Later today, Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, will face a vote of confidence in his leadership that he’s widely expected not to survive. (For those of you looking for blogged coverage during the day, I recommend British Politics, Anthony Wells, Iain Murray and our own Matthew Turner. We’re yet to have a blogging Conservative MP, but there’s some interesting perspectives from inside Westminster from the MPs Tom Watson and Richard Allan.)
In the short term, this election is unlikely to have much of an effect on the rest of Europe – the Conservatives’ policy towards EU matters is unlikely to change greatly whoever becomes the leader (the Europhile Ken Clarke is unlikely to run, let alone win after his two previous defeats) – but the plight of the Conservative Party does mirror that of the other parties, both left and right, who dominated European politics in the 80s and 90s. Many parties had extended periods in office, but were then swept out in the mid to late 90s, often in landslide elections, and many continue to find it hard to mount effective opposition today – the obvious examples are the French Socialists and various Italian parties, though Spain’s PSOE and Germany’s Free Democrats (if not the CDU/CSU) also fit the pattern.
There has been discussion in Britain of the possibility of a ‘realignment’ of British politics with the currently third placed Liberal Democrats (full disclosure: the party I belong to) passing the Conservatives to become the Opposition. While many Conservatives dismiss this as an unlikely scenario, there are precedents from Europe (and, of course, Canada) of seemingly dominant parties collapsing in a short time. Realignment is occurring in many European countries – there would be a certain irony if the process in Britain occurs because of the actions of the most Eurosceptic of the major parties.