There are many people who dislike (or worse) the three traditionally classed as main national political parties in mainland Britain, and the predictable outcome is that they are switching support to the smaller, minority parties or not voting at all next time. The other side of the latter coin is that previous non-voters are now considering supporting one or another of those smaller parties.
This is, in general terms, a healthy thing – and should also result in the Big Three sharpening-up their own acts, so is to be welcomed in that context. It is, therefore, disappointing that, even after many years of existence, none of them has knocked itself into a professional shape that has genuine credibility – though a relatively small proportion of the electorate will no doubt be misled nonetheless.
Let's look at the best known players alphabetically...
The British National Party (BNP) seems now to be a spent force; and in this case, this is almost certainly a Good Thing as most people would agree. They are still around, and make a little noise here and there, but hardly anyone ever hears anything from them nowadays. Attempts to de-toxify the party's public image have completely failed, despite considerable efforts over a number of years, and for all practical purposes they are now just about completely 'out of it'.
The Greens are still going nowhere; and even their only Member of Parliament looks to have a real battle on her hands to retain that seat at the next General Election (and those pundits who have published their opinions on this seem to concede the point). At council level their presence remains small overall, and it is thought by some is likely to fall, possibly even losing control of the odd council they currently run.
Again, they are not presenting a professional image, and are often (correctly!) seen as posturers and meddlers, more concerned with their ideology than being beneficial to society. Their posturing nature is frequently glaringly obvious. For example, earlier today they posted a photograph to social media of nineteen party activists (I don't know how many were actual candidates) in Bristol – all of then white ethnic Brits with zrto 'diversity', despite the party's claims and (for that matter) its policy demands in that respect. I'd post the image here, but I do not know of its copyright status – but it can be seen here. It's a typical Lefty 'do as I say, not what I do' stance in their policy...
The English Democrats were once a party for whom I had some regard and respect. After all, their basic point was and is essentially valid: when the other parts of the UK have their own devolved governments, at least in some (varying) parts of their governance, why shouldn't England have the same? Sadly, over the years, their position has become more extreme, to the point where the only matters on which they post tend to be about 'England' as the be-all and end-all.
Yes, they have some tick-box policies (probably knocked together in an evening at the pub', just for the sake of having something) but what proportion of their writings, in any forum, discusses any actual policy? Perhaps two percent, if I am being generous, probably less in reality. They are now true 'little Englanders' and are frankly embarrassing. It is small wonder that their former candidates have left the party wholesale – two became Conservtives within a year or so of each other, here in Medway alone, and a third (a former blogger) seems to have gone completely silent in recent years. They are another dead end.
The Socialist Workers Party could one day be a replacement for Labour, and the Communist Union leaders are well aware of this. To date, they have been bubbling away below most people's perceptions – but if the Unions decide to switch their financial and political support to the SWP that could change in a big way. For now, though, they are doing little regarding cultivating a public image, so need just a weather eye kept on them until and unless the situation changes.
Trades Unions and Socialists Coalition (TUSC), the extreme Left outfit that has made no impact whatsoever, is till around but continues to have this blinkered attitude that Brits like their kind of politics. I have known a couple of their candidates, and there is nothing they like better than to devise new schemes where they get to set whole rafts of rules to impose on others. As always with Lefties, they are by nature the totalitarian types who (quite rightly) frighten off voters with their personal attitude, and again with their collective policy stance. Perhaps they'd fare better in North Korea, except that's a one-party State...
Finally, we hve the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP or Ukip). This remains a cult of personality; and just like the others (Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas, and George Galloway's Respect) who can name any other public figure from any of these? UKIP is riding high at the moment, thanks to huge pushes from certain influential quarters that I could name and some clever posturing – but, as Alex Massie points out, it's phoney.
Many people won't realise this until they have made the mistake of supporting UKIP – but they will learn the lesson better for that, just as many are now doing in the case of Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner. Thus whatever happens in the next year or two will almost certainly be be end of a slightly prolonged flas-in-the-pan phenomenon.
They have a 'front' that makes them look something like a 'real' political party, including (again) a set of tick-box policies – a list of policy topics (probably taken from another party's manifesto) with, in effect, a 'for' or 'against' attached to each, dressed up with a few words. It is not a coherent policy platform, but of course they hope that no-one will challenge them intelligently to show up the flaws. The Alex Massie piece, though, does put some meat on those bones: he isn't being fooled any more than I ever have (as long-term readers of this 'blog will well remember).
The bottom line is that, as matters stand, there is no realistic form of challenge from any of the lesser parties, despite the current UKIP flurry. This is a genuine shame, and needs to be tackled. Sadly, none of the present contenders is fit to do so, though the English Democrats were once, not so many years ago, as I know from my own dealings with their members and activists whom I'd meet occasionally in the course of my own political activity at the time.
One day the situation might well change, but at present I cannot even see it on the horizon, and British politics is thus less than it ought to be in terms of proper and competent variety and choice.