How the public lost faith in traditional politics – and turned to populism
In a new book, John Redwood says the big political parties have been all but destroyed in elections by the rise in populist movements around the world. So why didn’t experts foresee it? And is it such a bad thing?
I assumed the UK would be out of the EU on 29 March 2019, as often promised by the prime minister – with or without a deal. Instead I find my book, on the growing gap between traditional parties and the voters, and growing distrust of experts and governing institutions, is eerily topical for the UK as well as the rest of the EU, as background to the recent European elections. The UK became caught in a time warp, fighting European elections three years after it decided to come out. Two new challenger parties, the Brexit party and Change UK, the Remain party, emerged to turn the elections in the UK into a kind of rerun of the referendum vote.
Change was soon supplanted in its aim by the Liberal Democrats, an old protest party reborn as Remain campaigners. The Establishment, Lib Dems and Change UK battled to keep the UK in and to prevent any alteration in our relationship with Brussels, whilst the Brexit party campaigned to implement the referendum decision. Change UK found it difficult to explain why they call themselves Change, when they are a force against change when it comes to accepting all the rules, laws and powers of the EU, the current number one topic of debate. They also suffered from the fact that the MPs that formed them had campaigned in the 2017 election on either the Labour or Conservative Manifesto which promised Brexit.
The two traditional main parties, Labour and the Conservatives, claim to still want the UK to leave the EU. Meanwhile Labour has many MPs and members who want to reverse Brexit and propose a second referendum to do so, undermining their credentials with Leave voters. The Conservatives under Mrs May promised to leave by 29 March this year with or without a deal. At the last minute the prime minister decided to seek a delay in our leaving instead.