As of the last UK election in 2011, the Electoral Commission recorded the presence of 416 political parties in the United Kingdom. This would suggest that, come May 2015, our politically disengaged electorate should be spoilt for choice.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Our political spectrum has considerably dulled. What used to be the yellow of the Liberal Democrats is now tinged orange, and the classic Conservative party blue has become a rather unappetising shade of mauve, a colour that only someone’s grandparent would wear.
Traditionally, the Conservative party has supported the upper and middle classes. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous attack on the British mining industry was seen as an assault on the working class itself, and her name is still spat with scorn across northern England. The issue of class could be said to be a moot point in today’s world, yet as of January 2011, 10% of government ministers were Old Etonians.
The Conservative party has certainly evolved over its 179-year lifetime. Heavily laden with connotations of elitism and relationships with wealthy institutions, it nonetheless claims to be a party “for hardworking people,” regardless of socio-economic background.
To be fair, the Conservatives have been active in remoulding their image. Government reforms such as the tuition fee increases (a cause very close to our hearts) and the cap on child benefits have hit the supposed bourgeoisie far more than any other demographic. The government’s latest plan – in cohesion with the Liberal Democrats – to fund free school meals for children under eight seems like an encouraging ploy to convince a sceptical public that they really do have working class’ best interests at heart, even if Thatcher took their milk away in the 1970s.
On other issues, however, the Tories appear to be cherishing age-old tradition. Cameron’s announcement of a tax break for married couples could be seen as a nod to the conventional nuclear family. The Conservatives’ indecision as to the direction of their policy – and their party – confuse even the most experienced of political commentators.
With a Liberal Democrat party that is unsure of whether it is central, right or left, and a Labour party confusedly led by ‘Red’ Ed Miliband, who is currently trying to cut his ties with the unions, I have to wonder who investment bankers, call-centre employees and social workers will vote for? Does anyone protect anyone’s interests any more?
At the Blue Collar Conservatism event in Manchester this week, former defence secretary Liam Fox called for more “emotion” in politics and insisted that the Tories stop apologising for who they are. While this is a bold statement, it certainly makes sense. Come 2015, I’m dreading the inevitably boring, apathetic debates where leaders tip-toe around big issues, afraid of upsetting anyone and thereby pleasing no-one.
I want to be inspired by our political system, and have the freedom to vote for change or conservatism and actually know what I’m voting for. In this year’s American presidential campaign, it was exciting to see Democrats fiercely oppose Romney, and Republicans cry at Romney rallies. It posed a stark contrast to campaigns at home: this was an election that mattered. No one seems to care that much in the UK, and what difference does it make? Politicians here are all cut of the same, faded cloth.
Politicians spend hours debating on the Andrew Marr Show about how to invigorate a politically apathetic youth. The answer is simpler than they think: make politicians passionate, inspirational, energetic. Have them come to the political platform bearing revolutionary, progressive ideas, not a Citroen Picasso, some pretentiously named children and a National Trust membership.
Have them be vocally proud of the party they stand for and what it has stood for in the past, be that women’s rights, the sanctity of family or gay marriage. Be interesting, because no one really likes mauve.