Britain’s Moment of Electoral Modernity

Britain’s Moment of Electoral Modernity

Brian Brivati: Bringing England into the the Twenty-First Century

And so, after all, the UK reaches the twenty-first century…

In recent exchanges here between Alan Johnson, Martin Bright, and Michael Harris, there has been a sense that what is happening in the UK is not about fundamental change. The tone of the language remains the same, somehow the slight recovery by the Conservatives just before polling day in some sense validates the view that nothing very much is going on aside from politics as usual and we should discuss it as such. This is, in my view, to entirely miss the point of this election in the UK. This is a democratic revolution before our eyes. The UK finally reaches this century.

There are many reasons, and here are five:

1) We have had a presidential system for decades and for the first time the campaign has matched the reality and allowed that to take place?the system is broken and cannot now be put back in the box

2) No one knows the result in the system that is designed to deliver government by majority?we have broken the system, how to fix it?yes we have been here before, 1974 etc but not in this political culture in which change happens

3) After 13 years the opposition cannot deliver a knockout blow. But then again Labour could not knockout the Conservatives in 1964 in one election; it took two to get a real majority, but actually what is being reflected is the diversity of a complex society, at last.

4) As many as 50 percent of people are not yet committed. How wonderful is that! They are thinking about politics, policy, personality and what to do. They are making up their minds.

5) The partisans on all sides look old fashioned and out of touch?the key Brown aide Ed Balls has had the worst election of any leadership contender because he walks and talks a political language that is dying before our eyes.

The tribes of British politics are perishing before our eyes. The world of choice-based politics, long heralded but always held back by the lack of debates, has arrived. Those who say that is not progress are only those who won under low turnouts, with 2/3 of the electorate unrepresented in government and those in the media who liked the control the lack of debates gave them. All this has been swept away. The final act of New Labour modernization, unintended and unplanned, has been to bring the UK into twenty-first century electoral politics.