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Musing on independent breakaways in the UK.

Written By: - Date published: 9:35 am, February 21st, 2019 - 6 comments
Categories: International, Politics, uk politics - Tags:

Britain has an interesting political system, one that in many respects we share.

As well as the formation of effective new parties like that of the Labour party or the Unionist party at the start of the 20th century or the UKIP more recently, it also uses the occasional splits of MPs splitting away from parties.

The effect is to realise the formation of  streams of political effect. Often this is not as a result of actual electoral success and a role inside government, but usually because it causes shifts in the positions of the major parties that form the governments.

For me, one of the most notable was the singleton break away of  Winston Churchill from the tories to the liberals back in 1904. It was something that invigorated both parties.

The Conservatives, plagued by the remaining Hughlagians, slowly moved from a  simple conservatism of privilege to a party that managed to survive in the modern world. The Liberals used the almost excessive energy of a young Churchill to spearhead support of the ‘peoples budget’. Which in 1909/10 which was vetoed multiple times by the House of Lords. A refusal that, after two successful elections by the Liberals in 1910, allowed the passing of the Parliament Act reducing the ability of the House of Lords to block legislation. Arguably that budget allowed the start of a formation of the welfare state in Britain. It certainly changed the political balance in Britain.

Another was the formation of the Social Democrats in 1981 when two Labour MPs and several former Labour MPs broke away from Labour, followed eventually by 26 other Labour MPs as a result of internal divisions inside Labour between centrist and harder left Militant tendency factions. They were joined by a single conservative MP. Eventually they wound up going into coalition with the Liberals.

The effect of this was threefold. It led to a period of Conservative party domination under Thatcher. Subsequently the internal war inside Labour led to the shifts in the balances of power that led to the ‘New Labour’ of Tony Blair as Labour repeatedly failed to win the votes to go into government. It didn’t do much for the centrist Liberals or Social Democratic parties.

This time I rather suspect that there will be a centrist grouping that owes itself to factional fighting in both the Conservatives and Labour over both Brexit and the hardening of factions in both parties. In the conservatives the seemingly eternal war over ties with Europe that has spanned much of the last century as well as this is steadily descending in further conflict. Inside Labour the repetition of the conflict about an internally broad based or narrow coalition of interests. In both parties the limits of internal tolerance are fraying. 

Meanwhile the group of what increasingly look like pro-european MPs and supporters are likely to form a new party (or a group within the Liberal Democrats). The question will be if they are capable of gathering enough support to retain individual electorates, between now and a remote election, to fight off what is likely to be a fierce attempt to unseat them.

This isn’t as unlikely as it seems. The formation of the Labour heavy early SDP drew its support widely

Although the SDP was seen as being largely a breakaway from the right-wing of the Labour Party, an internal party survey found that 60% of its members had not belonged to a political party before, with 25% being drawn from Labour, 10% from the Conservatives and 5% from the Liberals.

The continued internal conflict in both major political parties in the UK and the support of the leadership of both for support of the Brexit, alienating the generally younger supporters who voted against it, there appears to be a vast gaping hole in UK political system at present.

I’m going to be interested in seeing where this goes as we count down to what increasingly looks like a ‘No Deal’  fizzle to the increasingly acrimonious UK political debates of the last decade.

6 comments on “Musing on independent breakaways in the UK. ”

  1. Tiger Mountain 2

    the Poms seem to desperately need electoral reform of a structural nature e.g. MMP style, to allow for both political differences and relative Govt. stability to co-exist, but that is obviously not going to happen in time to deal with this debacle

    • TootingPopularFront 2.1

      Totally agree – I came across a graphic that showed conclusively that if the UK had had MMP, progressive governments of various mixes would have won 16 of the last 19 elections, I think it was, I’ll try and track it down.

  2. mosa 3

    It took a long time for the Liberal Democrats to finally have a chance at being in government and propping up a Conservative government after 2010 something that many thought they would never see.
    The formation of the Liberal-S.D.P Alliance contested the 1983 election and did very well at a time when Thatcher was at the height of her power and Michael Foot was not able to find support for a left leaning Labour party.
    Third parties are playing an active part in a continuing fractious political environment where under the first past the post system the major blocks are disintegrating and minority arrangements are much more common than pre 2010.
    If May looses her majority and is forced back to a snap election and if their is no majority for either side then this new (” Independent “) grouping will be crucial provided they are returned to parliament.
    IF they are returned.

    • lprent 3.1

      If May looses her majority and is forced back to a snap election…

      As it stands right now I can’t see any particular reason for the leaders in the UK parliament to want to go back to an election.

      May doesn’t. After all look what happened last time and the conservatives look even less united now.

      Corbyn might have said he’d want to – but I suspect that based on the polls that would have been like May in the last election – a very bad idea. It isn’t like Labour was particularly popular last time. They were just less unpopular than the conservatives – and haven’t gotten better since. Losing so many MPs to independence isn’t a good look. Losing two in a row tends to be a career killer for party leaders.

      Both parties need to shore up their internal politics before they start disintegrating further. There is nothing like a good show of complete disunity to completely

      Certainly these ‘independent’ MPs won’t want to. They need time to build their electorate organisations.

      Maybe the Liberal Democrats or SNP would be interested? But I suspect that the SNP has enough internal issues to be somewhat skeptical right now.

      I think that parliament will hobble along with whatever works as best as they can until after the expected hot potato ‘no deal’ Brexit and close to next scheduled election. It is already a hung parliament and I can’t see it getting any less hung in the immediate election.

  3. greywarshark 4

    Theresa May is frighteningly similar to Margaret Thatcher in the 1987 election. Except Thatcher had 60 more seats. And the Conservatives seem to like the women leaders.
    See electoral performance and campaigns.


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