Six months ago to the day the Conservative Party won the 2015 General Election by the smallest of majorities. Having predicted that this would happen three months beforehand I turned my thoughts to what would happen next. Within weeks I had come to my conclusions, asked an artist friend to draw me a Venn diagram to illustrate my thoughts and in June came very close to writing my predictions as to what would happen in British politics up to and including the next election.
Then I thought it might be prudent to see what leadership changes there might be and see if any changes affected my thoughts.
And then Jeremy Corbyn came along.
Before that happened I was convinced that the following scenarios were more than likely to happen –
No significant changes in Scotland (let’s ignore the referendum issue) and the SNP would still hold the vast majority of seats in Scotland at the next election.
No changes of any note in Ireland.
The Liberal Democrats would find no way back, flounder and possibly split and as a result end up in some sort of coalition with the Green Party.
The Green Party likewise would make no notable ground and might end up in a coalition with some reincarnation of the Liberal Democrats.
UKIP would be the party that was most likely to take a significantly large number of votes from both the Conservative and Labour parties and stood a chance of becoming the opposition party after the 2020 Election
Labour would lose tens of seats at the next election and in the intervening years suffer an identity crisis of such monumental proportions I even considered looking more closely at the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to evaluate whether such a movement would be likely to influence heavily what would happen to the Labour Party.
And then Jeremy Corbyn came along.
I suspect he will be leader at the next election and Labour are likely to poll more seats than UKIP. His becoming leader has helped put the Blairite legacy in perspective and has given so many a jaded and disillusioned Labour supporter hope and a feeling of putting things right that I see it as being very difficult for there to be any significant undermining of his position. He will at least give a direction to a party that lacked identity and purpose for years.
On the other hand his perceived idealism, forthrightness and honesty will be seen as such a hindrance and embarrassment to so many who consider voting Labour that I can see them losing more votes than they gain with him as leader.
Moreover too many people will perceive him as being a liability as far as defence issues, religious fundamentalism and foreign affairs are concerned, and dread to think of him dealing with the likes of the EU and America, let alone the threat of terrorism on mainland Britain.
Ultimately he is a Labour leader who appeals primarily to the middle classes and unless he finds some way of making Labour more attractive to the working classes than UKIP, Labour could even lose their place as opposition party.
Perception is the key word here – with a press that will happily portray him as a republican with a lack of respect for the queen, for example, I cannot see his image changing for the better in the media the working classes are likely to engage with. But that does not mean he won’t be able to steady a sinking ship.
As for UKIP becoming the opposition party a few things need to happen – and happen they must in the next year or eighteen months for this to be so.
Firstly major money from donors to buy experience and establish a viable infrastructure.
Secondly, attracting MPs both from Labour and the Conservatives to give them respectability.
Thirdly, a drive to get potential MPs in place so that they can have candidates in at least 600 seats would be absolutely essential if they were to become the opposition after the next election. It is doable but I am pretty confident they simply won’t be able to stand enough MPs.
So little attention has been paid to the fact that one in eight people voted for them at the last election. To me they are the party most likely to take the most votes from both the Conservatives and Labour and I see them doing exactly that and significantly increasing their percentage of votes gained. The rise of religious fundamentalism and associated terrorist acts around the world makes UKIP seem more relevant to the working classes and if there is a series of serious terrorist attacks linked to extremist Islamic groups on our shores their stock will go up even further.
As for the Conservatives, compromise is just around the corner. Fear of losing one too many by-elections, revolts in the House of Lords and not least on the streets of Britain and their own back benches will curb their more extreme policies. It might take a winter of discontent to make it happen but I would have to say that if they do find a happier medium the next election will see them polling the most seats again but not with a majority.
Finally I was very tempted to add another circle to the Venn diagram and mark it Internet Pressure Group Party. Sites such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz as well as the Greenpeaces of this world could very easily form a political party and be a major influence in British politics but I decided that it was unlikely to happen this side of the next election. But I am quietly confident that in the next decade such a party will either become a major force or at the very least pressure groups will utilise the power of the internet and fundamentally change British politics in a way we have not seen before.