Blurred Lines

Why are MPs quitting the two main parties? The immediate causes are obvious: Brexit and anti-Semitism. But the formation of The Independent Group (TIG)may be part of something much more significant: the realignment of modern politics.

As historian Stephen Davies has been saying for years (but perhaps most succinctly here), changing interests, sentiments and power are leading to a new alignment. Currently the split in most developed countries is between social democrats and free market conservatives (or the US equivalent of liberals and conservatives) – in other words, the crude but important pro-market/anti-socialism vs. anti-market/pro-government divide between the Conservatives and Labour. According to Davies, the new alignment is between "globalism and cosmopolitanism on the one hand and nationalism and ethnic or cultural particularism on the other". 

A common criticism of TIG is that they don't agree on enough and haven't set out a clear set of policies. This might be missing the point – and not only because they aren't (yet) a Party. They don't need to agree on everything. Over the years, the Conservative Party, for example, has coalesced around issues such as economic liberalism, a strong national defence and a conservative social order. There are no strong logical reasons why people in favour of free markets and the defence of traditional family values should necessarily be in the same party (in some countries they aren't).

For as long as the primary dividing lines matter to them, party supporters' views align with others in their camp through herd effects, or they live with the tensions – perhaps most acutely in the numerous privately gay Conservative MPs speaking and voting publicly against legislation supporting LGBT rights (before the Party changed tack on these issues).

If Davies is correct, the new polarity will be between what is often awkwardly termed “openness” and “closedness”. The Labour and Conservative Parties may survive and change their views to become the parties of these movements, though they're both increasingly vying for the closedness side of the realignment. Hence TIG.

So which side should entrepreneurs be on? The Entrepreneurs Network doesn't back political horses, but we know that entrepreneurship flourishes when goods, capital and people are freest. When the dust settles, whoever most represents openness will be the political party for Britain's entrepreneurs.

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