Friday, May 04, 2007

Back to two-party politics?

The real news of this election alongside the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote, it seems, is the demise of the small parties and independents – the so-called "minnows".

Reflecting the general disillusionment with the three main parties, we have seem slow, erratic but nevertheless steady gains of small parties and a number of independents – all reflecting, we argued, the arrogance of Cameron and his "new" Conservatives, and a more general indifference to the political classes.

Not a few were predicting that we would see a continuation of this phenomenon, but it was not to be. UKIP was invisible, the rise of the BNP stalled. And, with 308 of 312 council seats declared, the "Others" had lost 140 seats.

With the Lib-Dems also losing 242 seats and Labour losing 485, the big winners were the Tories with 875 gains, far in excess of expectations.

However, despite desperate attempts to "spin" otherwise, the Tories have not made the breakthrough in the North. In fact, they lost control of Kirkless, they lost councillors in Bradford and Leeds and halved the number of Tories in Sheffield from two down to one.

Although early days, what this seems to be is the resurgence of traditional two-party politics, with a strong element of the North-South divide. The Tories are strong in the South while Labour is still maintaining its grip over the metropolitan Northern councils.

What might be happening is that the Tory deserters, scenting power, are returning to the fold, bolstered by others who detest Blair – and have no love for Gordon Brown. On the other hand, Labour maintains its core vote but is been strengthened by those who hate Cameron, and would not vote for him at any price.

If this is the case, we can expect to see a greater polarisation of politics, as Gordon Brown takes over and the gap to the next general election shrinks. But each side will be recruiting not supporters, but temporary allies who have in common only their detestation of the other side.

Today, therefore, we may have seen a shift in the fault lines of British politics.

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