Elections are won from the centre – not political extremes

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the House of Commons. - Credit: PA

Once today’s Scottish referendum is over, politicians from right across Britain will start concentrating straight away on next year’s general election.

One of the big changes of recent years is the growth of social media and the opportunity this gives to politicians and wannabe politicians to have their say on a variety of subjects.

This is, of course, in addition to the opportunities given to MPs to express their views in more traditional media.

Over the last few months I have been struck by the number of younger politicians who are tweeting/blogging/writing newspaper articles supporting what appears to be the extreme positions of the major parties.

Don’t they realise that when the general election comes around the battle will not be for voters at the extremes, it will be to attract voters in the middle?

Since the death of Tony Benn earlier this year there has been much wistful nostalgia looking back to the party’s “radical” stance of the 1980s – much of it from people who are too young to remember that this radical party was little more than a talking shop in terms of national politics.

Floating voters had no truck with a bunch of radicals who wanted to turn the country violently to the left and voted the Tories back into government for 18 years.

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It wasn’t a love of Margaret Thatcher among the general populace that saw the Tories returned four times – it was a fear of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock.

And it wasn’t Tony Benn, but the now-reviled Tony Blair who brought Labour back into power by appealing to voters in the centre. And his governments did introduce the minimum wage and invested in the NHS.

The Tories were plunged into the wilderness for 13 years, spending much time contemplating their European navels under Messrs Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard, before waking up to the fact that a moderate like David Cameron was more likely to win power than a radical like David Davis.

So those on the Tory right who think it is better to look for a deal with UKIP than renewing a coalition with the LibDems really should get a reality check.

The LibDems will be the ones to suffer next year, even if many of their high-profile MPs like Sir Bob Russell and Norman Lamb will survive because of their personal vote.

The problem for the party is, of course, that during the five years leading up to 2010 they had assiduously courted those on the left of Labour with their strong anti-Iraq war message, only to leap into coalition with the Tories (even though they really had no choice given the electoral arithmetic).

The LibDems might struggle – but the 2015 election will be won by the party best able to win over the votes in the centre.