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Election losers? Our clapped-out parties

Worst past the post

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Opinion Here's an opinion you won't hear professional political experts utter today. The political parties came out worst from the election, they failed to inspire anyone, and don't really stand for anything any more.

If you think this is remotely controversial, hop over to our earlier article featuring 1965 predictions of the future. Back then the political classes tried to capture the optimism and boldness of the boffins. Now the politicians themselves have given up on politics, and compete on being the most competent bureaucrats. Is it any wonder, then, the voters have given up on them?

Given that a successful professional career of punditry at Westminster depends on cosy access to the main parties, this isn't surprising. The last thing they'll do is wake up one morning and announce the political class has been inept; have they just noticed?

The Tories did best, but increased their share of the vote by less than four per cent - when Labour are loathed and the economy is in the tank. The Lib Dems' brief bubble burst and they lost seats. The clapped-out governing party polled a share it last saw in the 'unelectable' 1980s.

What about the fringe parties? Enthusiasm would for them might indicate that the antipathy was directed to the Big Three, not to party politics in general. Well, they failed too - they also had rotten elections.

UKIP didn't build on its 2005 success; the Greens won an MP in the enclave of Brighton, but their share of the vote fell. I find this quite amazing, really. After five years of relentless environmental yakkery in the mass media, bombarding us on all channels at once, the Greens received a lower share of votes than the BNP. All that most Greens can now look forward to is to return to their yurts, and prepare for recycling.

As for the "political party of the digital age", as the Pirate Party UK describes itself, if it can't rally support in the wake of the Digital Economy Act, it never will. On average, in every constitutency in the UK, there were 289 spoiled ballot papers in the last General Election. The Pirates yesterday averaged about 140 votes per candidate in each constituency in which they stood.

Let's look at some unmentionables you won't hear on rolling news.

Labour probably has the biggest problems. The party always treated its core vote with contempt, housing them in rabbit hutches, expecting them to be grateful for it, and resenting them when they asked to paint the front door of the flat a different colour. A strain of puritanism in Labour's roots also resented the proles ever having any fun. But at least Labour once had an economic vision; Harold Wilson envisaged Labour as a dynamic producers' alliance. Why should we buy washing machines from Germany and Japan, Wilson wondered, when we have better engineers and designers than either? Not to mention great natural resources.

State intervention was attempted on a grand scale. It didn't work out, and when they next had a crack at power Blair abandoned this in favour of a nod towards markets. But now Labour isn't trusted to look after business, which it still treats suspiciously. Without the industrial ambition, the Puritan strain has come to the fore.

So apart from interfering, there's no there there any more. Labour isn't so likely to split as much as fizzle away.

The Tory Fail

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