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  • You disrupted the leadership campaign.

  • You're disrupting the mayoral campaign.

  • You should be the next prime minister.

  • You're very sweet.

  • They've left the centre.

  • The parties have been captured.

  • They're not coming back.

  • How can two parties possibly do justice

  • to what modern Britain is?

  • That sort of sense of people wanting a disruption

  • is palpable, I think.

  • I've seen outsiders go up in flames

  • because they haven't had a clue how

  • the political system and politics actually work.

  • As an entrepreneur, when I started out

  • I got nothing but nice things happen to me.

  • Politics is completely different.

  • I can't say anything nice about it.

  • It is literally a viper's nest.

  • Political disruptors are tempting voters

  • away from the UK's two big main parties.

  • Competition is fierce with would-be radical options

  • on the nationalist right and even on the centre ground.

  • Britain's politics is being shaken up.

  • And the result of December's general election

  • has never been so uncertain.

  • The 2016 Brexit vote exploded the usual left-right alignment.

  • There are now at least four parties battling it out.

  • One of the insurgents, the Brexit party,

  • is led by Nigel Farage, whose lifelong dream for the UK

  • to quit the EU may be about to come true.

  • There will be no Brexit without the Brexit party.

  • Of that, I'm certain.

  • Brexit's thrown it all up in the air because that

  • went beyond left and right.

  • And the political parties haven't

  • known how to react to a major political decision that

  • didn't fall under party lines.

  • The other challengers want to stop Brexit.

  • But they also hope to capitalise on the upheaval.

  • Some form of tumult was probably inevitable in British politics

  • because whenever you go through big societal change,

  • you see tumult.

  • Professor Jane Green, of the British Election Study,

  • maps and measures the UK's changing voting patterns.

  • We went to Oxford asked how Britain went from this to this?

  • From the 1960s through to today we see more people

  • switching their vote between general elections over time.

  • So a much more fluid volatile picture.

  • So does this volatility mean that it's

  • kind of fertile territory?

  • That there are opportunities there

  • for the political disruptors?

  • You've got a very available electorate.

  • You've got opportunities for the political parties.

  • What you've also got is loads of uncertainty.

  • You can see there's a disruption going on,

  • and we don't know where it's going to land.

  • Claire Fox, a Libertarian from the left was elected as an MEP

  • for the Brexit party earlier this year as voters deserted

  • both Labour and the Tories.

  • Of course, change is always unpredictable, isn't it?

  • Makes it scary.

  • So is democracy.

  • But to argue against disruption on the basis

  • of 'things worked' completely misunderstands that for many

  • people, they didn't.

  • So we've talked a bit about things being more up for grabs.

  • Yeah.

  • I'm going to try and ask you to explain

  • where the voters might be.

  • So you think about one dimension of politics from left to right.

  • And within that kind of left-right,

  • bread and butter economic kind of way of seeing the world,

  • lots of people have left of centre views.

  • Lots people have right of centre views,

  • but the majority of people would be in the middle.

  • And therefore, it makes politics very much about that kind

  • of centre ground, about competing for the majority

  • of voters.

  • Britain has always been about understatement, compromise,

  • pragmatism.

  • And I think that's where the energy is.

  • I think it resonates deeply.

  • Rory Stewart is leaving parliament.

  • He's left the Conservative party.

  • He wants to reinvent moderate politics

  • by standing as an independent candidate for London mayor.

  • I think actually the UK's traditions

  • are much more consensual, much more designed

  • for centre-ground politics than almost anywhere in the world.

  • That dimension is still very important to voter choice now.

  • But of course, we've all started seeing the world predominately

  • through the lens of Brexit.

  • And Brexit isn't about bread and butter left-right issues

  • on the whole, it's about this different dimension

  • that cross cuts the left-right dimension.

  • It's divided the party, and it's divided the voters.

  • A lot of people who thought of themselves at centre ground

  • in the old politics, in the new politics are far from centre

  • ground.

  • Chuka Umunna walked out of Labour earlier this year,

  • attempted to start a new anti-Brexit centre party,

  • Change UK, but is now trying to redefine opposition politics

  • from within the pro-European Liberal Democrats.

  • Those guys are no longer centre ground.

  • They are firmly on the liberal, internationalist, open,

  • anti-authoritarian side of the new dichotomy.

  • So when people say to me I want a return to good centre ground

  • policies, I'm kind of like, but you're no longer centre ground.

  • You are actually firmly in one camp.

  • Political scientists like you are

  • used to thinking about voters in this rather more

  • complicated way.

  • In the past, we think about it in terms

  • of people that had more socially conservative views and more

  • socially liberal views.

  • But also we're now thinking much more

  • about people that have anti-immigration views and also

  • pro-immigration views and also anti-European or

  • Brexit-supporting, Leave-voting views or more pro-European,

  • Remain-supporting views.

  • And so we have the impression that politics

  • has become much more polarised.

  • Both the Brexit party and the radical Remainers

  • are betting that politics is now about values.

  • There's different fault lines, aren't there?

  • So what's happened is rather than saying the big decision

  • in British politics today is whether we nationalise

  • the railways it's actually our attitude

  • to popular sovereignty.

  • So you asked me the question, where is the space?

  • Yeah, where's the opportunity?

  • So on the one hand, we talked about kind of important.

  • So if this issue becomes less important,

  • then we might worry about left-right again.

  • But what if this issue, dimension,

  • doesn't become less important?

  • But at the current time, it feels

  • and looks in terms of the evidence

  • that people are pretty divided.

  • If you look at some of the people who've

  • been running our country, some of the decisions we've

  • made in the last decade or so, you

  • go, how is such a brilliant country in this mess?

  • Simon Franks, once a committed Labour party backer,

  • is dismayed by this polarisation.

  • He's been spending time and money trying to use his

  • start-up skills to shake up centre ground politics.

  • The mission was to scope out initially,

  • is it possible to create a new political party that could

  • win in one electoral cycle?

  • Can you, in politics, do something that kind of maps

  • entrepreneurialism onto party politics?

  • Yes, you can but, not in the centre.

  • If you're on the wings of British politics,

  • or in fact, any politics, and you have a cause,

  • you can mobilise people incredibly quickly

  • to bring about a change because people

  • are so desperate for that change or believe

  • so strongly in that cause.

  • In the centre it's much harder to do because, by definition,

  • you should be more balanced, more reasonable.

  • You understand that no one issue is

  • going to make our country completely better or completely

  • worse.

  • Josef Lentsch believes in the power of the middle.

  • This Austrian academic helped start a successful new party

  • and has written a book on how to make it work.

  • It's bloody hard.

  • It's bloody hard for politicians.

  • These days, the political itch to be scratched

  • is that many people feel not represented anymore.

  • And too many of them then decide to vote

  • for populists and nationalists.

  • But I think many of them would actually

  • like to have a choice to vote for something

  • different and constructive.

  • The primary reason why Change UK didn't succeed in the way

  • that we would have liked it to is, as you said,

  • I'm not sure people were looking for disruption in as much

  • as they were looking for their politics

  • to be properly represented.

  • But they weren't necessarily precious about the vehicle

  • through which you do that.

  • And to try and create something new

  • in a non-presidential system is nigh on impossible.

  • In a sense you, can't just compete on one dimension.

  • People want to know where you stand.

  • So if you're competing on this dimension,

  • but you're divided on this dimension

  • because you've got parties from the left,

  • parties from the right, then essentially, OK fine.

  • So you've got this bit sorted out.

  • But are you over here on the left?

  • Or are you here on the right in terms of

  • where your voters are likely to be?

  • I think the most important thing is if you want to build

  • a centrist alternative, that you're actually early on are

  • starting to talk to the voters and start to interlink what I

  • call, 'islands of discontent.'

  • Most political start-ups will fail.

  • I think that's not a problem.

  • I think actually many, many need to try for some of them

  • to succeed.

  • Once you've broken the habits of a lifetime -

  • at the European election, obviously everything got thrown

  • in the air - then you're not quite that,

  • we always vote Labour in our family.

  • We always vote Tory in our family.

  • Anything can happen.

  • It's like when MPs rebel against a whip, right?

  • Once they get the taste for it, it becomes possible again.

  • Even those people who are saying: let's get Brexit done,

  • their argument is, let's get Brexit done

  • so we can go back to normal.

  • And I think they underestimate the appetite for a much more

  • fundamental shift.

  • Nothing's ever going to go back, ever.

  • The problem is that the government of the centre has

  • always seemed terribly sort of bureaucratic and inert.

  • It doesn't really seem to listen.

  • It doesn't seem to engage, which gives people

  • the idea that maybe there's a silver bullet,

  • maybe there's some fantastic thing.

  • And it's some character.

  • An ideology.

  • Yeah, an ideology.

  • Or a person.

  • Or a person.

  • Like a hand grenade you can chuck at the system,

  • and the whole thing's going to blow up.

  • And suddenly, it's all going to be much better.

  • So there's no messiah coming.

  • No, there can't be a messiah.

  • I mean, I think I'm also...

  • Not you.

  • No, definitely not me.

  • We've had conspicuous examples of success

  • on both the left and the right.

  • I'm thinking of Nigel Farage on one side,

  • probably Labour's Momentum on the other.

  • But there's this whole space in the centre with lots

  • of plotting, lots of activity.

  • But it's really hard to make something happen.

  • It's a much easier message.

  • So Nigel Farage, who I think is a brilliant communicator

  • and I don't have this disregard for him

  • as so many people seem to have.

  • I think he speaks for a large community

  • of our country about issues that no one else will talk to.

  • I think the same on the left.

  • Jeremy Corbyn gets on the stage and says,

  • capitalists are bad people.

  • The reason why your life isn't as good as you'd like it

  • is because of that bunch over there.