Is it time to accept a Tory one-party state?

6 mins read
Chatham House, London (CC BY 2.0)

Like a phoenix from the ashes, the SNP rose from the charred remnants of a ‘failed’ independence campaign to become the UK’s third largest party, and went on to claim all but three of Scotland’s General Election seats.

Now, in similar fashion, the Tories are emerging from a mound of rubble left behind after Brexit, and have become – it seems – the only functioning party in the UK.

Labour have been falling apart for almost half a decade, mostly due to bitter in-fighting and factious arguments between party, members and unions. And the situation is no better in Scotland, as we all know.

The Liberal Democrats have hardly been on the scene since their demise at the 2015 election, and Tim Farron is famous as the most obscure leader in Westminster since Nod Frump lead the Sock Appreciation Party (no, he did not exist).

Now, UKIP – who appeared the only party to make the Tories shake in their tweed jackets and hunting boots – have had their leader step down just 18 days into the job.

Who will replace her? You would not be insane to reply “Nigel, of course!”, it is not as if he hasn’t done it before. However, his profuse insistence he has ‘retired’ perhaps puts that one to bed.

Others include Suzanne Evans, whose time in the media limelight in recent years has shaped her into a strong candidate; Steven Woofle, the man who handed in his application for leader 17 minutes late for the last vote; Douglas Carswell?

Carswell is an interesting possibility; you would expect he could be a great choice to tackle the Tories after being on the inside, but he has said in the past he is not interested in leading the party.

Farage and James. Photo: AFP

In some ways, Diane James’s resignation is disappointing: the first female leader of UKIP, she claimed she had a number of measures in the works to change the party, but failed to receive support from her colleagues.

With all of this circus performance, what does that leave the UK with? A Conservative one-party state?

For a long time during the Brexit campaign, that idea would have seemed ludicrous; they looked like a joke party, with bitter civil warring and embarrassing blunders during the leadership campaign, and conflicting accounts from opposing sides during the campaign for Brexit.

Now, Theresa May – with her talk of creating a new “centre ground” of politics, grammar schools, a country that works for everyone in a quasi-Thatcher way – has lifted the party to appear the only credible one left available in national elections.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the Tories have been insisting this week on no special deal for Scotland after Brexit, pushing the nation back into its corner and reminding us all “Well, you voted to stick with us, so you’re coming with us.”

This is not occasion to be lugubrious, though – it is a crime against democracy to be left with just one party appearing credible enough to lead the country.

It is possible, as more people realise the injustice afforded to not just Scotland, but to the entire UK, grassroots movements will again rouse their heads across the country.

The first one to pop into one’s mind is the independence movement, but it need not be. As national representative government fails to represent adequately, it is a call to active citizens to create their own political movements at local level.

Bringing more power to local administrations, with a potential restructuring of the power systems available in our ‘democracy’ we could bring power closer to the people it affects.

Smaller parties with specific interests could begin to emerge at local level to push for change and work together to form an opposition to the Conservatives. The Greens, socialist parties, Libertarian Party, and so on, could represent diverse views better at local and, perhaps, national level.

If the Tories are going to be true liberals, less national government interference and more devolution to local authorities would be in their good books, with a chance to change things for the rest of us.

The water has not settled yet, and Brexit is still to be realised. Where we are by the end of March 2017 might be a lot different to where we are now.

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“It is worth ascending unexiting heights if for nothing else than to see the big ones from nearer their own level.” - Nan Shepherd

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