One thing that the political class in the west has not yet figured out is that voters no longer vote for a major political party. They simply vote against whoever happens to be in power. Voters are not motivated by enthusiasm for the party they vote for but by anger (in fact rage rather than mere anger) with the party they are voting against.
This is the pattern we’ve seen in recent Australian elections. The voters have not been expressing any great love for the LNP Coalition but they have been expressing a profound disgust and hatred for the incumbent Labor governments and for the Gillard Federal Labor government.
This is also what we’ve seen in the recent local government elections in Britain. If Ed Milliband thinks the result was a ringing endorsement of New Labor he’s living in a fantasy world. The result is simply a reflection of the electorate’s intense dislike of the New Tories (who are almost indistiguishable these days from New Labor). The defeat of Ken Livingstone in London does not indicate that people love Boris Johnson. It merely shows that if you put up a sufficiently bad candidate (and it would be hard to find a worse candidate than Red Ken) you can still lose even if the nationwide trend is on your side.
Similarly if Mitt Romney wins the US election (which seems unlikely but just barely possible) it will not be a sign that Romney has captured the imagination of the electors but a sign of the extent to which Obama has angered Americans.
What Australia, Britain and the US have in common is the lack of a clear alternative to the major parties. The Liberal Democrats can clearly no longer be taken seriously in Britain and while the UKIP has improved significantly on past results it has not yet convinced most Britons that it’s a viable alternative. The strong showing by Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections and the success of the Freedom Party in the last Dutch general elections both serve to show that if a viable alternative does present itself then a significant number of voters will abandon their allegiance to the major parties. In fact a larger and larger proportion voters no longer have any true political allegiance – they simply choose the lesser of two evils.
It is clear that there is an opportunity in Britain, the US and Australia for a true conservative party should one ever arise.