What next for the Republican Party?

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Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. 

The GOP has been totally split by this election, failure to reconcile its warring factions could result in its demise.

 

The campaign for the Republican nominee for President began in earnest on 23 March 2015, when Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced that he would be seeking the Republican nomination for President. One by one, other high-profile Republicans began to announce that they too would seek the nomination, including the likes of Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, and Lindsey Graham. In total, seventeen major candidates campaigned for the nomination, making it the largest single field in United States Presidential primary history.

 

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The campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination featured seventeen major candidates, the most in Presidential primary history. 

 

Of course the ultimate winner of this process, and the person who I have deliberately chosen to refrain from mentioning just yet, was businessman and reality-television star Donald J. Trump.

When Trump announced his campaign for the Republican nomination with a press conference at Trump Tower, New York on 16 June 2015, few foresaw his victory, and even fewer foresaw the impact that Donald Trump would have on the wider Republican Party.

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Donald Trump announces his run for the Presidency at Trump Tower, New York City on 16 June 2015. 

 

The nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee highlighted a huge fissure in the Republican Party between much of the party elite (Senators, Congressmen and women, and Governors) and the Republican base. Time after time, comments by Donald Trump were disavowed by senior Republicans, but party members kept on voting for him. There was seemingly nothing that those in Washington D.C. could do to stop the Trump Train, with establishment candidates like Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich unable to conjure any answer at all to the Trump surge.

 

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The likes of Marco Rubio, Jeb! Bush, and John Kasich had no answer to Trump’s popularity with the Republican base.

 

This means that we have an election coming up in November where the candidate at the top of the ticket (Trump) is running on a hugely different platform to many of the Republicans lower down the ticket, who are running for seats in Congress, or on State Legislatures. It seems clear that the Republican Party is hugely divided, which isn’t going to help when it comes to competing in subsequent elections.

Now, all ostensibly ‘big-tent’ parties face internal divisions, and it isn’t this which is the problem. Divisions can exist within parties, as long as these divisions are reconciled to the extent that the party avoids a full blown civil war. We have seen this in the United Kingdom with the takeover of the Labour Party by Jeremy Corbyn, causing a civil war between his faction and the so-called ‘Blairites’. Meanwhile, the governing Conservative Party are able to continue increasing their support, despite huge divisions of their own, simply because they prioritise power ahead of internal squabbles. The same is often true in the United States. The Democratic Primary Campaign showed that the Democrats also faced significant internal divisions, with the left-wing Bernie Sanders gaining huge support in his attempt at beating Hillary Clinton to the nomination. However, once Clinton won the nomination, the Democrats put much of this squabbling behind them because they recognised that winning the Presidency was more important than an ideologically pure political party.

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Bernie Sanders gained a lot of support in his campaign for the Democratic nomination, but then offered strong support to Hillary Clinton following her win. 

 

The Republicans have manifestly failed to do this, and the Trump campaign can count on one hand the number of senior GOP lawmakers who are actively campaigning for him around the country. This is for a good reason, Trump has done absolutely nothing to gain the support of the party elite, and has instead chosen to shun them at every available opportunity by regularly making disparaging remarks about people like Jeb! Bush, John McCain, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan. On the Democratic side, the Clinton campaign recognised the need to reach out to Bernie Sanders and those who supported him during the primaries, with the result being that Sanders has campaigned around the country on her behalf, leading to a much more comfortable election campaign. Trump on the other hand failed to do this, meaning that throughout the campaign he has been fighting on two frontiers: against the Democrats, and against the Republican Party elite. Given this situation, it is perhaps a miracle that he remains somewhat in contention for the Presidency at this late stage.

This being said, it remains unlikely that Donald Trump will win the Presidency next week. This leaves the Republican Party at a crossroads, where failure to choose the right path could easily result in the demise of the Grand Old Party — at least in the sense of the party being unable to compete for the Presidency.

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Could George W. Bush be the last Republican President?

 

In the Republican Party, this crossroads comprises two very distinct factions. One the one side, you have the moderates, the wing of the party which has dominated the Republican Party throughout most of its existence, particularly at the Presidential level. On the other side, you have what we’ll call the ‘Trumpists’, a movement which has effectively morphed out of the Tea Party movement which has come to the forefront of the Republican Party within the last ten years.

Assuming that Trump loses on 8 November, there are many from the moderate wing of the party who will feel that the Trump experiment has come to an end, and that they will be able to return to something resembling their prior more moderate ideology. However, this will be far easier said than done. The rhetoric emanating from Trump over the course of the campaign is that the election, and indeed the whole political system, is rigged. Therefore, Trump supporters are being primed to not accept the result of next week’s election. If this is the case, and Trump’s most keen supporters refuse to accept the result in significant numbers, then rebuilding the Republican Party of old could prove almost impossible.

The difficulties that the Republican Party face today have been a long time coming, with the grounds for these difficulties perhaps being set in 1980 when the Republicans returned to presidential power with Ronald Reagan.

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Ronald Reagan won the 1980 Presidential Election with a hugely different electoral coalition to the one which traditionally supported Republican Presidential candidates. 

 

This was done with an almost completely different electoral coalition than that which usually supported the Republicans, with Reagan’s supporters encompassing many evangelical Christians and white working-class ex-Democrats. These new party members were in sharp contrast to the existing pro-business conservatives who made up the Republican Party. More recently, these divisions have been manifested in the rise of the Tea Party movement, which mostly occurred during the 2010 midterms, although it could be said that the 2008 selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running-mate also helped to usher the Tea Party onto the national stage.

US Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain introduces his vice presidential running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at a campaign event in Dayton, Ohio
The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s 2008 running-mate helped to usher the Tea Party onto the national stage in the 2010 midterms. 

 

With the emergence of the Tea Party, the moderate wing of the GOP effectively lost control of the primary process. This has led to many Tea Party backed candidates winning Republican primaries and then getting trounced by their Democratic opponents in Congressional races (remember Christine O’Donnell?), although this being said there have also been many Tea Party backed candidates who have made it into Congress due to their standing in safe Republican seats. One of the most notable of these was Tea Party candidate Dave Brat who challenged then Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for his Congressional seat in Virginia in a primary prior to the 2014 midterms. In a huge upset, Brat defeated Cantor 55.5%-44.5%, and with this Cantor became the first ever House Majority Leader to lose his seat in a primary challenge.

 

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Tea Party backed candidate Dave Brat was able to defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014. 

 

The Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, particularly in terms of their House of Representatives group, caused huge problems for the moderate party elite. It was effectively this that caused the resignation of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, with the Tea Party wing kicking up a huge fuss if Boehner so much as considered compromise with President Obama and the Democrats. This led to the Republican Party being forced to shift further to the right of the ideological spectrum in order to appease the Tea Party faction, and by extension the grassroots of the party. This has culminated in the election of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President, and what is effectively an existential crisis for the Republican Party.

 

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The Tea Party caused huge problems for John Boehner during his time as Speaker of the House. 

 

Given that this Tea Party wing of the party is totally unelectable on the national stage then the answer would seem pretty straightforward. If asked the question: which way should the Republican Party go? then you would expect any rational person to suggest that they go the way of the moderates, i.e. those who have some chance of winning the Presidency. However, it is not that simple. Those who vote in the Republican primaries are the party grassroots, and as I said previously this group are on a completely different wavelength ideologically to those in the moderate wing of the party. It is these in the party grassroots who are relied upon to campaign when it comes around to elections, and so to a certain extent it is very important to be able to keep them onside. In addition, the problem is further complicated by the Conservative ideologues who populate the likes of Fox News, Breitbart, and Conservative talk radio. It is these individuals who effectively control much of the modern Republican Party and to whom Republican politicians are forced to pander if they wish to appeal to their grassroots supporters, indeed the Chief Executive of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign is Stephen Bannon who is on leave from Breitbart for the duration of the campaign. The likes of Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, and radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Laura Ingraham have been particularly keen backers of Trump, and it is these people who set the tone in the modern Republican Party.

 

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Fox News presenter Sean Hannity has been a particularly keen supporter of Donald Trump. 

 

This group could soon include Trump himself, if he launches ‘Trump TV’. It has been suggested that his son-in-law and de-facto campaign manager, Jared Kushner, has been attempting to drum up support for this, although naturally when asked Kushner denied it. In any case, the Conservative media will go a long way to deciding which way the Republican Party goes. It seems extremely unlikely that following a Donald Trump loss, they will simply roll over and allow the moderates to take back the party. If anything, it is more likely for the Tea Party wing of the GOP to blame to moderates, and suggest that the party needs to shift even further right.

In short, there seems little chance that the two factions of the Republican Party will reconcile. What this means, is that they could instead split.

The possibility of a split in the party has been suggested by several high-profile moderate Republicans, perhaps most notably by Steve Schmidt who was a key advisor on George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, and who managed John McCain’s 2008 campaign for the Presidency. In an interview with Vox, Schmidt said:

I think the Republican Party has an outstanding chance of fracturing. There will be the alt-right party; then there will be a center-right conservative party that has an opportunity to reach out, repair damage, and rebuild the brand over time. America, ideologically right now, is a centrist country — it used to be a center-right country — but it’s by no means a Bernie Sanders country. Not even close. The market will demand a center-right party.

There seems little doubt that a split like this would indeed be possible. If someone with no knowledge of American politics were to compare the views espoused by Donald Trump during his Presidential campaign with the views of some moderate Republicans, perhaps Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, then it would be unlikely that they’d guess that Trump was technically part of the same party as Flake and Kirk. This means that the landscape is ripe for a split, and it seems unlikely that either of the two factions would be particularly adverse to this outcome. Indeed, the aforementioned Flake has himself said that if the Republican Party doesn’t undergo a dramatic shift in policy and tone then they will consign themselves to “political oblivion”. Given that the grassroots supporters of the Republican Party won’t tolerate this kind of policy change, a split seems the only option.

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Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has suggested that the Republican Party need to undergo a dramatic policy shift if they are to remain electorally viable on the national stage. 

 

However, the problem with a split is that it would be highly likely that it would end the possibility of a Republican being elected as President for a generation. The first-past-the-post electoral college system for electing the US President means that third-parties have almost no chance at all of gaining electoral votes. The effect of the Republican Party splitting would be that their vote would also be split, making a Republican President an impossibility.

A split would likely consign the Republican Party (and any new party) to the electoral dustbin. If the Republican Party is serious about winning the Presidency then it needs to unite and reconcile the more conservative wing of the party with the moderate wing. Because running on a moderate platform is the only way to win the Presidency. This particularly the case in modern America where demographic changes mean that the electoral map is skewed more and more in favour of the Democratic Party. The likes of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado tend to be touted as swing states, however statistically it looks as though it would be fair to classify these states as safe Democratic. Even Texas, once the bastion of Republican support, is turner bluer every year thanks to a rapidly increasing Hispanic population flexing its political muscles. These changes are making it more and more difficult for even a moderate Republican Party to win the Presidency, meaning that an ‘alt-right’/Tea Party Republican Party has absolutely no chance of national success.

The only hope for the Republican Party’s survival would be for the party to unite around a moderate candidate to take the party forward. This could be John Kasich, who it is rumoured is already preparing another bid for the Republican nomination in 2020.

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It has been rumoured that Ohio Governor John Kasich is already preparing another bid for the Presidency in 2020.

 

As the aforementioned Steve Schmidt has said: “there’s no question that Republicans — as an institution and what we’re led by — are unfit to run the country, or to govern the country.” And he’s absolutely right. For rational, moderate voters, the Democrats are the only option. For liberals like myself this is great at first glance, but history shows that a lack of credible political opposition isn’t good for anyone, and ultimately leads to inefficient government.

For the Republicans the task is simple, they must take a more moderate path and stop obsessing about settled social issues that don’t concern the wider electorate. Failure to appeal to the wider election will result in the demise of the party of Lincoln, which is still affectionately known as the Grand Old Party.

For democracy, this would be a sorry result.

 

Labour rebels shouldn’t fear the fate of the SDP.

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Could Corbyn’s re-election prompt a split?

On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn will be announced as having retained the leadership of the Labour Party. I strongly expect that he will have achieved a higher percentage of the vote than in 2015. This is little to do with Owen Smith, rather a reflection of the extent to which the membership of the party has changed since Corbyn’s election as leader.

Once Corbyn is announced as having retained the leadership, talk will invariably return to whether the party will reunite or whether it will split.

For many months, there have been suggestions that the moderates (or Blairites) in the Parliamentary Labour Party are planning to split off if Corbyn continues as leader. Many moderate Labour MPs have been vocal in their concerns about Labour’s electability under Corbyn, and it is clear that they want things to change.

However, up to now one thing that they have all been unequivocal about, is that they don’t wish to see the party split. Generally, when asked the standard question regarding the prospect of a split, Labour MPs have responded by citing the example of the Labour MPs who split from the party in 1981 and formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

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The ‘Gang of Four’ who formed the SDP. 

The SDP was founded by four senior Labour Party members known collectively as the ‘Gang of Four’: David Owen, Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, and Bill Rodgers. They were joined by twenty-eight other defecting MPs from the Labour Party, and one MP who defected from the Conservatives. However, despite their early success in attracting MPs, the SDP would struggle to retain them in general elections. In the 1983 General Election, the First-Past-The-Post system meant that just six SDP MPs were elected. It is clear today that this failure still haunts Labour MPs who might otherwise consider a split.

Writing in the i on Wednesday, Labour MP and former Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, suggested that in the event of a split, any new party would simply suffer the same fate as the SDP.

Twenty-eight MPs defected from Labour to the SDP back then but just 6 SDP MPs were elected in the 1983 election that followed. That split of the Left was a gift to the Right, which saw 18 years of Tory rule as the consequence. This is why I know of no Labour MP now who wants to repeat the same mistake and doom our country to the same fate.

From this, it would seem abundantly clear that Umunna believes that any split would be unsuccessful, and that this view is backed up by the evidence from 1981, as well as evidence that the First-Past-The-Post electoral system tends to discriminate against third-parties.

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Labour MP Chuka Umunna has suggested that a split would be unsuccessful. 

However, the political landscape is much changed since then. Nowadays, it would definitely be possible to make a success of a similar sort of split.

One of the main reasons for this is the advent of the internet, in particular social media, and its use in political campaigning.

The 24-hour news cycle which exists primarily as a result of the internet, means that any new political movement can gain instant traction all around the country, and indeed all around the world. Recently, we have seen abundant examples of how internet savvy campaigning has brought success to campaigns which experts dismissed as having little chance. Take the example of Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination for President. Trump recognised the power of social media and the internet in order to build his own political movement, and managed to build something which differed hugely from the campaigns being run by his opponents, most of whom were firmly part of the political establishment.

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Donald Trump’s success has been built around the savvy use of social media, and the ability to differentiate himself from the political establishment. 

Similarly, Labour rebels can take inspiration from inside their own party. Jeremy Corbyn’s unlikely rise to the leadership of the Labour Party was characterised by his use of social media to draw young people to his rallies and build a movement in support of his candidacy.

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Corbyn used social media to draw huge crowds to his rallies, and build a social movement from nothing. 

Overall, although it is still desirable to able to call upon a party machine of volunteers to roam the streets and knock on doors when campaigning, it is no longer the only way to gain support. Online advertising and fundraising can reach out to potential voters like never before.

Trump and Corbyn show the way to go. Both attracted the votes of people who wouldn’t normally be voting in their respective elections. Now Corbyn has as good as populated the membership of the Labour Party with these supporters gained during the first leadership campaign. Rebel MPs need to do a similar thing. There will be millions of available voters who want a credible alternative to the main parties, and it is these people who can be targeted when creating a new party. This targeting can be done in a way that wasn’t possible in 1981, and means that a split today could be significantly more successful than the SDP debacle.

Potential rebel MPs also tend to cite our First-Past-The-Post electoral system as cause for concern, by stating that it discriminates against third-parties, and that as such any new party would be doomed to failure. However, although FPTP has historically been difficult for third-parties, it doesn’t have to be. In the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party showed that it is possible for a third-party to win an election under FPTP. The Liberal Party began the campaign in third place in the polls with only 26% support, but when the campaign concluded, they had won 39.5% of the popular vote, which equated to a parliamentary majority. In Canada, The Liberal Party proved that it was possible for a third-party to win under FPTP if they were able to appeal beyond their usual base of support, whilst also campaigning on a platform distinctively different from other parties in the election. If a new party formed of rebel Labour MPs were able to follow the blueprint set by the successful Canadian Liberal Party, then they could be successful regardless of our electoral system.

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The success of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party provides a blueprint for success for a new third party. 
With the Conservative Party having shifted to the right under Theresa May and Labour having lurched to the left under Jeremy Corbyn, their is a large enough space in the political centre for a new party. With such a large gap in the centre, it would easy for a new party to campaign on a platform reasonably distinctive from the offering of the two main parties, and as such they could be successful regardless of FPTP.

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Theresa May has shifted the Conservative Party to the right, leaving a space in the centre. 

In any case, Labour MPs would have absolutely nothing to lose by splitting off and forming a new party. Although they may feel a great degree of loyalty to their current party, they certainly won’t feel the same degree of loyalty to Corbyn. As such, it is hard to see many of the moderate, centrist Labour MPs will be willing to pledge allegiance to a Labour Party run by Corbyn and John McDonnell. It increasingly sounds as though any Labour MPs who chooses not to support the leadership will be deselected at the next election, whilst many more could lose seats through a combination of the boundary review and Corbyn’s unpopular policies.

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It’s difficult to see moderate Labour MPs pledging allegiance to a party run by Corbyn and McDonnell, meaning many will be deselected. 
As a result, many of these Labour MPs could lose their seats anyway. Therefore, why not split off and try and save themselves, and their ideals, from extinction. With the political landscape in such a state of flux, there should be little to fear from splitting off. Rebel MPs should take the plunge and give it a go, because the way their party is heading it could be just about the last chance they get to ensure their values continue to be represented in the House of Commons.

Tim Farron potentially offers the best hope for centrist politics in the UK… if only anyone knew who he was…

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(Getty Images)

Since the result of the EU Referendum was revealed, David Cameron has resigned to be replaced by the more right-wing Theresa May, whilst Jeremy Corbyn has tightened his grip on the Labour Party and dragged it further to the left of the political spectrum. This has left a noticeable gap in the centre of UK politics, which has, in recent years at least, been the area political parties are forced to pitch from if they are to win elections.

Despite his party having been reduced to just eight MPs at the 2015 General Election, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has been outspoken about how he believes that his party can fill the vacuum that has opened up in the political centre. On the opening day of the Liberal Democrat conference on Saturday, Farron invited moderates from the Conservative Party and the Labour Party to defect to the Liberal Democrats and aid them in occupying the centre ground.

“Across the range of British politics we now see populists of the far left and the far right getting hold their parties. There are people who are liberals in the Labour party and people in the Conservative party who will be feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the direction of their party. My simple offer to those liberals in other parties is, do you know what, maybe it’s time to join a liberal party.” Tim Farron speaking on Saturday. 

Ultimately, Farron seems to believe that the vacuum opening up in the supposed centre of British politics is one which can easily be filled by the Liberal Democrats. His argument is that moderates from the Conservatives and Labour must both be displeased enough with the direction of their party that they would be interested in the opportunity to defect to a party of the centre.

But, after the Brexit vote, does the political centre remain the same? The result of the EU Referendum would suggest that perhaps it doesn’t, making Farron’s job rather difficult. Brexit was a vote totally against the political establishment (i.e. those who ordinarily make up the political centre), suggesting that the centre which Farron talks about is no more. But, it must be remembered that the referendum was fought in a totally different way to a normal general election, with debate being based more around emotive arguments on patriotism, sovereignty, and immigration than economic and fact-based arguments. One would expect that come the next general election, there will be at least some shift back to debate on an economic level, although at this early stage it is hard to say how much.

A recent report by the think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF), analysed where UK voters see themselves falling on the political spectrum, and where they see certain high-profile politicians on the political spectrum.

SMF began by asking respondents whether they identified as centrist, right, or left. The good news for Farron and the Liberal Democrats is that 45% of respondents placed themselves on the centre, compared to 25% on the left and 30% on the right. This suggests that their is a broad group of people with centrist views who Farron can pitch to.

What’s more, when asked where on the political spectrum they would place Farron, a majority of respondents answered that they would place him on the centre as well. This suggests that he is indeed in the perfect place to hoover up the voters who consider themselves centrist and have nowhere else to go.

However, these figures are complicated by several factors.

Firstly, although respondent’s identify as right, left, or centrist, many of them hold a much more convoluted set of political views. For example, over 60% of respondents said that they supported a ban on zero hour contracts, which would typically be said to be a left-wing policy, given that it was a centrepiece of Ed Miliband’s manifesto during the 2015 general election. However, there is also support of more than 60% for reducing immigration to a level below 100,000; which would typically be seen as a right-wing policy. Therefore, the measure of how the respondents identify politically isn’t a particularly useful one. Instead, SMF divided the respondents into eight different groups depending on their support for various policies. The two largest groups comprise around half the electorate, and are clearly on the right of the political spectrum. These are people who mostly voted for Brexit and support a significant reduction in immigration. As a result, there is no chance of them voting for Farron or the Liberal Democrats. Therefore, despite the vacuum in the political centre, it does not look as though there would be space for the Liberal Democrats to win a majority at a general election. Suggesting that Farron is wrong to suggest that the Lib Dems are capable of becoming the new party of the centre.

However, there are four groups in the centre of the political spectrum — both centre-right and centre-left. These are people who generally voted to Remain in the EU, and support Britain’s continued membership of the single market. Many of this group might ordinarily vote Conservative, yet they are slightly anxious about the direction their party is travelling. This centrist group also comprises a relatively large group of voters who would ordinarily vote Labour, however they feel that Jeremy Corbyn is too left-wing. These are the voters who are now up for grabs, and who Farron should be doing his utmost to court.

Given that most consider him the most centrist of the party leaders, he would seem to be in the ideal position to make inroads into this group. However, almost half of respondents said that they didn’t know enough about Farron to attempt to place him on the political spectrum. This has to change if he is to be successful.

Finally, as long as Britain retains a First-Past-The-Post electoral system, Farron and the Lib Dems will be severely hampered. To put it frankly, why vote for a party that has little chance of winning?

 Many of those in the political centre who would ordinarily vote Conservative or Labour are looking for a reason to split from their party, for a variety of reasons. However, this won’t happen without electoral reform. Therefore, the time is right for Farron to launch a new argument for reform of Britain’s electoral system.

Overall, Farron seemingly has the ability to occupy the centre-ground of British politics. However, his problem is that voters know so little about him. With the Lib Dems only having eight MPs, Farron doesn’t even get a weekly question in Prime Minister’s Questions, so it is hard to see how this lack of recognition is going to change any time soon.

If Farron is serious about occupy the centre then he must act soon to rapidly build his profile around the country, particularly in areas where there was strong support for Remain, and areas where support for Corbyn’s Labour and May’s Conservatives is ebbing.

Farron occupying the centre is certainly possible, but it is undoubtedly going to take a long, long time.

The problem with the boundary review.

Earlier this week the Boundary Commission released their proposals for a reduction in English parliamentary seats from 533 to 501 and Welsh parliamentary seats from 40 to 29, as part of a wider scheme to reduce the size of the House of Commons from 650 MPs to just 600.

The aims of this scheme are twofold. Firstly, the review aims to equalise the number of voters in each constituency in order to make the system more democratic, and secondly it aims to reduce the cost of politics by lessening the number of MPs. However, although attempting to increase the democracy of our parliamentary system makes perfect sense, the way the boundary review has attempted to achieve this leaves a lot to be desired.

The aim of equalising the number of voters in each constituency is an admirable one, and one which ostensibly should improve our parliamentary democracy.

Currently, there are a great deal of parliamentary seats with a greatly unequal electorate. For example, Wirral West has an electorate of just 54,232; in stark contrast to Manchester Central with its electorate of 87,339. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to try and equalise constituencies such as this in order for each voter to have the same democratic rights.

However, achieving this by reducing the number of MPs is not the way to go. There are already complaints from the public that MPs don’t spend enough time serving their constituents. For the most part this is because they simply don’t have the time, and tend to represent so many people that it is simply impossible for them to do all of the work requested of them. By reducing the number of MPs we are simply going to make this more difficult, and constituencies would be represented in Parliament to an even lesser degree. To reduce the number of MPs would be a grave error, particularly in a year when we have already lost 73 MEPs. In reality, if we want to equalise the number of voters in each constituency, then we should be increasing the number of MPs.

As well as this, the gerrymandering which has taken place in order to engineer constituencies of the same size means that we are left with constituencies made up of communities which bear little similarity to each other. Many of the new constituencies have been created by combining traditional Conservative and Labour seats. This surely means that whoever is elected in these seats will be representing a relatively small proportion of the seat’s population. What’s more, these new constituencies have been created using data that is almost a year out of date, excluding all those who registered to vote between December and June in advance of the EU Referendum, and the increase in political participation that this brought.

In addition, despite this reduction in the number of parliamentary seats there has been no mooted reduction in the number of Government Ministers. The main job of MPs is to scrutinise the work of the Government. The fact that the number of Ministers isn’t also being reduced means that the Executive will have an even greater presence in Parliament, therefore making the scrutiny of Government proposals considerably more difficult for MPs.

What’s more, the aim of increasing the democracy in our parliamentary system is an admirable one, and it would be hoped that voter turnout could be dramatically increased if people felt that the system was more democratic. However, if the government are so keen on increasing democracy then why won’t they entertain the idea of electoral reform, or reform of the House of Lords? If we are going to go ahead with one set of reforms to improve our democracy, then it would make sense to also check the democracy of other aspects of the system.

Since the boundary review was set up, 144 new peerages have been created. This means that the unelected House of Lords now dwarfs the House of Commons with 796 members. Last week Conservative MP Charles Walker, Chair of the House of Commons Procedures Committee said: “It seems perverse to reduce the number of elected representatives in this place while the Lords continues to gorge itself on new arrivals.” He is absolutely right. For an unelected chamber to be larger than our elected House of Commons seems absurd. Many members of the House of Lords do bring skills and experience to the table which are extremely useful for the scrutiny of Government legislation, however it has increasingly become full of the political allies of past Prime Ministers, who are given peerages as rewards for loyalty. This type of patronage should not be what the House of Lords is about. There does seem to be appetite from within the House of Lords for such reform, with many peers feeling the chamber has become too bloated. Lord Desai says as much in his letter to The Times today. Desai states that slimming down the Lords should be a priority, and that it is the House of Commons which hasn’t favoured reform rather than the Lords itself.

In addition, throughout this boundary review the Government have stated that one of their key aims is to make every vote count. We already know that this is unachievable under the First-Past-The-Post system, yet the Government do not seem inclined to consider electoral reform.

Overall, the idea of equalising constituencies is a good one. It is right that the vote of each UK citizen should be worth the same amount. However, doing it this way has been a mistake. Although the rationale for reducing the number of MPs is to save money, the actual saving will be just £66m over the course of a five-year Parliament. A drop in the ocean in terms of the budget. The significant loss of Parliamentary representation is far more important than this negligible saving. Whilst if we are examining our democracy and looking for improvements, why not further consider electoral reform or reform of the House of Lords? Changes such as this would make people value their right to vote much more, and would lead to a significant improvement of our Parliamentary democracy.