The End of the two party system?
Chris Ptaszynski-Neophytou | 12 December 2016

I just want you to imagine a playground. In the red corner is the Labour group led by Ed Miliband, in the blue corner is the Tory group led by David Cameron, and on the side lines is the once powerful Lib Dem group led by Nick Clegg. Every break time both Labour and Conservative groups will fight for complete control over the playhouse which lies in the middle of the playground. However there is a new kid on the block and that is UKIP, led by Nigel Farage who also wants to sit in the playhouse.

 

The arrival of UKIP has ruffled the feathers of the comfortable political establishment, which has acclimatized to experiencing either a Tory or Labour government - with some protest voters siding with the Lib Dems. But UKIP, this is a different kind of party. UKIP thrives on the short term, Euro-sceptic feeling currently among the British public - 39% would vote to leave the E.U compared to the 36% who would remain, and UKIP now lies 1 point ahead of the Lib Dems in the opinion polls.

 

I believe that the biggest problem UKIP has, is that it cannot survive on the finite Euro-sceptic feeling forever; it needs to develop attractable policies which will appeal to the voters for the 2015 General Election. It goes without question that UKIP will win the European Elections, since they are the party solely based upon the EU and most voters recognise that, but the General Election is what really matters and for UKIP to remain in the political playground, it needs to win at least one seat. If UKIP gets even one seat, it will send a message out to the electorate that more seats are to follow, and that it is a properly established party at Westminster. But, if UKIP fails to win a seat at the General Election then it will not be seen to be a proper Westminster Party by either the politicians or the public; it will not be taken seriously, and most importantly the Euro-sceptic fuel upon which the UKIP engine runs on, will be exhausted for a very long time. With this will be the end for any hope of breaking the traditional two party system.

 

Since 1708, when the first UK general election began, there has only been one party governments, with the exception of four wartime coalitions (1915–1916, 1916–1922, 1931–1940, 1940–1945) and two peacetime coalitions (1852–1855, 2010–present). Our election system of 'first past the post' benefits the two main parties, since the election depends on the number of seats a party wins, rather than the number of voters. This means that it is difficult for smaller parties to enter the political arena and so, since the end of World War II, there has only been either a Labour or Conservative government. The exception being that in 2010 there was a hung parliament resulting in the formation of the first coalition government since World War II.

 

Nothing but Labour or Conservative governments since World War II, voter choice is rather narrow.

 

The establishment of a coalition government has dramatically changed the political landscape. It now means that politicians have to become less tribal in their politics and follow a consensus doctrine, and must be more willing to form coalitions with other parties, thus changing the culture of UK politics. Additionally, it will lead to the 'first past the post' Westminster election system being replaced by a more proportionate election system, which measures the outcome of an election based upon votes rather than seats. The first past the post election system will only be changed if we get another hung parliament, but also if there are more than three parties with numerous seats in parliament. This will transform our current two party system into a multiparty system, which then requires a more proportional electoral system, and coalition governments will be easily formed.

 

I believe that it is healthier for democracy if the electorate had a greater choice of parties to govern our country, instead of having a choice of two parties from which one would govern our country. I predict that with a younger generation of apathetic voters who are disillusioned with politics, participation rates in elections will fall further increasing the chances of another hung parliament. I furthermore predict that UKIP will gain its first seat in the 2015 General Election if it wins the European Elections, and is able to build upon the new gains from both Council and European Elections. If I was a gambling man I would make a firm bet that there would be another hung Parliament from which a new coalition government will be formed, but I cannot tell which parties may be involved. But I do hope that one day democracy will be unlocked and we will live in a multiparty system with no wasted votes from the 'first past the post' election system.

James Routledge 2016