LONDON — Sixty years ago, the two main British political parties, the Conservatives and Labour, took 96 percent of the vote in a clearly defined two-party system. Today, as Britain undergoes a bitter campaign before the May 7 election, the two parties are expected to split less than two-thirds of the vote.
The result is likely to be a weak minority government or another coalition, the second in a row. Britain now has at least six parties that matter, including the Scottish National Party; the English nationalist, anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party; and the Greens. To many Britons, it all feels a little too European.
The fragmentation of traditional party voting is increasing all over Europe. Fueled by the last recession and enabled by social media, issue-oriented or protest parties have cropped up everywhere in response to the failure of governments to deliver economic growth and security. The days of a “broad church” party and governments formed by a single party are fading.