The disruption of two-party politics has led to calls of defectors to ‘come home’ and once again join the core vote of the main parties. It was a mistake during the last election when the party assumed that the growing number of Liberal Democrat voters were disaffected Labour voters, an error enforced by the media.
In fact, Labour voters simply weren’t turning up to the ballot box; Nick Clegg through the debates had managed to tap into the apathy directed at Westminster and turn it into electoral success.
Since then we have seen the Green Party, UKIP and the SNP grow in stature. The Lib Dems on the other hand, are suffering for becoming the demagogues that took a seat of power. These parties are growing to a certain extent at the expense of the major parties but it is arrogant to assume that at some stage, when all protest votes are cast, these voters will return into the Labour or Tory fray.
Take UKIP for example. Guardian journalist and author Owen Jones made an excellent point on the BBC when he pointed out that not all of them are anti-EU, Thatcherite bigots. UKIP have struck a chord with some voters that are tired of austerity and grow concerned about cuts to essential public services.
In some communities where UKIP are doing well unemployment is more prevalent than immigration. Whilst it is Conservative politicians that may be looking to UKIP as an alternative voice on the right, disaffected voters from across the spectrum view the party and its leader as a plain-spoken challenge to the Westminster elite.
The same can be said of the SNP north of the border. The Independence vote may have galvanised those of a Nationalistic persuasion and of course Salmond and Surgeon have talked up the opportunities for another referendum at various stages since September. However, it was only seven months ago that the Scottish public rejected that central aim of the SNP and it is their anti-austerity and pro-public services approach that has become increasingly popular with Scottish voters.
From across the social spectrum, voters that are against the consensus of rampant austerity are looking for alternatives and there are plenty of them. The Green Party have been given increased exposure during this election and it is clear that they were not fully prepared for it either in the leadership or throughout the core of the party.
Their message against the cuts has not had the same clarity and aggression as the TUSCs campaign or that of UK Uncut or the People’s Assembly. Left Unity, still in their infancy, are nowhere near ready contesting a national campaign and as such have not produced a campaign with any real momentum.
The major difference then between Scotland and the rest of Britain is that north of the border, Labour and the Lib Dems are challenged in Scotland by one coherent anti-establishment force. Meanwhile, the protest against austerity in the rest of the UK lacks clarity and has consequentially seen a disunited left.
Established UK left-wing parties have failed to make any ground electorally since the crisis in capitalism that should have been their starting bell. Since then, growing movements from the left have failed to comprehensively take hold of a strong electoral and membership base. In addition to these parties, there are still those in the Labour Party that dream of better days of renationalisation and more rigorous fiscal regulation.
After the seven-way leadership debate there was clearly greater pressure from the Labour grassroots for Labour to adopt the popular anti-cuts message that Nicola Sturgeon had adopted. A bold and clear vision of investment in public services by increasing spending sensibly, partnered with Miliband’s policies of a higher minimum wage, the bedroom tax and zero hour contracts being abolished and regulation of energy markets would galvanise his own support base and grab the attention of some floating voters.
Voters have made clear what they want and that is clear in polls and on the doorstep. It is time to stop pandering to big business and the banking sector and provide a bold program of investment in public services that reduces the cost of living and raises living standards for Britain.