Having spent most of my political life 'on the fringe', including my time in the Tory Party when I was on the libertarian wing, I've spent much of my time pondering why 'the breakthrough' has never come. My membership of the Tory Party was lukewarm and not very active from around 1994, but prior to that I had been a candidate, agent, branch chairman etc., etc.
From around 2000 I have been a parliamentary candidate, local councillor, regional organiser and office holder and so on, first in UKIP then the Libertarian Party. But 'the breakthrough' never came. Is it because people in the UK are fanatically pro-EU? Numerous surveys and polls suggest they are not. Is it because people in the UK eschew the prospect of reasonable immigration control? Numerous surveys and polls suggest they are not. Is it because they are happy to see government get bigger and ever more controlling while increasing our taxes to pay for it? Numerous surveys and polls suggest they are not. I could go on and on and on.
But still people vote Labour or Tory. OK, they used to vote Lib Dem too, but that was until you had people like Cable and Huhne in government and we saw what they are really like. So why do people stick to the old parties rather than voting for what they believe? By 'what they believe' I mean alternative parties of whatever hue, although I am going to talk from my experience, which is on the libertarian wing of politics.
The first reason is that the establishment have stitched up politics. If nothing else the Murdoch affair has shown how closed and incestuous the establishment is with police, media and politicians scratching each others backs at best, often seeming to be doing worse. It appears that government, the media and powerful figures at the top of the establishment are a closed shop, working for the benefit of each other with us, the populace, piggy in the middle providing, through our taxes, the resources for them to do what the hell they want. They listen in to telephone conversations, they spy on us and read our emails and that's just 'our' government!
Then, when people kick against what we have governing us they close ranks and accuse those offering an alternative of lunacy or phobia. Don't like the EU? Europhobe. Don't like unlimited/mass immigration? Racist, and so on. The silent majority are silenced because they fear being branded a 'phobic', an extremist or some other 'ist'. They might lose their jobs. They may find themselves in court charged with a 'hate crime'. Has anybody ever committed a 'love crime'?
If you question the effectiveness of a nationalised healthcare system you are accused of being an evil capitalist bastard who would rather people die than fund proper healthcare. The fact that nationalised healthcare means the idiot politicians we all know to be untrustworthy, some have even been found guilty of being on the fiddle and have been put away, are in charge of our healthcare seems to be ignored. Advocate an alternative to the NHS and you are callous and wicked. We've been stitched up.
So the silent majority have been coerced into remaining silent. What of those who break ranks and get together to form pressure groups or new political parties?
It isn't encouraging. I increasingly fear that what the establishment have done is ensure that those who organise outside the main two political parties are dragged down by lunatics. I don't say it was necessarily intentional, more a useful side effect of their tactic of political correctness to put it the more accurate way.
Pressure groups can often survive reasonably well as they are there to influence, usually the party in power and/or the one likely to gain power at the next election. They often have members who are experienced in mainstream politics who tend to moderate the more extreme elements often attracted to single issue causes. Some, no matter how loony, just keep banging on and on thinking people care but rarely noticing that people don't. They are relatively harmless in most cases.
The real danger is in the growth of new political parties. These are often founded by obsessives who grow tired of being part of a pressure group, UKIP and the Green Party to name two, and decide to go for full party status. Like these two parties, many never manage to shake off the tag of being 'single issue parties' and achieve a little success, but not a lot. I suppose the old Liberal Party and Social Democrat Party merging to become the Lib Dems is the most successful example. But those two did begin with some representation in parliament.
The authoritarian right in the form of the BNP have seen limited success in the form of councillors and MEPs. But they have now imploded and lost most of their council seats. Like the Lib Dems in Coalition, when the nutters get a glimpse of power they are shown to be totally inadequate and disappear in a cloud of acrimony and infighting, or are thrown out the first opportunity the electorate get.
The sad thing about this process is that those decent, upstanding people with genuine concerns get involved with smaller parties only to be driven out by the obsessives and the loonies. Either that or they are driven out by the constant bickering and infighting of the obsessives and loonies. It is a sad fact of life, and there are examples throughout recent history, of groups on the left and the right coming together as a political movement only to end in acrimony and even hatred. When they do split amid acrimony the hatred displayed by previous allies to each other, far outweighs their dislike for their political opponents. This has been made even worse with the advent of the internet, now the whole world can witness what recently went on behind closed doors.
The latest example of this particularly unpleasant and nasty form of fratricide is evident with the demise of the Libertarian Party in this country. I was a member briefly and spent a year as Party Chairman. My membership lapsed last year as I grew increasingly disillusioned with the eccentricity, if not downright lunacy of certain elements within the party. This culminated in its implosion a few months ago and as a brand is now probably so tarnished that it will be years before a party called the Libertarian Party will ever stand a chance of gaining even limited credibility in the UK. It brings me no pleasure to be proved correct in my analysis last year.
The problem is that on the political fringe, and to an extent the mainstream, there is always an element who prefer to wash their dirty linen in public. In many cases this means they can grandstand and show how much more idealogically pure they are than others. In most cases it's a huge exercise in egotism and self-obsession, even if it is to the detriment of the cause they claim to support. The death of the Libertarian Party is recorded in gory detail all over the internet for all the world to see. I don't intend going into it here.
One thing I do know, is that those working hard behind the scenes to resurrect the Libertarian Party, and I wish them well but fear they are doomed to failure, are the ones you will not see bickering and spitting venom on internet forums and blogs. Those who do that tend to be the obsessive destructive types I have mentioned before, who seem to be driven by hatred and vindictiveness. In every registered political party in the UK there are mechanisms for dealing with those who do wrong without very publicly wrecking a party. But it's often easier, and better for attracting fame/notoriety/higher blog readership, to do it the tabloid way.
And let's face it, those on the lunatic fringe get a real buzz from being the centre of attention, regardless of the effect on the cause they claim to espouse.
The work of the establishment done, yet again!