The Die is Cast

interior_mallarme_dice_dorefrontisFor anyone growing up before the 1990s, elections were relatively straightforward. There was the red team and the blue team. The BBC regularly featured a swingometer to illustrate where these two contenders were in the contest and how close the race would be run on election night.

It was simple. Everyone knew where they were. The journalists knew who to talk to, television could have heads to heads with the two leaders and apart from a few mavericks, and everyone knew which of the two evils they would vote for.
This apparent consensus was reflected by the fact that for most of the 20th century the turnout at general elections held steady at between 70 and 80 percent of the electorate and most of those who did vote, did in fact vote for one of the two leading parties (Conservative and Labour).

The rise of the Liberal Democrats, and then UKIP, the Greens and the various nationalist parties really threw the traditional way of voting up in the air. So much so that at the last election in 2015 the combined support of these two leading parties was just 44 percent of the total potential electoral vote. That means that not only did two thirds of the population fail to vote for the Government, but they didn’t vote for the official opposition either.

When in a democracy two thirds of the voting public have no faith in either the Government or the opposition one would presume that it would be cause for concern. Yet politicians, the media and most political commentators brush this away as a mere detail.

Even now there seems to be an agreed truth of fiction of the two-horse race. Only just to make it interesting, when Jeremy Corbyn seemed so overmatched and the contest already won, we saw sections of the press talking up his chances. After all a done deal does not sell newspapers or top the ratings.

However, the electorate might just have had enough. Out there is the most disgruntled and divided country for decades. They feel thoroughly shafted by the Conservatives, who some might argue told a pack of lies in a referendum aimed more at their party’s unity than the national interest. Nor has xenophobic nationalism gone away.

There are many choices on the table and political complacency has been severely challenged of late. After all, every sound commentator knew we would not leave the European Union. Every credible economist said it would be a disaster. Only Nigel Farage and Donald Trump said otherwise. Once upon a time that would have been a joke. As for Trump, everyone knew that he would not win the presidency. Now the joke is on the world.

Even now the polls are showing that the 2017 election could be a much closer run thing than anyone imagined. Remember the great silent uncounted two-thirds. Maybe this time they will have something to say. The die has been cast and who knows where it will fall.

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