struggling with the anti-semitism, ambiguity over Europe, and general approach of their hard left colleagues.
Meanwhile the Conservative party is clearly two parties: the European Research Group, personified by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, which is rabidly anti-Europe, convinced of British exceptionalism rooted in historical greatness, and pandering to hard right-wing visions on immigration and society; and then the centre-right, pro-European party of Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve.
In both parties there is a great deal of talent currently wasted on the back benches because their front benches only represent their extreme wings. That is a loss to the country, which urgently needs principled, intelligent politicians right now. What is more absurd is that increasingly those talented, moderate MPs are working together regardless of their party affiliations, and then returning to their opposing benches when it comes to voting along party lines.
Anyone who knows a moderate Labour or Conservative politician will have asked them why they are still in their party. What do they have in common with the outspoken extremists who front their parties, and why do they continue to enable them by remaining in their party?
If the two parties would do the decent thing and split in half, the political landscape would change dramatically, and the people of this country would be better served by their elected representatives in parliament. For starters, a split in both parties would make it easier to vote in the next election, with clear differentiation between the resulting four parties.
Most of this country is still rooted in the political centre. The parties have veered right and left to mop up the swinging voters at the fringes. If the parties split into four parties: hard left, hard right, centre left, and centre right then it is most likely that an election would see the two centre parties take most of the votes, and possibly form a centrist coalition. Both centre parties would also be clearly pro-Remain, whilst the hard left and hard right could absorb the Brexit votes. There is, of course, the possibility that they would seek to form an anti-Europe coalition, but it would be ‘interesting’ to imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg as deputy Prime Minister to Jeremy Corbyn’s premiership.
Theresa May’s policies seem to be focussed mainly on avoiding her party from splitting. Meanwhile in Labour there’s some noise about people breaking away from Corbyn’s party. MPs should be more brave. If they made a clear break and either came together to form one centre party, or formed a centre left and a centre right party, people would respect them for their honesty — it does not look honest when they take the whip of a party they don’t agree with on fundamental issues.
The British people would then be offered real political choices, and parliament would become more representative, which in turn would go some way to undermine the nonsense argument that Brexit is the ‘will of the people,’ which partly rests on the inability of the current political make-up of parliament to represent large parts of our society.
I look forward to the likes of Umunna and Soubry finally breaking away from their nutty front benches and either forming a new centre party, or at least re-forming moderate versions of Labour and the Conservatives. Parliament would regain some credibility, they would finally be free to act independently of their Whips, and the country would return to having politicians that reflect all of their views.