While teaching about the “Methods of Agreement” last week in my Politics and IR Research Methods class, one of the comparative examples that I wished to give to my students was the shared effective “Two-Party System” in USA and UK despite the many differences these two countries have. But I then remembered that is no longer the case in the UK not only due to the just ended Conservative led Coalition Government but also due to the very likely hung parliament that will result after today’s vote hence an unavoided coalition government.
All the polls last night showed that Labour and Conservative are neck to neck thus none of both will be able to form a majority government on its own. In this light, the main parties have been (and will have) to negotiate with small parties in order to be able to form a coalition government. If Labour and SNP went to bed together last night (despite Labour playing ‘hard to get’ game during the campaigns) or if will agree to do so in immediate few hours/days the resultant Coalition government will not be as much shock to the system as if the Tories decide to go even beyond threesome including the extreme right UKIP to form a government. Implicitly, I so wish that David Cameron would save his image, character, and ego by let it go rather than getting down low with such as UKIP.
Well, but how did the UK got itself outside the ring of effective Two Party System? This is the question that I am sure most Political Scientists are trying to answer and some have already done so in many ways…there is already emerging and relatively rich literature and/or analyses on that.
As for me, one of the reasons that I think explains this situation and that which I want to touch on is: the gradual but increasingly entrenching “inward looking” politics in the UK. With the emerging nationalistic attitudes in Europe despite the presence of EU and the shared values, principles, and even currency…the UK (although not in the Euro) has become a victim of these nationalistic feelings and contagious spirit that is hovering on the skies of Europe. Given its history and international status, it is unfortunate that the two main parties in the UK reduced themselves into the minds of small parties that focus mainly on domestic issues without looking at the wider global picture. That was evident during the elections’ campaigns, as I noted earlier, and also in other analyses, the focus of the parties was on local issues. In this respect, I think the voters can no more see much difference between main parties and small parties. All these parties are talking almost the same language, and the bigger parties have failed to make good use of their competitive advantage- a global view.
While researching for my PhD, and if you read chapter three and six of my thesis, I traced the international development policies of the UK from 1929. In the same, I closely looked at two parties (Labour and Conservatives) manifestos from 1992 elections and analysed their global view-in particular international development. It was evident that in all those manifestos the chapters on the global aspects were rich and vibrant. In 1997 elections, one of the winning points for the Blair’s victory was the establishment of DFID. The establishment of DFID had a great impact on elections/party politics to the point that the Conservatives could not afford to ignore it during their detoxification and modernizing process that started after 2000s in particular when Cameron took over the leadership of the party.
It is thus unfortunate that issues such as international development, even from its securitization point of view given the increasing trends of ‘new terrorism” in developing countries and its vivid impact on UK, the main parties did not put much attention on that.
Having said that, I don’t mean my argument to be the only reason for the decline of the Two-Party System, (in fact it could be the manifestation of it – i.e. the decline of the system is reflected by the inward-looking politics) but my purpose here is to highlight the problematic nature of this ‘inward-looking” politics in UK and its impact on the major parties, which for me provided a better platform for the a sobre and health democracy that the saliency of Coalitions governments.