The last ten months have seen a distinctive shift in the world of politics.
Since the Conservatives secured a surprising victory in the general election, both the UK and the US are experiencing a trend towards more extreme and ideologically distinct political views. Anyone doubting this need only look at last night’s results in New Hampshire where Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders stormed to victory.
The left keeps moving left and the right, in the States if not in Britain, keeps moving right.
In some ways Labour’s reaction to election defeat has been surprising – especially when taking into account a feeling in some quarters that Miliband was not centrist enough to attract votes (former cabinet minister Lord Mandelson recently lambasted Miliband’s “insipid gesture politics”) – but what this is clearly demonstrating is fatigue with the establishment.
A wave of ideological support from new, young voters was responsible for the momentum that carried Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership. Young people will always feel a greater affinity with liberalism and the current atmosphere on University campuses is intensifying this sentiment. Young men and women certainly don’t fall foul of the old adage of having ‘no heart’ in Britain right now.
But as Corbyn has ridden the crest of the student wave, the right-wing has responded.
Dissenting voices to Europe’s immigration policy in the face of the migrant crisis have been rising to a crescendo and a distinctive political divide is emerging.
The media reaction to the Cologne attacks was timid and confused, and it will be fascinating to see whether what seems to be more isolationist feeling from some conservative quarters manifests itself in strong Brexit support.
The exposure that groups like Pegida and individuals like Marine le Pen are experiencing suggests the far-right is on the rise across Europe.
The effect of social media in this charged environment cannot be overlooked. In an inter-connected world one’s ideals are constantly on trial. People not only resent the notion of being wrong but in the face of dissent there is a tendency to insulate oneself with like-minded people.
In such a divided environment it is hard to see the two sides finding much common ground.
Where previously there has been so little to choose between Democrat and Republican or Conservative and Labour, the gap is now widening.
In the US this is manifesting itself in support for the regressive, militaristic views of Trump and Cruz against the ultra-progressive, welfare-oriented Bernie Sanders.
Whether these candidates win the nominations for their respective parties is, at this stage, immaterial. The sheer levels of vocal support they are attracting is demonstrative of the fact that people want change and they want an alternative, discernible narrative to follow.
Hillary Clinton is still expected to see off Sanders but the contempt which she is attracting as an “establishment” candidate is surprising. This feeling isn’t contained to Clinton, Marco Rubio has come in for fierce recent criticism and has been comically labelled ‘MarcoBot’ on social media for his lack of charisma.
Last night’s New Hampshire results sent a very clear message that Trump and Sanders are not going anywhere.
The age of deflecting the concerns of voters, from all manner of backgrounds, is on the wane.
Information is available and every single person now has an opinion, often a very loud one projected twitter or Facebook.
To dismiss this as a flash in the pan is naïve. As a recent graduate, the firmly right-wing UKIP are maligned by almost everyone I know (only 8% of people aged 18-24 voted UKIP according to an Ipsos Mori poll from August 2015), yet they clearly spoke to a fair chunk of voters, even if this didn’t translate to gaining seats. Likewise, in the aftermath of the election we saw the rise of Corbyn, who is the antithesis of Nigel Farage in his worldview and policies.
Now we have Trump and Cruz preaching the need for a wall on the America-Mexico border while Sanders seeks to implement an all-encompassing welfare scheme.
Each side decries the other as insane but the polling and the results don’t lie – there is support for the ideas these nominees are propagating.
The gap is widening and the world of politics is more explosive, dangerous and engaging than it has been for some time.
by Peter Jackson Eastwood, interning in Strategic & Corporate Communications
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If you would like to read more about progressive politics, why not check out what Tim Snowball, Head of Political Strategy, has to say about the UK's rapidly shifting landscape.