New plan, old egosby Anne Perkins / August 18, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
There is a new fact in British politics: the homeless voter. This class spans centre-right to centre-left. Its members are united by their pro-European views and metropolitan lives—in short, they are the sort of people who used to benefit from the political status quo.
Even if Dominic Grieve tactfully downplays the possibility, there are rising murmurs about realignment. Middle-of-the-road MPs despair at parties they see as hijacked by the extremes and paralysed on Brexit. Conversations on the doorstep, they say, suggest that today’s electorate is not so different from that which used to smile on Blair and Major—a worried country could be rallied to moderation once more.
But what’s missing from these conversations, which imagine a new party mapping neatly onto the pre-ordained contours of voters’ preferences, is perhaps the most important factor of all in politics—personality. Even if you want a new party, it pays to think hard about who you want to pull it together. The SDP, a cautionary tale for the centrists, may have been disadvantaged by first-past-the-post, but as much as anything else it failed to “break the mould” because of individuals who simply couldn’t get on.
A new party is a fragile thing: there are no established precedents, no institutional memory to hold conflicting personalities together. Yet it is just those big, forceful politicians who kick against constraints that are tempted to create somet…