WHERE ARE THE POLITICIANS WHO SPEAK TO ME?
As the party conference season wraps up, Katy Balls examines why Westminster is feeling increasingly separate from the rest of the country…
THIS YEAR’S PARTY conference season saw Conservative activists in Birmingham queuing for up to three hours to hear Boris Johnson wax lyrical about his vision for the party – which was widely interpreted as his blatant bid for the leadership. Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-mogg – whose talk on the merits of a hard Brexit was again standing-room only – was mobbed for photographs in the corridors.
Meanwhile, in Liverpool, at Labour’s annual conference, it was the polar opposite of this hardline conservatism – a sign reading ‘Fight for the right not to work’ at the World Transformed festival that ran alongside the conference, MP Laura Smith calling for a national strike to bring about an early election, and Jeremy Corbyn unveiling an agenda, with socialism at its heart, that included a drastic extension of workers’ involvement at the top of companies.
Corbyn claimed that his party now represents the political mainstream – but with Labour and the Conservatives currently deadlocked in the polls, it’s clear that a large chunk of the public do not feel the same way. Indeed, a recent Yougov poll found that a growing number of voters feel alienated from the two main parties.
So, what’s turning voters off ? As well as Brexit, which remains a dividing line for many, there are also a number of domestic issues not being adequately addressed. With Millennials growing up without the home and job security afforded to baby boomers, many voters are facing uncertain futures, renting into old age, with little for a state pension when they get there, plus a ticking time bomb on social care.
There is also a personality disconnect. Thanks to today’s politicians spending too much time attacking each other or trying to prove they’ve got personality – take Theresa May-botting on to the stage for her keynote speech as a prime example – Westminster feels increasingly separate from the rest of the country.
So, is it time for a new party to rise up and take the lost centre? Forlorn Labour moderates and pro-eu Tory MPS look to France’s Emmanuel Macron as proof that it’s possible. The French President won his country’s election off the back of a brand-new party and with little electoral experience to boot. However, the UK voting system of ‘first past the post’ means it would be very hard for a new party to break through – but not impossible.
Voters may well be stuck with the current parties on offer for now. But, if you feel politically homeless, don’t give up just yet. Every party is desperate to win new supporters. Although joining a party may seem a step too far, there are other ways to make your voice heard – from letting your local MP know the issues you’re most worried about, to joining in campaigns. Whatever you do, it will send a strong message to the parties to not take your vote for granted.