English politics has reached the slightly surreal position where the two main parties have both adopted the policies and philosophies of minor parties that operate on the fringes of what used to be the political mainstream. The Labour Party has taken on the radicalism of the Green Party and the commitment to full-blooded socialism of the Judean Popular Front or whatever splinter of the Fourth International one might care to name. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are working their way through the UKIP manifesto while in government.
This clearly leaves acres of space within which a centrist party can emerge. The obvious inheritors of this opportunity are the Liberal Democrats – if they can find the wit to disown their Tory-supporting past, weakness in coalition, and unappealing leader. Even then, there is a need to put together a policy platform that has broad appeal and distances itself from both Labour and Tories. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple task given the desertion of the centre ground by these parties, and allows for a policy platform that is progressive in nature while still being in line with the fundamental conservatism of the English electorate.
A centrist party can plausibly position itself as the only party that is currently:
- Pro-Business. Committed to policies that generate the wealth and prosperity that can then be used to combat social ills.
- Future-directed. Optimistic about the ability to create a better future rather than trying to re-create some version of the past.
- One-nation. Seeing all groups in society as contributing to our general welfare and as meriting respect and consideration. Middle class or working class, educated or not, indigenous or recently settled, urban or rural, northern or southern, liberal or conservative in temperament, traditional or alternative in lifestyle. All one nation.