Magazine article Renewal : a Journal of Labour Politics

The End of Politics: Triangulation, Realignment and the Battle for the Centre Ground

Magazine article Renewal : a Journal of Labour Politics

The End of Politics: Triangulation, Realignment and the Battle for the Centre Ground

Article excerpt

The End of Politics: triangulation, realignment and the battle for the centre ground Alexander Lee and Timothy Stanley Politico's 2006

Reviewed by Maria Neophytou

For the UK's three main political parties, the 2005 general election was an election without winners. Labour may have achieved its much vaunted historic third term, but it witnessed an unprecedented decline in its core vote-in the inner cities, among the working class, ethnic minorities and the young, voters traditionally inclined to vote Labour turned away in droves.The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats for their part failed to capitalise on manifest dissatisfaction with Labour, unable to off era convincing alternative vision and attract sufficient voters to unseatthe government. Voterturnout reached an all time low and all three parties experienced a haemorrhaging of support to the minor parties.The statistics told a clear story: in 1992,500,000 people voted for minor parties and independent candidates; by 2005 this figure had risen to 1.5 million people. The End of Politics explores these 'subtle but seismic changes', positing that the strategy of'triangulation' may be spelling 'the end of polities'.

Triangulation is defined as 'the political tactic of shifting party policy in to a broadly perceived centre ground in order to increase electability and outmanoeuvre the opposition'. In vying for the centre ground, politics becomes less a battle of competing values and more like a game of chess.This allows the Liberal Democrats to leap to the left of Labour on some issues and Labour to the right of the Conservatives on others, as parties dance around each other chasing an ever-increasing pool of floating voters.This eschewing of value-based politics in favour of a more pragmatic approach to policy and a managerial attitude to governance has left a vacuum in which parties are unable (or unwilling) to offer 'coherent philosophies, national identities and clear political purpose'. As mainstream politics fails to engage or inspire, voters either stay at home or switch their supportto the Greens, Respect, UKIP, the BNP, or independent candidates, all of which achieved impressive results in 2005.

The End of Politics is a well-researched and clearly argued account of the consequences of triangulation. It blends analysis of voting and polling data with pertinent international analogies and an acute historical awareness to paint a compelling picture of our current political landscape.The authors are particularly well placed to analyse the trends described, as they are both party activists as well as historians. Stanley did not observe the 2005 election from the distance of the academy, he was a candidate for the Labour Party; similarly, Lee tel Is the story of the battle for the leadership of the Conservative Party from the perspective of someone present during candidates' speeches and debates.The insights and anecdotes that the authors are able to offer, teamed with their scholarly approach and the impeccable data they present, make this an entertaining read, and an essential starting point for understanding the direction of contemporary politics.

While this is a well-reasoned and timely account of the influence of triangulation on party politics, triangulation itself cannot account for al I the trends and outcomes that the authors describe.The authors' thesis is arguably too politics-centric, with not enough attention paid to some of the broader structural, economic and contextual factors influencing political behaviour. …

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