There was a by election yesterday in Peterborough. Labour won it, just, which is a little surprising although the by election was necessary because the previous Labour MP had been sent to jail for perverting the course of justice and had been the subject of a successful recall motion by the voters.
In second place was the Brexit Party candidate, a party that has only been in existence for a few months. Peterborough had voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in the referendum so Farage’s party must have fancied its chances.
And the Conservative Party came a distant third. Compared to the general election Labour lost 17% points and the Conservatives 25% points.
But this does not appear to be a one off fluke. The Brexit Party, as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have surged recently. And Labour and especially the Conservatives have seen their support plunge.
In February of this year an Opinium poll had the major parties level pegging. From Michael Savage in the Guardian:
Labour has pulled level with the Conservatives, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer that suggests significant potential support for a new party.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party had trailed the Tories by seven points two weeks ago. However, the result proved to be a blip and both parties are now on 37% of the national vote. It marks a return to the tight poll results that have been a feature in recent months.
Approval of the Labour leader’s Brexit response has gone up slightly over the past fortnight. The poll found that 17% approve of his Brexit response, while 57% disapprove – a net approval rating of -40%. It is an improvement from the -45% recorded a fortnight ago, in which 16% approved of his performance and 61% disapproved.
But Savage also said this:
The poll confirmed that a large proportion of the public are disillusioned with the two main parties. Almost half (41%) think that both Labour and the Conservatives have become extreme, with 39% of Tory voters and 37% of Labour voters agreeing with this. A similar number (42%) think neither party stands for anything.
Two-fifths (40%) think a new political party would be the best way for people like them to be represented, while 59% would consider voting for a new centre-ground party.
This Wikipedia graph gives you an idea of how unstable things have become with the Brexit Party coming from nowhere to being in some polls the most popular party.
In a first past the post system these sorts of surges can be catastrophic for parties.
Britain’s problem is that it is locked in a Brexit/No Brexit death spiral.
Brexit has already cost two Conservative Prime Ministers their jobs. And as stated by Jonathan Freedland it has turned conservative politics on its head. The party of big institutions and slow change is facing the destruction of the former and the acceleration of the latter.
Labour is also struggling and I still have no clear sense of what its position on Brexit is.
I bet progressives wish there was an MMP system in the UK. A Labour-Social Democrat-Green-SNP coalition would more often than not become government in this scenario.