The EU referendum highlighted the true fault lines in British society. Now it’s time for our two main political parties to reflect these.
What happened on June 23 was a wholesale rejection of the British political class. A majority of MPs and every major political party were advocating a vote to remain, yet over 17 million people defied their wishes and voted to leave the European Union.
It highlighted just how far both the Labour and Conservative parties have lost touch with their core voters, and how both now represent political frauds. The Labour Party does not love the poor, it loves the cosmopolitan London elite. The Tory party does not love Britain and its institutions; it cares only about GDP figures and foreign investment.
Before Corbyn came on the scene, both parties had become practically identical, each embodying a slightly different form of Blairism. Even now, they both agree with one another far more than they differ. Both are pro-EU, pro-mass immigration parties with a belief that political correctness and the mantra of “equality and diversity” must prevail in all areas of our lives. And by gleefully embracing globalisation, both have largely abandoned the values upon which they were formed.
The problem is, neither has bothered to take their voters with them on this journey. Rather than reflecting the views of their voters, they have instead become professional lecturers, who seek to educate them and transform them into liberal Blairite subjects.
Due to the tribal nature of our politics, the true extent of this disconnect had been relatively concealed, but the referendum gave every disillusioned voter the opportunity to make their discontent known. Thus a vote to leave was about more than just the European Union; it was also a wider rejection of the Blairite consensus.
So, dominated by two dead parties, where does our political system go from here? Significantly, the referendum also exposed the true divisions that run through our society.
That is the divide between social conservatives and social liberals: between those who believe in national independence and those who believe in ceding control to an array of supranational bodies; between those who are first and foremost patriotic Britons, not global citizens; between those who have benefitted from globalisation and those who have suffered; between those who want to the see the British government prioritise the British people, and those who would like to see it act as a global philanthropist.
These are the issues that fundamentally split our society, and it was time both these views were represented as a political force. Perhaps if this theoretical socially conservative party emerged to challenge the liberal consensus we would finally see some real political debate in this country again, rather than the anaemic theatre to which we are currently subjected.
For this to happen however, the two main parties would need to either collapse, making way for successors who actually represent this divide, or voluntarily begin to represent their voters, but neither seems likely. The new prime minister, Theresa May, was someone who campaigned to remain in the EU and presided over the current surge of immigration as home secretary. She is already promising to delay the triggering of Article 50, and it would appear that the likelihood of leaving the European Union on anything like the terms Vote Leave promised under her premiership is slim.
And as for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership now faces its greatest test to date, with a leadership election due to take place in September. Labour MPs are using his half-hearted backing of the Remain campaign as an excuse to oust him, despite the fact that Corbyn has been shown to be far more in tune with voters on the EU question than them. If only he had stuck by his eurosceptic principles and led us out of the EU, he may have struck a decisive blow to those in the party who have made it their mission to dethrone him. But instead the same people he tried to appease will now ruthlessly and without end attempt to hang him out to dry.
Thus by the end of September, it could be the case that both main parties will once again be led by liberal centrists, and consensus politics will resume. Despite our two main parties being shown to be political corpses, it seems the greatest opportunity for political realignment in decades will be squandered. The true divides in society that were exposed by the referendum will once again be veiled by the false divide of party politics, and the genuine concerns of millions will again be drowned out by the cosy consensus in Westminster. Last month people voted for revolutionary change, but it appears they will just get business as usual.
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Politics is becoming increasingly polarised. Now, more than ever, we need centrist politics to heal a divided nation.