The political centre is benefiting from inertia; not making progressby Emran Mian / March 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more politics: Is the London housing crisis Boris Johnson’s fault?
These are the best of times for centrists, these are the worst of times for centrists.
Why give this diagnosis? Let’s start with the first claim. The UK’s centre-ground party, the Liberal Democrats, has just eight seats in the House of Commons—and will perhaps have even fewer after the constituency boundaries are reviewed. Tim Farron, the leader of the party, was finally quoted by the press on something last week. He said the Office of Communications (Ofcom) had “bottled it” when it decided not to split up BT and Openreach and inject “real competition” in to the broadband industry. He may even have been right. But when this is considered a success for a political party—well, you see the problem.
Centrists like me will find no sanctuary in the Labour Party; it has moved to the hard left. Labour and the centre have had some good times, but probably both need a break before a reconciliation is on the cards.
It looked for a few months like we had the Conservative Party. The Chancellor announced the National Living Wage. The Prime Minister made that speech in Manchester. But now he’s “pulling the emergency brake”—putting his centrist agenda to one side and fiddling around with benefits to EU migrants. Michael Gove is supporting the “Leave” campaign. If he prevails, then the centre (which is broadly pro-EU) will be obliterated. If he doesn’t, he may lose his place in the government and we will be without “the great reformer.” And Boris Johnson, two time Mayor of the metropole, he was one of ours. Wasn’t he? Now even he has chosen the other side.
All the while, refugees are dying on their way to Europe and we can’t hold governments to account for failing to resettle those who are already here. We’ve just about retained freedom of movement across the European Union, but in the face of widespread suspicion that a lot of this movement represents benefits tourism rather than the desire to work and earn a living, it looks like borders…