27 Sep 2011

We've changed – the single party is over

‘Tis the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… maybe a tad late, but welcome to the dawning of our Indian summer – I am north of Stafford proceeding across the north west toward Liverpool to attend the Labour Party conference.

Is there a better moment to glimpse Blighty in all her glory – this green and pleasant land. The poets were lucky, they quite clearly lived more of these sumptuous mornings than we ever have. Broad sun coming through the mists and bright blue skies beyond.

Even Runcorn basks in it. And I say this amid economic woes of untold depths.

Whether Labour basks in it remains to be seen. Today’s poll in the Independent makes grim reading for Labour, lagging the Conservatives by a point and the Liberals in the recovery room at 12 per cent.

Once upon a time, a daring opposition leader – the more daring for being a Liberal Democrat at the time – called on his party to go back to their constituencies and “prepare for government”.

One wonders whether the Labour Party understands the new call – “prepare for coalition”. For with 15 per cent of the electorate in successive polls  supporting parties beyond the main three, the elections expert John Curtis of Strathclyde University has written, and indeed wrote before the last election, that the likelihood of ANY major party forming a government alone in the next generation is improbable.

There is little evidence in the electorate today of any vast thirst for another single party government – Labour may at least be able to boast that it was the last.

This is anecdotal, impressionistic, but this is my sense, my feeling, as I go about. The UK – even with first past the post voting – has become a European coalition democracy. Does that feel uncomfortable?

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