Third angle

With about a fortnight to go for the general elections, Britain may be poised to break out of its traditional two-party system that alternated between Labour and the Conservative Party. The electorate seems to be looking for a wider choice, with the Liberal Democrats, who have most times been only a non-decisive third force, gaining fast in popular reckoning.  According to the latest opinion polls, the Liberal Democrats  are now second to the Conservative Party in popular votes and Labour has been pushed to the third position. The Conservatives, under David Cameron, till a few weeks ago had a decisive 45 percentage support against Labour’s 30 per cent, but now they are leading the Liberal Democrats narrowly with 33 per cent against about 30. The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg’s performance in a TV debate between the three leaders — Prime Minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron and himself — is said to have a given a boost to his party’s prospects.

Labour, which had three consecutive electoral victories, has declined over the years. Britain is still struggling to get out of its deep economic troubles. New Labour icon Tony Blair was discredited and his successor has been unimpressive and unpopular even in the party. The party was tainted by scandals over MPs’ and ministers’ conduct, and the government’s involvement in the Iraq war, based on misrepresentation and a perceived servility to the US, has been widely unpopular. While Labour has to contend with voter fatigue, the Conservatives repackaged themselves under a new young and articulate leader and tried to tone down some of their rightist positions. Labour too has tried to project itself as more competent than others to manage the economy and to protect important public services. The Liberal Democrats have stuck to their known centrist and moderate positions, and since they have no negative baggage, have looked convincing and credible. The prospects of the two main parties may be affected not only by a surge of the Liberal Democrats but by other small parties too. The Green Party, for example, which performed creditably in the European parliament elections, is expected to do well.
All this points to a hung parliament, the first after 1974. But a fortnight is a long period in election campaigns where voter perceptions can swing any way. In British elections, tactical voting in closely-fought seats has also been crucial in deciding outcomes. But a decisive majority for any party still seems unlikely.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry