Redeeming the political centre
The nature in which politics is expressed is evidently changing, I wouldn’t be the first to comment on how the media is evolving our politics. We are in an era of summarising hugely complex political issues into 280 characters or mere 30 second long Instagram videos - politics is being simplified. If in 280 characters a political opinion is to be expressed, whose will go viral? Person A who takes a moderate view weighing the pros and cons or person B who takes an extreme, one sided controversial opinion? Of course person B. This simplified version of politics creates a platform that highlights politics that gain the most attention rather than the ones worthy of attention which is giving birth to the surge of extreme politics that we have been witnessing. With this, the political centre is being slowly eradicated. Britain's two party system used to be firmly pivoted around the centre. However now, the Labour party has been taken far further left under Corbyn and winning Conservative party is being led further right under Boris Johnson’s rule by the likes of Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg as well as the Prime Minister himself. This isn’t a trend just in the UK, politics seems to be straying further and further from the centre globally too. With the success of Donald Trump to Modi’s second consecutive landslide win, the electorate no longer seems to care for the political centre.
What seems to be appealing about the extreme sides of the spectrum is that they have a clear stance. The Conservatives and Labour’s party failure in the European elections was not because they aren’t further right or left but because they lacked any form of clarity on where they stand on key issues, particularly regarding Brexit. The Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats had a clear message of leaving the EU and remaining respectively. This objective, no nonsense stance is what led them to their success, not the extremity of their views. Equally with the likes of Trump and Modi, it is perhaps not their further right wing policies that attract voters but the clarity of their views.
Candidates like Trump, despite their many flaws, give clarity in their policies. Voters, even those less politically engaged with Trump or politics in general, still know his key policies; anti immigration, pro protectionism and low tax rates.
This clarity is what Britain's centre is lacking. It’s time for centre parties like the Liberal Democrats to tap into this and use it to their advantage. The era of politicians using vague complex answers to beat around the bush is over, voters want clarity and they’re getting it from populist movements.
Against the backdrop of falling confidence from right wing voters in the Conservative party under Boris Johnson and the mess May left behind for him and many Labour voters dissociating with the party under Corbyn’s far left rule, the Liberal Democrats have the perfect opportunity to redeem themselves after the shambles of their coalition in 2010. The European Election was just the start of the potential success the party could have. The Liberal Democrats can and should take advantage of voters’ desire for clarity to truly highlight the benefits of the centre, lay down clear policies the party stands for like they did in the European election and hopefully bring UK’s politics back to a sustainable centre.