Whilst I was driving home from University in Nottingham, I drove down the Aston Expressway into Birmingham. For those that haven’t driven on this piece of road, it is a three lane duel carriageway which has a central lane which changes direction based on the direction of heaviest flowing traffic. It looks like this:
At the time I was thinking about this quote from Nye Bevan:
We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.
I was thinking about this for about 10 minutes, and I realised that in Bevan’s time, this was most probably true. The world was a different place, with monumental struggles between democracy and fascism, and between communism and capitalism. If you were in the middle of one of those conflicts, then you would most likely be run down by an oncoming tank.
Today, politics is quite a different environment. Yes, much of the process has not changed, but there are no longer these large differences in ideology.
Anyway – Whilst I was driving down the Aston Expressway, I realised that I was, intact, driving along the perfect analogy for modern day politics. There are three lanes of traffic to the left, and there are three to the right. There is one in the middle, which is only active when the others are particularly busy. From time to time, it changes direction, but there is always traffic on it.
British politics is therefore much like the A38. Labour and the Conservatives will always enjoy around 30% of the vote each.
There will always be a Lib Dem wearing sandals, weaving in and out of the traffic, radically changing direction all the time.
There is UKIP, or the man standing in the tweed jacket on the wrong side of the road, shouting at the traffic to turn back.
Then there is the centre ground, which is where the 10% that can win you an election reside. They may change direction from time to time, but if you can be pointing in the same direction as them, come election day, they will vote with you and will win you an election.
It is the centre ground that Labour, and the Left needs to occupy to win elections.