I wonder if Peter Mair realised, by the time of his untimely death in 2011, the enormity of his contribution to political science with his identification of the cartel party?
Ths is a political party that has, in its own eyes, outgrown its traditional constituency – eg workers, landowners, reformers, etc – and now campaigns for as big a chunk of the general electorate’s vote as it can muster.
The concept of the cartel party was a crucial step in identifying modern politics in general as a cartel affair, with a number of parties cooperating to ensure that they, and only they, participate in the structures of power, regardless of which among them in particular ends up holding the reins of government after any given election.
So Douglas Carswell’s acceptance speech as UKIP’s first elected MP was an attention-getter:
Crony corporatism is not the free market. Cosy cartel politics is not meaningful democracy. Change is coming with the realising that things can be better. (My italics)
He’s perhaps right, however, that the day’s other by-election in Middleton, where a candidate in a safe Labour seat managed to defeat UKIP by less than a thousand votes, is just as more meaningful for a party that is often denigrated as “far-right”.
I would be surprised if the British political cartel of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties took this lying down.
And there appears to be a precedent for a party taking affairs into its own hands which I fear may be replicated across the cartel.
In the 2005 General Election, there were 3,963,000 postal votes cast – in an atmosphere where the industrial scale of postal vote fraud had just been revealed – which constituted 12.7% of all votes cast; compare this to the postal voting figures of 1,370,000 (4.9%) in 2001. Labour's majority over the Labour party in 2005, in terms of raw votes, was 789,500 - equal to a fifth of the postal votes cast.
I’m sure I don’t need to add that Gordon Brown signed us up to the Lisbon Treaty/EU Constitution on the 2005 mandate, but the point for our purposes is that if something as major as a General Election was rigged in the past, it can be in the future.
As we congratulate Douglas Carswell in Clacton and John Bickley in Middleton, we need to keep our eyes open like never before for sleight of hand and distraction emanating from the political cartel.
300 word theses
Douglas Carswell’s acceptance speech: 'Ukip must stand for all Britons' - Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, 10 October 2014
Resources for figures on 2001/2005 general elections:
Election Statistics: UK 1918-2007 - House of Commons Library, Research Paper 08/12, February 2008
2001 General Election Results, UK POlitical Info
2005 General Election Results, UK Political Info