Last Sunday, the first round of the French Presidential Election, 2017, took place and the two candidates who made it into the second round are Far right leader Marine Le Pen, and the party-less centrist firebrand, Emmanuel Macron. Neither of the two candidates from the traditional two centre-left and centre-right parties made it to the second round. In fact, the Socialist party only got 6.36% percent of the vote, despite the incumbent being of that party.
The way I see this election, is as nothing short of a sea change in Western politics. Or, rather, this election is the sign that such a change has happened. No longer is the game a match between socialism and capitalism. No longer is the main debate about whether or not workers should seize the means of production. It is instead between ultra-nationalism and internationalism, cosmopolitanism vs parochialism. Although the French election is reflective of this, it is a change which has not merely happened in France. In the UK, the same debate divides the nation; whether you are pro-Brexit or pro-EU - whether you want the United Kingdom to cooperate with other nations in an organisation where we are equal partners, or whether you believe that we are just too good for any of that. In the United States too, this change has come in the form of Donald Trump.
The Elephant in the Room
Here in the UK, the issue which divides the country is of course, Brexit, and everything associated with it - immigration, our place in the world, and generally how we view things foreign, whether that be people or institutions. But unlike in France, that is not reflected by whose in parliament. In France, the two candidates who have made it into the second round are, 1) the most eurosceptic of the candidates (Le Pen), and 2) the most pro-European of the candidates (Macron). By the same token, the two largest parties in the UK's parliamentary system ought to be UKIP and the Lib Dems, for they were the parties who epitomized each side of the referendum campaign the most. Yet the two largest parties in Westminster are, the Conservatives and Labour, still, as if the debate is still between capitalism and socialism. In the referendum campaign itself, the former was neutral while the labour party only appeared luke warm in its support of remain. Our party political system, or in particular, the makeup of parliament, has not kept up with the debate outside.
It's not just because we haven't had an election for two years. Two years is not very long, and bare in mind that UKIP had actually won the most votes in the European elections back in 2014. No, its because of our electoral system, which favors traditional parties over any new ones. A key lesson from the French presidential election therefore, is just how much our First past the post system is preventing the makeup of parliament from taking its natural, and most representative, course.
Now I'm not saying that we ought not to have a socialist party, for example. What I am saying however, is that the size of political parties in parliament, and on the political stage generally, should be somewhat reflective of the percentage of people who actually believe what they stand for. By all means, have a socialist party, just like we have a Green party, for example - I am in favour of a pluralistic multi-party system. But the key to having a multi-party system that no party should be too big for its own ideology. If for example, more voters believe in liberalism than believe in socialism, then it makes sense that the liberal party should be bigger and more influential than the socialist party.